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Hong Kong schools

Hong Kong schools and parents could be surveyed on excessive test drilling, education chief says

Minister overseeing controversial competence test vows close watch as many in city fear pupils will still feel pressure despite revamped assessment

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 6:56pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 10:37pm

Hong Kong schools and parents could be surveyed as part of government efforts to monitor whether pupils are still being subjected to excessive drilling after officials announced new arrangements for a controversial competency test.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Saturday that the Education Bureau would continue to keep a close watch on how the plan for the Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) unfolds.

After a long-awaited review of the test ended, authorities announced on Friday that only 10 per cent of randomly selected pupils in each local public school would be required to participate.

However, schools would also be given the option to have all their Primary Three pupils sit for the exam if they sought a report on their overall performance.

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“We don’t believe there will be any continued drilling, but we still need to monitor this,” Yeung said on a radio programme on Saturday. “There are many ways to do this, including what has been suggested, such as surveying parents, stakeholders and schools as to whether there has been any drilling.”

The TSA assesses English, Chinese and maths abilities in an exam administered in May and June. It is associated with teachers drilling pupils and was widely believed that the bureau used the data to rank schools. The bureau has denied such claims.

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Since 2004, the test had been compulsory for the entire cohort of Primary Three pupils across the city’s 500 primary schools.

In 2016, some 50 schools took a revamped and less demanding version of the assessment after the former test sparked considerable resistance from parents and educators.

We all know that drilling can begin as early as Primary One
Doreen Ho, Parents Alliance

Parents’ Alliance concern group member Doreen Ho Mei-yee believed a survey could offer a way to monitor whether the assessment deviated from its original intention of being a tool to enhance learning and teaching at schools.

“All schoolteachers, all pupils from Primary One to Three and their parents, should be included in the survey,” Ho said. “The monitoring should not just cover Primary Three pupils. We all know that drilling can begin as early as Primary One.”

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who is also vice-president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, said he would meet Yeung as soon as possible and bring up the issue, including how the survey should be conducted and designed.

The two groups emphasised that an annual review of the test was needed to ensure that children enjoyed a stress-free learning environment.

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They voiced concern that allowing schools to opt in and test all their Primary Three pupils, instead of the required 10 per cent, would defeat the purpose of the new arrangements.

The union feared a herd mentality in which pupils would revert to drilling in preparation for the test.

“If only the government would close this loophole, then I believe we could all breathe a sigh of relief,” Ip said.