Hong Kong schools

More than half of Hong Kong primary pupils get at least seven assignments daily, teachers’ union finds

Survey by largest association in city for educators also reveals some schoolchildren spend over eight hours weekly on extra lessons

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 6:25pm

More than half of Hong Kong’s primary schoolchildren must tackle at least seven assignments a day, while some have to spend over eight hours on extra lessons a week, a teachers’ union revealed on Thursday.

The Professional Teachers’ Union, the city’s largest in the sector, emailed questionnaires to its primary schoolteachers between December and January, and received 425 valid replies.

Some 54 per cent of those surveyed said their pupils had seven or more assignments a day.

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Two out of five said their pupils had 10 or more assignments to complete over the weekend.

Aside from a large amount of homework, many pupils had additional lessons before or after class, during breaks, or over the weekend.

Three out of five respondents said they conducted such lessons for their pupils, with one-third of those saying they held such classes more than twice a week.

The median time spent on the extra lessons was 1.5 hours a week, while some pupils had more than eight hours of additional classes a week.

In addition, almost 20 per cent of teachers polled said they administered tests every one to two weeks.

I’ve been teaching for more than 10 years and I notice pupils smiling less
Diana Wong, primary schoolteacher

The union’s vice-president, Ip Kin-yuen, said pupils not only faced large amounts of homework but the assignments were also relatively difficult.

He blamed the situation on an expanding school curriculum brought about by the government’s introduction of new requirements in recent years.

Ip, who is also the education sector lawmaker, pointed to the Basic Competency Assessment as exacerbating a drilling culture in Hong Kong.

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

The bureau has refuted the claims.

Nevertheless, primary schoolteacher Diana Wong lamented she was limited in what she could do to improve the situation, despite being on the front lines.

“I’ve been teaching for more than 10 years and I notice pupils smiling less,” she added.

While wanting to reduce pupils’ workload, Wong said officials had been increasing learning goals. This led to teachers having to arrange more activities and homework to achieve government aims.

“Time is limited, but homework is increasing.”

The union called for officials to steer a comprehensive review of both the breadth and depth of curricula.

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It also urged the government to ensure the BCA was carried out anonymously, without schools identifying themselves on test scripts. It further sought assurances that BCA performance reports would not be sent to schools, thus removing a motivation to drill.

If that were not possible, the union said, the assessment should be scrapped altogether.

Officials are set to announce next month whether the test will be continued this year and, if so, in what format.