HK pupils score slightly higher in simplified trial version of controversial TSA test

HK pupils score slightly higher in simplified trial version of controversial TSA test

Committee reviewing results finds no sign that youngsters who are grilled ahead of assessment get significantly better or worse results

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Parents and educators say the tests put too much pressure on young children.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

A slightly higher percentage of pupils met basic competency levels in English and maths in this year’s simplified trial of the controversial Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment.

This came as a member of a government-tasked committee reviewing the tests revealed that in preliminary findings there was no evidence that drilling pupils produced significantly better or worse results.

The Education Bureau suspended this year’s Primary Three TSA after parents and educators voiced concerns at the pressure the tests and preparatory drills placed on pupils. Instead, around 50 schools, about 10 per cent of the total, took part in a revised and simpler trial version of the test.


The TSA is just a symptom of Hong Kong's sick education system


Some 81.1 per cent of pupils who took the English papers this year achieved basic competency, up 0.7 of a percentage point on the previous year and a record since the assessment began in 2004. For mathematics, 89.9 per cent achieved competency, 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2015 and also a record.

But there was a drop of 0.6 per cent in Chinese, to 85.8 per cent.

An Education Bureau spokesman called the performances in the three subjects “steady”, while educator lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the changes after the papers were simplified were “not significant”.

But Ip believed the practice of drilling would persist and said it stemmed from the bureau using the test to rank schools. He reiterated calls for the TSA to be scrapped next year.

Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen reiterated calls for the tests to be scrapped.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

When the bureau announced the suspension of the tests for most schools in February, it said they would resume next year. This drew criticism as the bureau made the decision without the trial being completed.

The bureau did not indicate any change in plans after the 2016 TSA report was released on Wednesday, but it noted that the study was still in progress as the committee and bureau continued to gather views. The spokesman reiterated that the TSA would not be used to assess the performance of a school or rank a pupil.

Separately, a committee member told the Post that researchers studying this year’s trial had preliminarily found there was no significant link between drilling and results.

“For example, students who took the Primary Three TSA trial this year, and their parents, also took a survey, which asked about the number of related workbooks they practised on before taking the test. Most answered they worked on none or one book, but for those who practised on two to three such books, researchers did not find them performing significantly better or worse,” the member said.

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