It is not appropriate to draw any conclusions from the decline in performance among Hong Kong students in a city-wide assessment, the Education Bureau has said. The Territory-Wide System Assessment (TSA) tests have resumed after being suspended for three years due to Covid-19.
Hong Kong saw a decrease in the percentages of Primary 3 and 6 and Secondary 3 students who reached basic competency level in Chinese language, English language and mathematics in the 2023 TSAs, the Education Bureau announced on Monday.
The attainment rates among Primary 6 students recorded the most significant drop, the government said, with 71.1 per cent of students attaining basic competency in Chinese Language, compared to 77.9 per cent in 2019.
The attainment rate of Primary 6 students in Mathematics decreased from 84.2 per cent in 2019 to 78.3 per cent this year. Their performance in English language saw the biggest decline, from 72.8 per cent in 2019 to 64.3 per cent in 2023.
The bureau said the decline in local student performance was similar to the situation reflected in large-scale international exams, adding that most of the drop was “within acceptable ranges.”
“The school sector generally found that the suspension of face-to-face classes during the epidemic had caused certain impacts on both the learning and development of students,” the Education Bureau wrote. “Therefore, it is not appropriate to draw any conclusions with reference to the assessment results this year.”
The TSA exams report published on Monday was the first one submitted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) following a three-year suspension of the assessment owing to the pandemic.
Abolishing TSA exams
The authorities have said the TSAs provide “objective data” to help the government and schools to review teaching and education policies. However, they saw great pushback in 2015.
Many parents and teachers called for the abolition of the assessments – particularly for Primary 3 students – over concerns that the tests were beyond student capabilities and cause high levels of stress.
The Education Bureau subsequently rolled out the Tryout Study in 2016, which made the assessment of Primary 3 students voluntary. The revamped exams were later expanded to all primary schools in 2017, with then-education minister Eddie Ng denying that the expansion was a resumption of the widely criticised original assessments.
The assessment method was amended again in 2018, when the tests were conducted on a sampling basis.
The government on Monday urged schools and parents not to focus only on the assessment results. Schools should make use of the TSA reports, along with related internal assessment results, to understand student learning needs and improve teaching effectiveness, it wrote.
“More importantly, they should also understand the various reasons behind the drop in the overall attainment rates and provide students with room to readjust to school life and rhythm,” the statement read.
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