A-level English pass rate at a 12-year low

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am

Exam results decline continues

The pass rate of Hong Kong students sitting the A-level English exam has dropped to the lowest level in 12 years, figures revealed yesterday.

This year's pass rate was 4.3 percentage points below that of 1996 and 0.6 percentage points down from last year.

The drop continues a decline that began in 2005, when students who entered secondary school in 1998 - when mother-tongue education was introduced - sat their A-levels.

But some educators played down the significance of the drop, noting that more students were sitting the exam and the number passing had in fact increased by 2,500.

Students will receive their all-important A-level results this morning. This year, 36,608 students sat the exams, up from 34,977 last year.

According to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, the proportion of students obtaining a passing grade - E or above - in English dropped from 78.2 per cent in 1996 to 73.9 per cent this year.

While the pass rate has fluctuated between roughly 75 per cent and 80 per cent over the past 12 years, it has fallen for three consecutive years. However, the size of the drop has narrowed from the three percentage point fall from 2004 to 2005.

Students showed a marked improvement in Chinese compared with 12 years ago, when records began to be kept. The percentage of students passing Chinese has risen from 83.5 per cent in 1996 to 94 per cent this year.

This year saw 10 students scoring five A's but none achieved the highest grade of six A's. Last year two did.

The number of A's awarded has also risen from 4,184 in 2003 to 4,422 this year, while the percentage of students reaching the minimum requirement for university entrance rose from last year's 55.7 per cent to 56.6 per cent this year.

Peter Hill, secretary-general of the exams authority, said the drop in the English pass rate was 'extremely small'.

'There are no alarming trends,' he said, adding that since more students were sitting the exams, they were likely to have a broader range of abilities.

But Pauline Chow Lo-sai, vice-principal of Fukien Secondary School, attributed the decline to the mother-tongue policy.

'Students have less exposure to English if seven out of nine classes a day are taught in Chinese,' she said.

A spokeswoman for the Education and Manpower Bureau said the mother-tongue policy should not be assessed solely on the results of one examination.

Several initiatives had been introduced to promote English standards through stepping up teacher training and organising activities, she added.

Wong May-may, principal of Tack Ching Girls' Secondary School, said more time should be given to students to adapt to the new system.

The exams authority strengthened measures over the use of mobile phones this year following an incident last year involving suspected cheating. Forty-one students were penalised for violating rules on mobile phones - the same as last year.