Govt shows aptitude with new test
Updated: 2017-01-25 10:16
The Education Bureau (EDB) has announced a plan to extend a new competency test - "basic competency assessment research study" - to all primary schools this year to replace the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), which drew complaints of exerting too much drilling pressure on students.
The new test has been designed based upon recommendations by an expert committee tasked by the government to review the assessment exercise. It underwent a trial run in select schools last year. It is not a repackaging of the TSA, as Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim has already pointed out.
Since the new test features simpler, shorter and daily life-related exam papers, it requires no drilling while being able to improve learning and teaching. Such an aptitude test is also found in the education systems of many foreign countries. Even local educators recognize the need for it and worry that the total abolition of such a test would inevitably undermine the city's education assessment mechanism.
Upon hearing the news, however, a parent organization has threatened to boycott the new test. Some parents seem to be unaware of what has been done to improve the assessment system. Last year's trial run of the new test has generated positive feedback from many school principals who did not agree to the test being wholly abandoned.
As a matter of fact, soon after the outbreak of the TSA controversy the education authorities heeded society's call and conducted a full review of the test. Since then, parent organizations and school managements have come to the consensus that they should work together to prevent children from being subjected to over-drilling. Schools promised not to make individual test results public, while education authorities will not announce schools' overall compliance rates, with a view to preventing schools from using such figures as a tool for promotion.
The original purpose of the test is to facilitate assessment for learning. It aims to collect data that can objectively reflect the teaching standards of various schools and help school managements assess students' basic learning ability. The idea is to help schools and teachers enhance their plans on learning and teaching and the education authorities review policies and provide focused support to schools.
Yet, in spite of the meaningful purpose and improvements made to the assessment exercise, the government should also be aware that there are still worries in society over it. The Legislative Council passed a non-binding motion on Tuesday urging the government to abandon the test. The education authorities should make sure the education sector and society at large have been fully consulted and convinced before going ahead with the extension plan.
(HK Edition 01/25/2017 page9)