TSA proves Hong Kong puts testing over teaching, every time

TSA proves Hong Kong puts testing over teaching, every time


Parents protest against Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) Outside Legco in Admiralty.
Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP

The infamous Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) has been shrouded in controversy recently, with parents, teachers, and even Primary Three kids taking to the streets to voice their concerns.

Opponents of the TSA (the HK thing, not the futile American safety authority) say that this assessment places an unnecessary burden on students. With an already ridiculous number of homework assignments and extra-curricular activities, it does seem that the added pressure of the examination is a bit unnecessary.

But before coming to conclusions, one must first look at the nature of the TSA itself. What is the purpose of this public examination?

As much as I would like to accuse the Education Bureau of being a bunch of out-of-touch and incompetent bureaucrats (believe me, I am an ESF student), things don't seem to be as simple as that.

Not everyone is against the TSA

The TSA was born out of the Secretary for Education, Eddie Ng Hak-kim's, wish to be able to gather data that will eventually aid the government in "reviewing policies and providing focused support to schools" - that is if you believe the fancy little sales pitch on the HKEAA's website. In reality, it's merely a way for the government to see which public primary schools are underperforming. This gives schools incentive to do well in the assessment.

But rather than trying to improve the quality of the education they provide, some schools appear to be attempting to "inflate" the results by forcing students to train for the exam. Rather than developing their students' skills over a period of time, they have decided to pick the "easy way" and force their kids to do laborious, curriculum-unrelated assignments in preparation for the assessment. The schools should bear the blame as they are "cheating" on an assessment that is supposed to measure their students' raw ability. In a perfect world, the students should not feel any pressure to perform as their result will be an indicator only of their school's performance, not theirs.

Talking Points: Should Hong Kong's TSA exams be marked on a simple pass/fail basis?

Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world and the schools are faced with the threat of being closed down or, at least, reprimanded by the government. The Education Bureau is definitely not blameless as it is nearly impossible for them to not have foreseen this issue. They've designed a test knowing that the schools will "game" the results by pushing students to their limit.

It is sad that these Primary Three students have to go through all this mess, but my advice to them is to defy the instructions of their teachers in this case. Yes, I'm telling kids to do "naughty things", but it's really not their fault. As this test is not going to affect their future, there isn't really any reason why they should be worried about it. Let kids be kids and let them have their fun while they can still afford to.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
TSA proves HK puts testing over teaching


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