December 2 2015

Principal’s Message Dec. 2, 15

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Psalm 3:5-6

Schoolchildren and parent representatives gave testimonials against the Territory-Wide Student Assessment (TSA) in a Legislative Council Hearing last Sunday. There has been a lot of controversy recently surrounding Hong Kong government’s assessment scheme which assesses students in P3, P6 and S3 in Chinese, English Language and Mathematics. It has been reported that a lot of parents feel that schools put too much pressure on students to achieve well in these tests and as such yesterday came news that 70 parents from TaiPo local schools plan to keep their children at home in order to boycott the assessments this year.

One of the big headlines to come out of this meeting was the report of a child who suffered low self-esteem due to the stress of studying for the TSAs. At one point the child cried out asking her mother “What is the purpose of life? Is it just for doing homework?”. These questions apparently echoed the feelings of many students who saw that they were studying so hard to pass the test that they did not have any time left to live life. This evidence was backed up by another Primary 3 student who said that he studied at school from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm every day just to prepare for the test.

Fortunately NIS students do not have to sit through the TSAs. Our students do take tests so that we can assess their learning, but to me there is a big difference in the way our students are assessed; NIS students are assessed so that the teacher can help them learn better. This is very different from assessment systems whereby a student is pushed to learn so that they can perform well on a test to make the teacher or school look good.

The assessment process used at NIS is similar to that used by academically strong OECD countries like Fin-land and Sweden. These countries have invested heavily in teacher education, noting that students achieve well when teachers are able to professionally work with students to understand their current learning and then design lessons to build on that learning. The emphasis then moves away from pushing students to achieve at a certain standard, and moves towards guiding students to progress and achieve at their individual best. Like Finland and Sweden, we find that when we do this our students naturally achieve well on standardised tests as their results reflect the deep learning they have enjoyed as a result of receiving quality instruction, rather coming from route learning.