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Hong Kong schools

BCA review panel yet to reach agreement on contentious exam in Hong Kong schools

Committee members presented different views on how to implement the assessment should it go ahead and will meet again in 2-3 weeks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2018, 5:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2018, 11:09pm

Members of a committee reviewing controversial school assessments in Hong Kong have looked at whether the test should be conducted in alternate years and through random sampling but have yet to reach a consensus on whether Primary Three pupils should continue to sit it.

The Coordinating Committee on Basic Competency Assessment and Assessment Literacy, which met on Wednesday, also said it would meet in two to three weeks for more discussions of its recommendations, which were expected to be set out in a report to be handed to the Education Bureau by next month.

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That came after Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Saturday the bureau was likely to make a decision next month on whether to hold the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) after it received the recommendations.

The BCA has long been contentious among parents and educators for the pressure it put on children.

It is widely regarded as a rebranded version of the Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment – which gauged pupils’ English, Chinese and maths standards and was notoriously associated with teachers drilling pupils amid a widespread belief that the bureau used data to rank schools.

The bureau has denied such claims.

The BCA was considered less demanding as it was simpler and shorter, but critics said the motivation to drill still existed.

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Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s meeting, committee member Sin Kim-wai said different views were presented on how to implement the BCA should it go ahead.

They included conducting the exam in alternate years and testing only a random sample of pupils.

The two suggestions had previously been floated in society to reduce the stress on pupils, but in 2016, the bureau ruled them out saying the motivation to drill would continue.

Sin, who is also chairman of the Subsidised Primary Schools Council, also stressed that the committee had not decided on whether it would recommend the bureau continue the exam or not, and did not have an inclination towards either side.

“I think today, we have not reached the stage of discussing a consensus,” he said, adding members’ recommendations would be gathered at the next meeting.

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On Saturday, Yeung said the bureau was waiting for the committee.

“When we receive their recommendations, we will look at the whole situation and then make the final decision on whether or when we will hold the coming BCA test.”

If the tests went ahead, they would likely be held in May and June.

Annie Cheung Yim-shuen, a spokeswoman for Parents United, said the decision had been delayed for so long that the government should suspend the assessment this year as many schools were already drilling pupils without any information on the status of the exam.

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had said during her election campaign last year that she would suspend the assessment until a review was completed.