Why parents should step up protests against the TSA system

December 04, 2015 12:34
The Territory-wide System Assessment tests have been blamed for putting undue stress on children as well as their parents. Photo: HKEJ

Nothing could have been more ridiculous than asking an 8-year-old kid to testify at a hearing over the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), the mechanism introduced by the Education Bureau under which primary three students have to sit for a set of tests, and the results of which are used to measure the overall academic standard of their schools.

Unfortunately, that is what we saw take place at the LegCo last Saturday.

In the face of raging anger of parents, Acting Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, who was present at the hearing, tried to extricate himself from the criticism by vowing that the government is willing to make substantial adjustments to the current system, such as considering canceling the TSA tests for primary three students next year.

But he also added that the administration has to seek further opinions from education specialists before making a final decision -- a typical bureaucrat's answer, full of platitudes and empty promises.

However, to give him his due, at least he had the guts to face the public, unlike his boss, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim, who even avoided spelling out his stand on the issue by refusing to attend the hearing.

In fact parents should stop wasting their time on these public hearings because they won’t change anything at all. Rather, they should take their children's future into their hands by bringing their action against the TSA to the next level such as calling for students and teachers to boycott classes in protest in order to press for the abolition of the TSA.

As we have learnt from the campaign against the Moral and National Education Curriculum in 2012, the only way to bring the Leung Chun-ying regime to its knees is for people to stage a mass movement and stay the course until the government backs down.

Although the government has tried to sugarcoat the TSA tests by arguing that it is purely for assessment purposes and that schools should not overreact by drilling their students round the clock for the tests, everybody can tell that the administration is lying.

We all know that the reason why the Education Bureau introduced the TSA in the first place is to classify schools according to the academic performance of their students, so that it can decide which school can stay and which school has to shut down amid the shrinking number of school-age children in Hong Kong.

Given this situation, we can't blame schools and teachers for taking the TSA tests seriously. After all, it is a matter of survival, and they have no choice but to play this ruthless elimination game initiated by the Education Bureau, whether they like it or not.

Having said that, I believe the only way to free our children from the plague of the TSA is to increase the number of university places substantially, so that every eligible student in the city can have access to higher education, thereby relieving the children of the enormous pressure to compete fiercely with one another for university places in open exams, and rendering any assessment device like the TSA unnecessary.

Moreover, the TSA issue is compounded by the fact that the Education Bureau has been assigned another secret task by Leung Chun-ying: to promote "patriotism" among our students by injecting pro-Beijing ideologies into their minds through the national education curriculum, in an apparent effort to eliminate the sense of identity among our younger generation and curb the rise of nativism.

I believe it is not only important for parents to stand up against the TSA and demand its immediate abolition, they should also remain vigilant against any attempt by the government to brainwash their children.

In fact the Education Bureau itself should be abolished and the former Education Department be reinstated to ensure it will focus only on education and the interests of students, rather than spending time on secret political missions to enslave our kids.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 2.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist