Over 30,000 Facebook users have signed up for an event calling for the abolition of the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) for Primary Three students.
The TSA, a series of assessments conducted among Primary Three, Primary Six and Secondary Three students in local schools in Hong Kong, aims at helping schools and teachers to improve teaching based on information about students’ strengths and weaknesses. It also allows the government to provide focused support to schools, according to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) website.
Because the basic competencies of students are tested, meaning they are supposedly already part of the curriculum requirements, the HKEAA say that it is not necessary for schools to arrange extra practice for students to prepare for the assessments. The HKEAA specifically warns against over-drilling and says that schools should not change their teaching methods because of the TSA, as it would make students lose their motivation in learning and exert pressure on teachers and students.
However, parents say that schools are very concerned with the results of TSA since it affects the banding of the school. This results in extra TSA practice and after-school classes appearing in the learning curriculum, Apple Daily reported.
“Let’s not make our children exam machines. Let them have a good childhood, let them regain their interest in learning. Give the children space to understand themselves and develop their potential,” the event page said.
It also listed six reasons for abolishing the TSA, such as that the assessments were beyond the students’ levels and that they could not complete them without practice, that they caused high levels of stress; that extra classes were required to prepare students for the tests, and so on.
One of the organisers of the event, Clement Kam, told Ming Pao that if the Education Bureau did not know that students were stressed out due to TSAs, it was their oversight. Conversely, if the Bureau knew that schools prepared students in advance for TSAs and merely did not bother to enforce the rules, then the assessments have lost their original meaning and should be abolished. Kam said that he would write an open letter to Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim and may refuse to allow his children to take part in the assessments next year.
A popular comment on the event page by netizen Joe Wong Ting-ting said, “It’s an inhumane way to live… [the children] go to school, do their homework after school, continue doing their homework after dinner, prepare for tests, go to bed, and the next day it repeats all over again. The system forces the school to put pressure on teachers, the teachers put pressure on the parents, the parents put pressure on the children, and it’s an endless loop… the TSA should be cancelled! No more students should kill themselves because of school pressure! Please let them have a happy childhood and have time to play!”
The Education Bureau replied on Sunday, saying that they were aware of the situation of schools overly preparing for TSAs, but said that in time, schools will make adjustments. Kam said that the TSA has already been in place for ten years and questioned how the policy could “naturally heal itself”.
In June, it was reported that Hong Kong primary school students are overburdened with summer activities. In 2013, a UN Committee on children’s rights expressed concerns about the competitive nature of Hong Kong’s education system and the effect it was having on the mental wellbeing of children in Hong Kong.