Hong Kong’s largest teaching union has revealed that most of its members think that a government test used to track pupils’ progress in primary schools should be scrapped.

A survey carried out by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union found that 65% of its members think the Territory-wide System Assessment tests should be abolished because they put too much pressure on students and teachers.

Speaking at a press conference, the HKPTU President Fung Wai-wah said most of its members felt students and teachers had to prepare specifically for the TSA.

“This is in contradiction to the Education Bureau’s repeated claims that students do not need to prepare specifically for the exam, that they can simply sit down and take the exam based on what they have learnt from classes,” he said.

HKPTU president Fung Wai-wah. Photo: WikiMedia

The union surveyed more than 1,900 primary school teachers in March and April. The survey also revealed:

  • 97% of primary school teachers required students to purchase TSA practice exercises for the exam.
  • Primary level three and six students on average purchased three TSA practice exercises to prepare for the exam.
  • 73% of teachers felt the TSA puts “serious” pressure on students.
  • 80% of teachers felt the TSA puts “serious” pressure on teaching staff.
TSA examination papers. Photo: GovHK

The HKPTU suggested that previous attempts to improve the TSA were ineffective in reducing the pressure on students and teachers. In a statement, the group argued that “normal classroom and teaching and examination methods were gravely distorted” because of the TSA.

The union also appealed to teachers and parents to put pressure on the Education Bureau to cancel the exams.

Primary school students in Hong Kong. Photo: WIkiMedia

Apple Daily reported Tuesday that a student with autism suffered from depression due to the TSA examination. His mother said that, on one occasion, he asked her in tears if “his survival is only for finishing homework”.

The Education Bureau issued a response by emphasising that the TSAs did not require special preparation. The authorities said that many schools believed the TSA figures were effective in evaluating teaching and learning, adding that the TSA should be retained.

The TSA is an annual territory-wide examination for students at primary three, primary six and secondary three levels. It was introduced by the Education Commission in 2004, and is used to test students on their Chinese, English and mathematics skills.


Eric Cheung

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).