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Hong Kong ranks third in global study of cognitive skills

International survey shows city's youngsters are doing well, but experts warn about rote learning

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 12:14pm

Hong Kong ranked third in an international survey of students' cognitive skills and educational attainment, behind South Korea and Finland.

Japan and Singapore trailed behind the city, despite being among the top five in the Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment study by the Economist Intelligence Unit released yesterday.

The survey compared the performances of grade 8 and grade 4 pupils in 40 countries in mathematics, reading and science, based on their results in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, and the international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study assessments.

The measurement of educational attainment is based on the countries' latest literacy rate and graduation rates at the upper secondary and tertiary level.

Despite Hong Kong pupils' superior academic performance, local experts warned rote learning remained an issue here.

The report attributes the success of Finland and South Korea to some common qualities: high-quality teachers, value accountability and a moral mission that underlies education efforts.

The index is in The Learning Curve, a research report published by educational company Pearson, which has information on education inputs and outputs in more than 50 countries.

While factors like government spending on education, school entrance age, teacher salaries and degree of school choice are believed to affect educational quality, the report points out that simply pouring resources into a system is not enough: far more important are the processes which use these resources.

Cultural change towards education and ambition are equally, if not more, important than income in promoting better educational outcomes. But there is no doubt about the importance of good teachers.

"The impact of good teachers extends beyond positive educational outcomes and can be linked to positive societal factors, such as lower levels of teenage pregnancy," the report says.

"The best performing countries attract top talent, train teachers throughout their careers and allow them freedom."

The report also highlights the difficulty parents - even in the developed world - have in making the right choice of schools for their children. Extensive studies of voucher programmes and charter schools in the United States indicate that, while both can be beneficial, neither offers a magic formula, it says.


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This article is now closed to comments

......Kevin Drew and Kevin Lau are in the photo....
Why is Singapore not mentioned ? I actually don't understand how UK is on the Top 5 spot. They always whine about their GCSE and it getting easier to pass by the year.
This article is an example of poor journalism. Is it that hard to accurate convey the facts from a report that is online?
Here, let me quote from the report: "The leading countries in the cognitive skills category, which comprises the international tests (PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS*) in maths, reading and science that students take at Grade 8 and Grade 4, come as no surprise. The top five - Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan - all score significantly higher than the average, more than one standard deviation above the mean."
and "The educational attainment category, based on literacy and graduation rates, tells a different story. Here, South Korea leads, followed by the UK then Finland, Poland and Ireland."
Hong Kong is NOT third in "cognitive skills and educational attainment". Hong Kong is only third in cognitive skills and does not appear in the top five for educational attainment. Hong Kong is, however, third overall but only because it produces robots that are good are getting high exam scores.
The "superior academic" performance is nothing but the temporary effects of rote learning as it does not carry over to educational attainment. The report says that China and South Korea both recognize the need for creativity and that China is moving more in the direction of Western models. So bravo, Hong Kong, continue with the kill the ESF move and trumpeting how Hong Kong is third in exam scores world wide.
as regards CY Leung, the CE of HKG, I reckon HK people should let him do his work to benefit the economy and welfare of its citizens. One should not let the restructuring issue to become the thin end of the wedge. Next time, the HK people will question how many toilet rolls does the CE use daily!
Michael Mah
What does this article have to do with CY Leung? Anyway, please tell, just what work is he doing that benefits the economy and the welfare of Hong Kong citizens (I assume you do include those that originate from Nepal, Pakistan, India, Philippines, Britain and other places other than China) and that is related to education?


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