The Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim recently announced the replacement of the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) with the Basic Competency Assessment Research Study (BCA). However, concerns still remain that the BCA is no different from the TSA and will create more stress for primary school students.
There are so many stories of students suffering from too much homework. Many lose the chance of having a proper childhood and some end up with a bad relationship with their parents over it. Today’s problems with our educational system don’t just lie with the TSA and BCA, and though it should be abolished, whether or not it still exists doesn’t really matter.
Even if we got rid of it, the exercises that primary school students do in Chinese and Mathematics are already formatted into TSA-style questions. The TSA’s influence on the curriculum can’t be mitigated through removing it. Now, the TSA ended up becoming such a tricky debate, many exercise books publishers have actually stopped using phrases like “TSA-format” or “TSA-type” even though the format of the questions remain unchanged.
Let’s say even these exercises and formats were abolished. It would still be silly to overlook all the other exams that primary school students take – like the pre-S1 Hong Kong Attainment Test (HKAT). This is used to allocate places for each banding to primary schools, which affects admission to secondary schools and are a top priority exam for many schools. Schools give out a lot of exercises and homework in preparation for the test, hoping that students will ace it, and with people slowly realising that the TSA wasn’t all that important, there’s now more pressure on students to do well in the HKAT.
The TSA should be abolished, yes, but is it really the cause of all stress among our students? Don’t schools and parents also play a part? I think it’s worth revisiting the change from a half-day’s education to a full day in primary schools, which was supposed to allow students time for free activities at school in the afternoon, and to have access to help on their homework. As it happens, all that’s happened is that it’s become an opportunity for teachers to drill extra lessons and give out even more homework.
When we have so many parents wanting their kids to have the best start in life, schools will inevitably try to meet their demands by providing advanced curriculums, more homework and overdrill students. Though it’s true that parents want their children to enjoy their childhood, when society expects our children to be able to outperform others, it’s no surprise that mums and dads will succumb to this sort of thinking too. The TSA and the BCA are just symptoms of the problem, not the roots themselves.