Testing, drilling and learning: what purpose does the Grade 3 Territory-wide System Assessment serve?

Ricky Lam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In Hong Kong, pupils at Grades 3, 6 and 9 are required to take the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA). TSA is a low-stakes standardized assessment, tracking pupils’ attainment of the basic competence levels in English, Chinese and Mathematics. By design, TSA does not constitute part of individual pupils’ school results, but generates assessment information which monitors teaching and learning in school as a quality assurance mechanism. Despite its low-stakes nature, key stakeholders remain skeptical about its rationale, purpose and usefulness, especially when it comes to ranking school performance. Because of this, this paper examines the extent to which the Grade 3 TSA could serve its purpose to enhance teaching and learning and promote constructive alignment of assessment and learning. The paper begins with an overview of the international assessment arena, followed by a discussion on the Hong Kong assessment reform landscape. Then, the paper reviews three issues in TSA, namely pedagogical, societal and political concerns. Next, it addresses whether TSA has become a high-stakes test; whether it brings about drilling; and whether it facilitates positive learning. Lastly, three sustained recommendations as to how the Grade 3 TSA could concurrently serve its evaluative, pedagogical and learning purposes are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363–374
Number of pages12
JournalAsia Pacific Education Review
Issue number3
Early online date31 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education

User-Defined Keywords

  • Assessment for learning
  • Assessment of learning
  • Assessment purposes
  • Standardized testing
  • Territory-wide System Assessment


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