Children's wellbeing in a high-stakes testing environment: The case of Hong Kong

Esther Yin-Nei Cho*, T.M.S. Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The current literature on the impact of high-stakes testing largely focuses on Western countries, is adult-centric, and mainly considers the impact on teaching and learning. This study not only examines the learning experiences of children, but also other aspects of their wellbeing, including their social relationships, leisure activities, and health, in the high-stakes testing environment of Hong Kong, from the perspectives of children. A qualitative approach using focus group interviews was employed to listen to the views of primary school children. The children's perceptions of the school learning environment revealed the negative consequences of high-stakes tests, with major findings concerning skewed curricula, the spillover of major subjects, major subject-centered scheduling, undermining recess, exam-oriented pedagogy, endless homework and drilling, and overemphasis on grades. The findings also show that children's wellbeing is jeopardized in this environment, with major themes including schoolwork as a source of family conflict, distant relationships with teachers, friendship as a comfort zone (though it may be hampered by competition), no real leisure time, deprived sleep, enduring pressure and stress, and overall happiness reduced by academic study. Implications of the findings are discussed. Besides the short-term measures of improving children's experience in learning and wellbeing, reforming the educational system to be less emphasizing academic achievement and making student wellbeing a policy priority can be the long-term strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104694
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Children's wellbeing in a high-stakes testing environment: The case of Hong Kong'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this