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LCQ19: Homework and tests for primary and secondary students
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Cheng Chung-tai and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (December 6):


     On October 31, 2015, the Education Bureau issued to all primary and secondary schools across the territory an updated circular, "Guidelines on Homework and Tests in Schools - No Drilling, Effective Learning", stating clearly that effective homework can help students consolidate and extend learning, and thus it is the quality rather than the quantity of homework that counts. However, some members of the public have recently relayed to me that the questions set out in the homework given to students by some primary and secondary schools are tricky and detached from reality, which may hinder the mental and intellectual development of students. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Bureau will conduct random checks to see if the quality and quantity of homework given to students by primary and secondary schools are appropriate, so as to avoid the mental and intellectual development of students being hindered by homework;

(2) whether the Bureau studied in the past three years how the performance of schools in the Territory-wide System Assessment and the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination correlated with the quality and quantity of homework and the frequency of tests they had given to students; if so, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) of the concrete measures taken in the past three years by the Bureau to ensure that primary and secondary schools did not give students excessive homework and tests?



     My reply to the question raised by the Dr Hon Cheng Chung-tai is as follows:

(1) and (3) Homework is an important component in the learning and teaching in schools. It comes in different forms outside lesson time, enables students to consolidate their learning in class, stimulate thinking, enhance their understanding of lesson topics and the construction of knowledge. Meaningful homework can cultivate students' interest in learning, encourage proactive and self-motivated learning and exploration of daily life problems as well as extend their learning and boost students' confidence through the process. It is by no means equivalent to supplementary exercises, rote learning, excessive mechanical copying or drilling. Students' performance in homework can provide feedback on learning and teaching for teachers to adjust their teaching strategies. Parents are able to understand the learning of their children from their performance in homework.

     In the Basic Education Curriculum Guide and the Secondary Education Curriculum Guide updated in 2014 and 2017 respectively, the Education Bureau (EDB) emphasised further strengthening the all-round development of students, which encompasses their physical and psychological well-being, and reiterated that schools should attach the greatest importance to fostering in their students a balanced development and a healthy lifestyle. In tandem with nurturing students' life-long learning capabilities, schools should refrain from unduly overburdening their students with homework, tests and examinations so as to ensure that they have sufficient time for rest and leisure to pursue their personal interests, participate in various physical and art activities, and develop good relationship with family members, peers and friends. The Guides set out clearly that schools should formulate an appropriate school-based homework and assessment policy in the light of learning diversity among students. They should coordinate the efforts of different subject teachers to review regularly the frequency, quantity, type and quality of homework and assessments; provide feedback on learning and teaching by utilising homework and assessment data effectively and take parents' views into due consideration, to ensure that all homework and assessments are appropriately set to meet the abilities and interests of students, as well as to promote self-directed learning and inquisitiveness.

     Under the principles of school-based management, transparency and effective communication, schools and parents can strengthen communication on homework and assessment matters through regular channels to ensure that an appropriate school-based policy is formulated and implemented. To further enhance such a policy, parents may directly put forward their views and proposed improvements in respect of their children's homework and assessment matters to schools. Through external school reviews, focus inspections, school development visits, curriculum development visits, daily contact, etc, the EDB urges schools to formulate appropriate homework and assessment policies and gains an understanding of such policies. Professional advice and support on school practices and specific suggestions on enhancing student learning are also provided to facilitate schools' self-improvement and sustainable development. If complaints from parents about the homework arrangements or excessive drilling practices of individual schools were received, the EDB would take follow-up actions accordingly. The EDB organises professional development programmes related to homework for principals, curriculum leaders and teachers every year. These programmes cover topics such as the importance of striking a balance between quality and quantity when setting the types and amount of homework for students, and the need for regular reviews and communication with parents on homework and test/examination arrangements with a view to enhancing the whole-school homework policy as well as the quality of learning and teaching.

     Based on the findings of the questionnaire surveys commissioned by the EDB in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the time spent daily on homework by students varies significantly (from less than half an hour to over three hours) even under similar homework arrangements for students of the same grade in the same school. This indicates that homework load is neither the only nor the major factor in determining the time spent by students on homework. The factors behind whether a student would feel that there is pressure from homework are complicated. Home-school cooperation is essential to the healthy development and effective learning of students. The Committee on Home-School Co-operation (CHSC) takes an active role in promoting the "Happy Kids Charter" to schools and parents. The CHSC's work focuses in the 2016-17 school year included enhancing parents' efficacy in nurturing their children, assisting them in early identification of their children's emotional problems and fostering positive thinking in their children.

(2) The EDB has not studied how the quality and quantity of homework and the frequency of tests impact upon the performance of students in the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) and the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (DSE). Since the academic performance of students is subject to a number of complicated factors, such as students' ability, their motivation to learn and the teaching strategies adopted by teachers, it is not appropriate to oversimplify the matter on the basis of a single statistical source. We also hope the public could understand that TSA/DSE results should not be taken as the only yardstick for assessing the effectiveness of learning and teaching. We also do not support the practice of excessive drilling of students for any assessment, be it TSA or DSE.
Ends/Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:30
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