In P2 and P3 he had a different kind of teacher. The Territory-Wide Standard Assessment (TSA) was coming up, which helped to measure the school. There was also double the homework from P1. The focus was more on writing, reading comprehension questions (who the character is, setting plot) not the meaning and as a way to create conversation.
In P 4, 5 & 6 the focus became on getting in a good Secondary School as well as two big standardized tests which measured the school and allowed more kids from our school to try and get into better schools. The homework continued to get worse and worse. The teachers focused more and more on the ‘paperwork’ (dictations, homework, drills, reading comprehensions, math problems..). Lesson planning for some of the local teachers consisted of the opening of the textbook.
During the whole time he was at the school, I tried to talk to him more and more and well he literally stopped talking. My classes, usually outside of the curriculum with a focus on making stories, creating new things, doing science experiments with predictions, and talking, became more of a problem for both the local teachers who are trying to get the textbook done along with the paperwork and for the students – it is not on the exam so why should I care.
He came back to our school for a visit after getting into a lower Secondary School. I asked him how he was. He couldn’t answer. I asked, “Do you like school?” He couldn’t answer. He told the teacher I was with, in Cantonese, he doesn’t know how to speak English.
It is an English perspective and only one subject, but the story illustrates a lot about the way the Hong Kong Education system is: if it can be tested it is important, if not then not that important. There is more focus on ‘paperwork’ (textbook, worksheets, teststs) than on teaching. Teachers are the key and the training is uneven. There are problems but the ways to fix them are not there.