17 September 2019
Young students play outside Legco while their parents make the case for the scrapping of controversial TSA scheme before a hearing. Photo: HKEJ
Young students play outside Legco while their parents make the case for the scrapping of controversial TSA scheme before a hearing. Photo: HKEJ

EDB hints at big TSA changes but won’t say if exam will be axed

Hong Kong education officials are hinting at changes to a controversial student assessment scheme but are not saying if it will be abolished amid mounting public criticism.   

Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung said the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) for primary three students is being reviewed after complaints from parents that its overemphasis on preparation is a burden on their children.

Yeung said the TSA has “issues” and that an expert panel is studying if the format can be changed, Ming Pao Daily reports.

The proposed changes include simpler questionnaires and a lower level of difficulty.

The Education Bureau (EDB) uses the exam to assess the performance of schools. In theory, it is also supposed to gauge the academic performance of primary three pupils.    

EDB might use random assessment, meaning not all students will be required to sit the exam.

Yeung said TSA is important in the qualification process, without which students have to wait until secondary six to take a comparable assessment in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, which would be too late, Yeung said.

Meanwhile, Yeung said EDB is considering a recommendation by certain legislators that next year’s TSA be suspended.

A decision is expected by February, he told legislators during a public hearing on Sunday.

An overwhelming majority of about 80 parents who attended the hearing said they want TSA to be cancelled immediately.

One parent, surnamed Mok, said her daughter suffers from anxiety due to TSA-related stress.

When she complained to her school, she was told it’s a common problem among students, Mok said.

Legislator Raymond Chan said parents are threatening not to send their children to school to protest the exam.

Dozens of parents from Tai Po are planning a protest on Dec. 8-10, Apple Daily reports.

Three primary students who spoke at the hearing complained that extensive TSA preparations are robbing them of their play time.

But a girl said the exam is not that difficult. She was later identified as a daughter of Danny Chan, economic development policy deputy spokesman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong. 

Fung Pik-yee, headmaster of Aplichau Kaifong Primary School, said it’s unfair to blame schools for over-drilling students.

Fung said her school has fared well in the allocation of secondary places but does not overemphasize TSA.

However, she said she has received a warning from education authoities to improve her school’s TSA performance.

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