Exams for Primary 6
New assessment scheme
in the works

By Kenix Chow

    The pre-secondary Academic Ability Test, which has been in place for 19 years now, is currently under fire. The Board of Education seeking ways to cope with the criticism.
     This test is part of the three-faceted Secondary School Place Allocation System. The system also throws light on the internal school examination results and their priority in secondary school choices.

    Kenix Chow
     The Academic Ability Test for Primary 6 students may change      under new proposals.
     Recently, the Subcommittee on Reveal of School Education submitted a reform proposal, the Academic Ability Assessment, to the Board of Education.
     It proposes to maintain the public examination format, but to reflect what the students are learning at school.
     It focuses on developing the students’ independent thinking, analysis, comment, problem-solving and methodology.
     The assessment will be divided into sessions, including oral, written, reading comprehension and oral comprehension, instead of the existing multiple-choice tests only. The change aims to enhance the students’ presentation abilities.
     In the beginning, the Academic Ability Test was designed to test the intelligence quotient of the students. Examination officials thought that it was closely related to their academic results.
     Many experts say one’s intelligence quotient cannot be enhanced through practice. So primary students, in the eyes of the Education Department, do not need to prepare for this examination.
     The opposite occurred, however, when the test was introduced.
     Firstly, it disturbed the teaching schedule of the upper primary classes.
     Since the Academic Ability Test is a public examination, most of the teachers and parents emphasized it too much by pushing the children to do many deductive exercises in logic. This imposed pressure on the students.
     Owing to the imperative “practice makes perfect”, their results did nonetheless improve.
     In return, more exercises.
     Even worse, some lessons like music, art or physical education were usually spent doing or checking analytical exercises in logical deduction. This adversely affected the scope of students’ knowledge and enjoyment at schools.
     Lo Yan, a Primary 6 student at Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School, said, “Doing deduction exercises is very boring. The questions are more or less the same.”
     To Mr. Wun Cherk-man, Lo’s teacher, the Academic Ability Test “violates” his teaching schedule.
     “Amy”, a principal who wants her name withheld, said, “Although the parents understand the Academic Ability Test and its functions, and also find it not extensive enough, they still want their kids to practise as much as possible in order to get higher scores.”
     Many teachers and education experts find this examination system is not comprehensive. Only Chinese and mathematics are included, but not English, science, arts, or music.
     Moreover, the format of the Chinese analytical deduction exercises is also under criticism. The test does not require students to write, and questions are unrelated to practical skills, such as reading and writing. This may weaken their language foundations and presentation skills.
     As English is not part of the test, the subject is usually ignored. Students consequently find it difficult to adapt to the language requirement after entering English secondary schools.
     Miss Tang Mei-sin, principal of Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School, said, “English comprises 21 percent of the existing teaching schedule. It would be natural to give a test in it.”
     On the other hand, for the mathematical deduction part, Prof. Lam Chi-chung of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, together with Miss Tang, agree that this can introduce the students to some mathematical concepts.
     Amy, the school principal, said, “With the new assessment system, we no longer have to waste our time teaching and checking the deduction exercises, which are unrelated to the current teaching.”
     Not only do some principals , teachers and parents welcome this proposal, but so do some students.
     Chan Chi-ying, a Primary 6 student at Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School, says he is not “afraid of the heavy workload and the very dull exercises” that may be brought by the new system.
     Said he: “At least they may be useful to me.”
     Prof. Lam Chi-chung said there is no need to be afraid of practising reading, writing and listening as they are essential in consolidating one’s academic abilities.
     If the Education Department passes the proposal, a survey will be conducted and some primary schools will be chosen for experimentation. If the results are satisfactory, the Department will introduce the system to all primary schools in 2000 or 2001.
     Dr. Pang King-chi, the acting director of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said, “If it is possible, the proposed system will be used for transforming (education) for about 10 years before the full realization of the Target-Oriented Curriculum.”

 One council, one system       Student power

November 1997

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