Numerous pan-democrat lawmakers met with Secretary for Education Eddie Ng on Thursday evening to discuss the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) but they were dissatisfied with the response, with Ng refusing to cancel this year’s assessments for primary three students.

Some of the pan-democrat lawmakers in attendance included Cyd Ho, Claudia Mo, Ip Kin-yuen, and Kwok Ka-ki.

Ip Kin-yuen said that they requested Ng to cancel this year’s TSAs for primary three students and revise the composition of the TSA advisory committee to include individuals with different opinions. However, Ng said that the Bureau needed to collect statistics on primary three students this year.

Ip said that he was disappointed that the Bureau believed the statistics to be more important than the happiness of the children, and that on the whole the government exhibited “a lack of positive response.”

Pan democrat lawmakers after the meeting. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Cyd Ho criticised the Bureau’s attitude, which she said “[considered] everyone wrong, except the Education Bureau.”

Ng said that there were now more principal and parent representatives on the advisory committee. The committee will meet next Thursday to discuss issues such as the test difficulty levels, and they will look into the possibility of random sampling, or only conducting the assessments every alternate year.

Eddie Ng speaking to the media on Thursday. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“It seems that based on the most recent discussions in the community as well as the education sector, we can actually see the major concern is on the drilling of homework amongst students. How far this drilling problem relates directly to TSA is a very big question,” Ng said.

Ng stressed that the TSA was merely an assessment, not an exam, and that it was low-stake and had nothing to do with the ranking of individual students or their advancement into secondary schools.

Former Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-Yeung told RTHK that the TSA system had good intentions, but it had mutated in form. Back when it was started, he said, he was aware something was wrong. He also said that the exercises for the exam were “outrageous,” and he supported a boycott of TSA drilling and exercises.

Michael Suen. File Photo: Apple Daily.

Suen did not agree with the view that the TSA controversy was “political manipulation,” and said that although there was a need to set things right, the matter should be dealt with calmly. There was no need to put an end to the education policy he said.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Chairperson Starry Lee said that if parents believed primary three was too early an age to start taking TSAs, they could discuss pushing it back to primary four. However, she emphasised that the original intentions behind TSA were reasonable and necessary.

HK Aided Primary School Heads Association Chair Leung Siu-tong said that he did not support a class boycott, but believed that the government should increase the transparency of TSA questions so as to reduce the possibility of drilling.

The TSA exams, taken by Primary Three, Primary Six and Secondary Three students in Hong Kong local schools, are aimed at measuring students’ “strengths and weaknesses” in learning, authorities said. Although results of the tests do not affect students’ applications for secondary schools or universities, many feel the pressure to perform well. Grade-oriented school authorities also give extra work to students to help them score better in TSA exams.

On Sunday, the Legislative Council Panel on Education held a nine-hour long hearing to collect public views on the TSA, after the motion to abolish the exams were voted down on Thursday. A group of parents in Tai Po are planning to have their children boycott classes next week in protest of the TSA.


Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.