On children’s education: The TSA is not the real enemy (Part 11)

The Territory-wide System Assessment (“TSA“) was introduced by the Government in 2000 to assess primary and secondary students’ performance in government subsidised schools.  Based on the results, the Government may formulate better education policies.  But the result was that schools became worried that if their students don’t perform well enough on the tests, the Government will cut their already meagre funding.

Why educators support the TSA

As a result, some schools began drilling students on the TSA.  In the age of costs cutting and “killing” of schools, such fear may not be unfounded.  I’ve recently chatted with a retired school principal who adamantly supports the implementation of the TSA.  Throughout his career, he’s witnessed many irresponsible or otherwise “bad” teachers in public schools.  To him, the TSA was the only way to expose their poor quality teaching.

Teachers fear losing their jobs

Of course, bad teachers don’t want to be exposed.  They’ll do whatever it takes to keep their jobs.  After all, what’s more important than not getting fired?  But is it really the teacher’s fault?  Probably not.  It may not be a bad teacher’s fault.  A bad teacher doesn’t choose to be a bad teacher.  A school can only hire the best teacher with the limited money that it has.  But sometimes, the “best” is just not good enough.

Anyone wants to be a teacher?

The next question is why our “best” aren’t interested in being teachers.  The starting salary for a teacher of a government school (about HK$24,000) is much higher than the average fresh graduate.  But our society tells young people that the “best” don’t become teachers, but doctors, lawyers, bankers, CEOs and businessmen.  And those who do become teachers often find limited opportunities for advancement.  How many teachers become principals?

Public education is not a field that many young people aspire to enter.  Although the starting salary is still relatively high, it has not meaningfully increased for the past 20 years whilst costs of living skyrocketed.  The retired principal agrees with me that the best students no longer want to be teachers.  So, there’s really so much you can do when you have not-so-good students become teachers themselves.  The TSA is not the enemy.  It only serves to expose the very flaws of our public education system.


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