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Tuesday 15-Dec-2015
Is TSA tearing territory apart?

Back in 2004, government-funded primary schools in Hong Kong had to readily adapt to Territory-Wide System Assessment (TSA) - an exam for Primary Three, Primary Six and Secondary Three pupils in the three key disciplines of Chinese, English and Mathematics.
 
Fast-forward to the end of 2015. We have well-backed campaigns to do away with the TSA. Hong Kong parents are planning a boycott for their children. And the Education Bureau is under increasing pressure to do away with the tests. It’s a vicious cycle. Student numbers are dwindling. Bad results mean potentially fewer enrollments. Fewer enrollments may result in a school being closed down. The unfortunate solution for schools and parents? Drilling, cramming and excessive worry. All very understandable on their part.
 
Boycott threats and social media campaigns with followers in their tens of thousands clearly speak volumes and the Government cannot simply ignore them. However, we need to take a step back and look at the wider picture here.
 
Schools, as organizations with generally educationally sound intentions, are entangled in a competitive corporate world with an ever-increasing obligation to satisfy their “customers”, in other words, Hong Kong parents. As mentioned previously, the TSA could be make or break for many schools. The stakes are so high that, if the system is not revamped, greater focus will be placed on the examination with teachers and curriculum managers ensuring that children are trained to the best of their ability to score excellent results.   
 
If the Bureau uses the results to benchmark schools, rather than students whose results have little bearing on their own future and admission to secondary school, who are the victims here? Clearly, children who attend government and aided schools.
 
The problem here is not so much benchmarking. Schools should be forced to lessen their reliance on drilling and dishing out excessive amounts of homework. I have always been an advocate of “principled eclecticism” in language teaching - where teachers use a variety of language teaching activities to keep children on their toes and engaged. Let us implement the same theory to neutralize the TSA issue - multiple methods and continuous liaison with parents and children about the fresh progress. Drilling, yes. But not just drilling.

Without hobbies and the chance to realize their potential, our children will become burned-out, insecure and potentially anti-social. Above all of the political wrangling, standards and complaining, this is what matters here.


Samuel Chan is a director of Britannia StudyLink
Source: 《The Standard》 15 December 2015

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Education Experts

Samuel Chan, the winner of Alumni Awards 2017, is the founder of Britannia. He had studied in the UK since the age of 9 for 15 years and achieved his master degree in International Political Economy at University of Warwick. Now he shares his experiences and professional advice in education columns in Hong Kong’s major newspapers.

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Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.

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MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

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