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  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 6:00pm
NewsHong Kong

Shanghai teens still world's best at reading, maths, science in Pisa survey

Mainland city's 15-year-olds the best at reading, maths and science, global survey finds, but HK youngsters are snapping at their heels

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 7:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 12:25pm

Shanghai's 15-year-olds are still the best in the world at reading, maths and science, according to the latest global survey.

Hong Kong's youngsters ranked second in science and reading - up from third and fourth in 2009 - and held their third place for maths.

But compared with their counterparts in Singapore - second in maths, and third in science and reading - Hong Kong pupils improved less, gaining only 11 points more in reading and six in maths and in science from the 2009 assessment. The Singaporeans gained 16 points in reading, 11 in maths and nine in science. Shanghai students also showed more improvement, gaining 14 points in reading and 13 in maths compared with 2009.

The assessments also showed that just 12 per cent of pupils in Hong Kong were top achievers in maths, well below the 30.8 per cent for Shanghai and 19 per cent in Singapore.

The latest report by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) was based on surveys of more than half a million 15-year-olds in 65 countries and regions.

Professor Esther Ho Sui-chu, director of the Centre for International Student Assessment in Hong Kong, said: "I think the differences in improvement are not very important."

She attributed those differences to the way cities treated the assessment.

"I don't know how Shanghai and Singapore did the assessment, but Hong Kong students did not prepare for the assessment and took it in a relaxed way," she said.

In April and May last year, 5,000 Hong Kong pupils from 148 government, aided and independent schools were randomly selected to take the assessments.

"We need to work on how to nurture more bright students, as our exam-orientated system tends to focus on high achievers' performance in exams but does not help them learn more than that," Ho said.

The difference in performance among pupils from the same school also increased, suggesting that the abilities of children within the same school vary more. And there were significant differences between the sexes in maths and reading, with boys outperforming girls by 15 points in maths and girls outscoring boys by 25 points in reading.

Ho said the government had to provide teachers with more resources to develop different teaching methods or materials for students of various ability levels.

An Education Bureau spokesman said the results showed that Hong Kong's curriculum reform, with its emphasis on "reading to learn", mathematics development and scientific thinking, had been a success.

"The outstanding performance of Hong Kong pupils in Pisa once again proves that our education is heading in the right direction," the spokesman said.

He said pupils' socio-economic status seemed to have less effect on their performance than in other regions, and that differences in performance among schools was smaller, suggesting they are provided with equal opportunities to receive high- quality education.

Hong Kong joined the ranking in 2000, when the three-yearly study, which began as a comparison between OECD member countries, was opened up to other school systems.



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whymank’s inspiring remarks made me think of several things
“When will the yellow people purge their inferiority complex?” he asked
and he isn’t sure if “test superiority will result in producing crème de la crème”
Willie P head of HK Bk during HK’s return to China
rightly noted in an interview with Instituitional Investors
that real bright local Chinese would do their own things
and not work for others
Among local professionals in HK who are the most “respectable”
Engineers who mostly have to work for foreign firms?
Lawyers who make a living aping foreign customs
trying to compete with others in a foreign tongue?
They remind me of Franzen’s Freedom
where the child who preferred the next door family
moved to live with the neighbor
Academic ability, like freedom and independence
can’t take any one far if it isn’t applied for wise purposes
To measure sucesss, we must first start with test parameters
Historically power moved from Greece to Rome to Vandals
To gain general respectability aim at wealth, power and culture
not just for yourself but also for you own people
Japanese “statesmen” in black suit
look to me like homeless monkies acting at home
Hong Kong may score high in PISA, like the rest of students in the Confucius influenced countries are the products of straight discipline for schooling. These students have an edge as test takers for their additional drillings in afterschool learning. The best results of the once every three year test may become predictable where they would go unless the time of the test takers spent totally in learning before taking the PISA tests is weight in. But I am concern more of the unintended effect of the PISA when countries outside of the Asian ones that should they begin to see them as a model to emulate.
Professor Esther HO is rightly to point out that the assessment of student performance has been too focus on test achievement and produces good test takers. The sad thing is that bright students are in the mix of the rest in the Hong Kong education system. Albeit there are three bandings, schools for the gifted in arts and science are jarringly absent in Hong Kong. New York City has schools for the gifted for the longest time in history and one can count them with two hands full.
The PISA should do a follow up study. For who took the test in year 2000 they must be by now 28 years old. How are they doing? Most likely we know, for those Asians they would be doing fine in achieving a well to do living. Anything above average in breakthroughs most likely historically development most likely would be exception rather than the rule when given even few more years.
Find out the current achievements in term of their careers of those who took the test in year 2000. They must be 28 years old at the threshold to their prime.
Ironies abound as Shanghai achieves the highest test scores when China’s new leadership is restricting excessive time and work for students in schools. Too, Chinese students are heading more ever at younger age to US and Britain -- the two average PISA achievers. While the ironies may be related, the sure thing I can imagine is that the school children are most likely happy participants in both.
Maybe you have valid points in that what HK students need is an extra element of focusing on emotional quotient and "can do attitude".
I certainly don't claim to be an expert of the education industries and its methods, instead I am someone who aims to reap the benefits of the education system through filtering through the supposed "cream of the crop"; so my view are purely through when hiring candidates (both young and old) into my team.
Having been educated overseas and returning to HK to work, I am someone who prefers a candidate with passable test scores but great personality over someone who just has straight A's. And from my observation, it is quite evident that locally educated graduates lack the personality part of it, and are unable to discover and explore on their own without given exact directions to follow.
The reason is from my memory of my own school life overseas, the schooling is very much based on your own will and want to discover more about the subject, if you are keen and want great marks, there are no tutors or teachers who will "tip" questions, but instead, you seek to understand the concepts and learn to apply when thrown a curve-ball, and it is through such teaching methods where we learn to not respond with "rote learning."
Unfortunately, friends who are placing kids into pre-school are being taught model answers at such a young age, how do you expect them to move away from the memorize and recite system.
So what about the things that really matter. Like social skills, empathy, responsibility, consideration, critical thinking?
Those you can not memorise like a mindless CCP drone.
Let me give you a high school physics problem and see if you can respond with "rote learning."
In my decade plus of teaching, I had never given a SINGLE closed book exam to my students, including physical science to non-majors.
People talking about critical thinking don't know what the term means. I have heard academics discuss innovation, democracy and all that jazz. When quizzed, they didn't understand critically the 3 little statements of Newton's laws familiar to HK students, let alone solve a problem creatively.
Without solid grounding in basics and logic, liberal studies become a minefield. Once for entertainment, I picked 2 SCMP opinion pieces and broke them down into parts – statement units – and analyzed them. These writers violated every principle in sentential logic. Worse, they were talking about critical thinking.
True, Chinese children raised in HK's environment are handicapped by low "emotional" quotient. Their reticent manners are gratifying sources to English speaking specialists selling vaporware.
What my erudite Chinese academic colleagues and HK students need is a dosage of can-do attitude, though not the uninhibited braggadocio variety displayed by English speaking expats and bananas.
Yellow people have an inferiority complex, which stems largely from widespread poverty.
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Dai Muff
It's a toss up whether this is accidentally misleading or deliberate cheating. Every other country takes an aggregate of pupils across the country. In the case of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, you are very carefully selecting CITIES that are among the most educated in their environment. Let's see the results of an average selection of cross-China students before we puff out our chests too far. Not a self-selected brightest city. Other provinces in China actually have taken the PISA test. China, a big country, has only released Shanghai's scores.




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