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LCQ1: Basic Competency Assessment Research Study
     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-kwan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (May 17):


     In recent years, there have been voices in society calling for the abolition of the Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) because some schools over-drilled their students in the hope that the students would get good scores in the assessment. Last year, after making improvements to TSA (including adjusting the design of assessment papers and questions) in accordance with the recommendations of a committee, the Education Bureau (EDB) invited 50 schools to participate in a tryout for the Basic Competency Assessment Research Study (BCA). In view of the positive feedback on the tryout, the EDB extended BCA to all primary schools in the territory this month. However, some parents request the EDB to shelve BCA as they are still worried that schools will drill students. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current total number of schools which have expressly indicated that they are not participating in BCA; the percentage of that number in the total number of schools in the territory; the follow-up actions taken by the EDB in respect of those schools which have expressly indicated their non-participation, and whether the EDB has plans to, as far as possible, persuade them to participate;

(2) given that the EDB has appealed for a number of times to schools not to drill students in preparation for BCA, of the specific measures, other than making those appeals, put in place by the EDB to ensure that schools will not drill their students; how the EDB handles complaints about schools drilling students; and
(3) whether the EDB will, upon the completion of BCA of this school year, carry out the relevant analysis and study to assess the effectiveness of BCA and determine its future direction; if the EDB will, when it will commence and complete such work, and whether it will compose a detailed report on the analysis and study outcome; if the EDB will, whether it will publish the report and table it in this Council?


     Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) is one of the components of Basic Competency Assessments. It is an assessment on students' Basic Competencies in the three subjects of Chinese Language, English Language and Mathematics upon completion of the three key learning stages (i.e. Primary 3, Primary 6 and Secondary 3 levels). Basic Competencies form part of the curriculum and have been integrated in students' daily learning and internal assessments made by schools. Students are expected to acquire the Basic Competencies in the three subjects in order to proceed effectively to the next key learning stage.
     TSA is a low-stake assessment that does not assess and report performance of individual students. Neither does it affect students' advancement in education nor allocation of school places for admission to Secondary 1. The data is not used for ranking or classifying schools. It is not related to the closure of schools necessitated by under-enrolment.
     To address public concerns about TSA, the Coordinating Committee on Basic Competency Assessment and Assessment Literacy (the Committee) has been conducting a comprehensive review on the implementation arrangements of TSA since October 2015, and recommended implementing the 2016 Tryout Study (Primary 3) (2016 Tryout Study). The feedback and views collected as well as the experience of participating schools showed that the four new initiatives under the 2016 Tryout Study could effectively address the public concerns, including eliminating the incentives for over-drilling induced by TSA, alleviating stakeholders' concerns about the stake involved, reflecting the "low stake, no drilling" design of TSA and the original purpose of providing feedback on learning and teaching, deepening the mutual trust among schools, parents and various stakeholders, as well as enhancing assessment literacy.
     In view of the effectiveness of the 2016 Tryout Study, the Committee recommended extending the four new initiatives under the 2016 Tryout Study to all primary schools in the territory in order to collect more comprehensive feedback so as to continue to review related arrangements. The Education Bureau (EDB) accepted related recommendations and introduced the 2017 Primary 3 Basic Competency Assessment Research Study (2017 Research Study), extending the new initiatives for enhancement under the Tryout Study to all primary schools in the territory in 2017.

     My reply to the Hon Cheung Kwok-kwan's question is as follows:

(1) At this stage, the 2017 Research Study is in good progress. All publicly funded primary schools (i.e. more than 470 schools) have arranged to participate in the Research Study; and more than 20 private primary schools have also opted to join. Should schools encounter any special circumstances or difficulties in participating in the Research Study, the Regional Education Offices (REOs) of the EDB would look into the matter and provide assistance.

(2) The EDB's position on opposing over-drilling is very clear and firm. In 2015, the EDB issued a circular on "Guidelines on Homework and Tests in Schools – No Drilling, Effective Learning" to schools, reiterating that the quality of homework is more important than the quantity. Schools should attach importance to students' whole-person development, and allow students to have spare time to participate in other meaningful social or extra-curricular activities, and have time to gain sufficient rest and sleep. School sponsoring bodies and school management committees should collaborate with schools to make arrangements for an appropriate homework and assessment policy. Schools should timely explain to parents the school homework and assessment policy (e.g. setting out the types of effective homework, frequency of tests and examinations, arrangements of supplementary lessons and whether there is a need to purchase supplementary exercises, etc.), as well as seek their views and encourage them to give feedback on their children's performance in homework. In addition, schools should inform all parents of the school homework and assessment policy and upload it at the beginning of every school year. Besides, early this year, a number of school sponsoring bodies, representatives of primary school heads associations and District Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations launched a three-party initiative on "Opposing excessive drilling and making good use of assessment to provide feedback to learning and teaching", supporting the effective use of assessment data to understand students' learning and opposing meaningless drilling.

     In addition, the EDB has introduced various concrete measures to eliminate the incentives for over-drilling induced by TSA. To begin with, the assessment papers have been improved with the question design aligned with the requirements of Basic Competencies of Primary 3 students, and tied in with the spirit of the curriculum to address students' learning needs. As such, students are able to acquire Basic Competencies in their daily learning without the need for extra preparation or over-drilling specifically for TSA. Under the 2016 Tryout Study, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) provided four types of school reports with different coverage, including a school report which only provided data of an individual school without the overall data for reference purposes. Schools may, in the light of school-based needs, choose the school reports that can effectively alleviate schools' concerns about the possible stakes of TSA data. In addition, the EDB has removed TSA from the Key Performance Measures for primary schools to reflect the low-stake nature of TSA. The EDB accepted the Committee’s recommendation on strengthening internal guidelines to provide clear guidelines on the use of TSA data and information by various sections within the EDB. The EDB has also made it clear that government primary schools would not purchase supplementary exercises for the preparation of TSA, and would step up public education and enhance training for teaching staff at different stages (including training for prospective teachers, pre-service training for appointed teachers, and in-service training for serving teachers), and enhance their understanding of "assessment for learning" to ensure the proper and effective use of TSA data to facilitate learning and teaching.
     The EDB encourages schools and parents to maintain good liaison. The REOs of the EDB have been maintaining close communication with schools and will take the initiative to understand schools' homework and exercise arrangements. Should there be complaint cases or situations related to over-drilling, the REOs will handle and continuously follow up according to established procedures.
(3) The 2017 Research Study will adopt quantitative and qualitative approaches to collect views and recommendations as a basis for feedback and review of related arrangements for the assessment. Details of the arrangements and methods regarding the review of the Research Study are set out in LC Paper No. CB(4)799/16-17(03) submitted on April 10, 2017.

     Under the 2017 Research Study, the oral assessments for Chinese Language and English Language as well as audio-visual assessments on Chinese Language were conducted on May 4 and 5, and the written assessments for Chinese Language, English Language and Mathematics will take place in mid-June 2017. After completing the written assessments in mid-June, the EDB and the HKEAA will conduct a series of focus groups and seminars to collect views of the school sponsoring bodies, school heads, teachers and parents. In line with the prevailing practice, the HKEAA will issue territory-wide and school reports in November. Professional support measures for schools provided by the EDB will also be rolled out in the new school year.
     The Committee and the EDB will continue to observe and listen to the views and recommendations of the sector and various stakeholders with a view to submitting recommendations to the new Government on the arrangements of TSA. Following the prevailing practice, the EDB will also upload the review report submitted by the Committee to the EDB website for public viewing.
Ends/Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:52
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