TSA & BCA – The evil and the lesser evil?

Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) is a test to assess and compare the standards of primary and secondary schools. Primary 3, 6 and secondary 3 students have to complete the test. However, as there is an aggravating trend of students committing suicide due to study pressure, a huge debate is raised on cancelling TSA. However, Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) is suggested as a lesser evil choice.

Since the academic year in 2015, more than 65 students had committed suicide, with most of them suffering from academic pressure. Some parents of primary student also complain that, their children’s childhood is filled with homework, tests, dictations and examinations instead of happiness. Therefore, these parents demand a cancellation for TSA, which they think is the main reason that leads to all the study pressure.

Yet, Eddie Ng, Secretary of Education proposed BCA as a replacement, claiming that BCA is a much simpler version of TSA, which will not cause study pressure. BCA only aims to find out students’ ability, but not drilling the students. Is this a better way to do so? Is TSA really causing the huge study pressure?

‘When I was in primary school, I didn’t have to finish too much assignments. I remember that there were exercises for drilling TSA, but the teachers replaced school assignments with these exercises, so I didn’t have to spend hours on it.’ said Oliver Hong, a secondary 6 students who had gone through 3 TSAs. ‘Individual result doesn’t count, it only affects the school’s ranking, so I didn’t really care at that time haha!’ He added.

TSA only reveals the average score and ranking of schools, so students who are performing bad or good will not be recognised. However, to strive for a higher ranking, which is beneficial for recruiting more and better students, schools start to drill students for their own good.

Jade Wu, a primary two student who may encounter BCA next year, has a totally different experience comparing with Oliver. ‘I don’t have time to play everyday, I have 7 to 8 exercises per day and sometimes dictation’ said Jade. ‘As an adult, I also feel exhausted when I accompany her to finish the homework. I am worry that her health and growth will be hinder too because of the lack of sleep’ added Mrs. Wu, Jade’s mother. ‘When the parents are demanding for a cancellation of TSA, it’s ridiculous that Ng Hak Kim is proposing BCA. To me, BCA is no different from TSA, it will only become another school ranking tool!’ said Mrs. Wu skeptically.

As a university student, I had also gone through 3 TSAs. When I was in primary school, I did not have much extra exercise for drilling TSA skills. I could still participate in instrumental class and drama class after school. However, when I was in secondary school, the situation changed. I had to complete a whole TSA sample paper almost everyday as assignments, together with other SBAs, tests, dictations and examinations. When it came to the weekend or holidays, a pile of countless assignments would be waiting for me, I could not even relax. Different schools have different ways to handle TSA, some are more relaxed, and some are more intense. TSA to me, is not an evil, but the drilling from school is.

Perhaps, the biggest evil is neither TSA or schools, but elitism encouraged in the Hong Kong society, which leads to all these competitions and eliminations.


Writer: Joy CHUNG Wai Ling

Feature image credits to: Baycrest


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