Around 180, or nearly 40 per cent of all public primary schools, have signed all of their primary three students up for the controversial Basic Competency Assessment (BCA).

Many have demanded the abolition of he controversial exam, previously known as Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), saying that the assessments were beyond student capabilities and caused stress, as they could not be completed without practice. But it will return this year in the form of anonymous testing for ten per cent of students, after a review was conducted by a committee.

So Kwok-sang, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, said at a Legislative Council panel that around 180 out of some 400 public primary schools have signed up as of Thursday. Of the 34 government primary schools, 30 applied to conduct the test among all primary three students.

Photo: Citizen News.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said it would be no coincidence that almost all government schools will participate: “It reflects the real policy direction of the government.”

“We are concerned that the changes made to the TSA did not mean anything at all, and that it was a complete return of the TSA. We are concerned that excessive homework drills will not end,” he said.

He said that, according to a survey by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, 70 per cent of teachers did not have an opportunity to raise their opinions as to whether to participate in the test. Plus, more than half of teachers said the schools did not consult parents.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo said that, although the new arrangement may reduce excessive homework drills, she was concerned that some school principals requested the tests for all primary three students “out of vanity” – all in order to obtain a report from the exam authority.

“Students don’t know if they will be chosen for the test – so all of them will still have to do practice papers,” she said.

Kevin Yeung
Kevin Yeung (centre). Photo: GovHK.

But Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said that his bureau believed in the professional decisions made by schools.

“We did not demand schools participate, and I do not believe that schools picked all students of the year group for the test in order to torture them – [I believe] it is their professional decision that the reports may help improve their teaching,” he said.

“A test is not equal to homework drills. Many schools did not seek to conduct excessive homework drills for the test,” he added.

He said his bureau will continue monitoring the situation, and take action when it comes to problematic schools.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.