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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 11:56pm
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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"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.
Are HK students *ever* allowed to relax?
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.
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.
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.
A tale about how the Prussian Army selected it officers and soldiers holds a lesson for Asians.
Two tests were given to determine if a person was: Stupid or Clever; Lazy or Hardworking.
Those who were Clever and Lazy were made High officers.
Those who were Clever and Hardworking were made Low officers.
Those who were Stupid and Lazy were made regular soldiers.
Those who were Stupid and Hardworking were taken out and shot so they caused no more damage to the organization.
Clever and Lazy always have the Clever and Hardworking do all the work.
Clever and Lazy Americans have the Clever and Hardworking Asians doing all the work.
High test scores are not the only key to success.
Hong Kong 15 year olds second best in reading, maths and science.
Great, but note that after 15 many in the West catch-up and keep going whilst HK'ers are still stuck in exam-passing mode.
That sense of superiority is enforced by the HK Govt and more so by schools protecting their reputation. In 1993 when I learned my mid-levels band 1 school was still teaching the same way it ruined my academic appetite in the 60s, I enrolled my son in a no name school next door renowned for its relaxing syllabus. My mother-in-law was furious and I became recognizable in the Wanchai market.
My niece was labelled a daydreamer and too opiniated for the taste of my former school. Her daydreams turned out to be essays on religion, abortion, trending, etc. that not one of her classmates would understand. The principal summoned my brother and estimated she could get 4 As in the HKCEE if she studied harder on math.
My buddy was summoned by the principal, same school, because his P.6 son sleeped in every class. The kid was the top second in his grade. He was bored.
Instead of developing the talents of these 2 kids, my former school was hooked in improving their exam performance and its reputation.
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.
Congratulations to all the schools and students for their high scores! Now, where do these brilliant people go after their studies? I seem unable to see them making an impact in Hong Kong in general, and definitely not in the HK Government (same applies for Singapore, by the way).
Don't know what random sampling means? Go to a college and audit a baby statistics course. If you don't understand something, why do you badmouth it? What has HK government to do with sample selection?
You really have to check your superciliousness. Reading means reading comprehension. Band 2 & 3 students in Chinese schools may comprehend more than you think. PISA tests them in their native language, not in English. Most SCMP readers are not particularly good at understanding what they read. Is English their problem?
There are many Chinese and Shanghai bashers here. Why can't they just accept that Asians took top spots because of their Confucian discipline and intestinal fortitude.
I don't believe group performance will produce super-intellects who are movers and shakers. On the other hand, if countries with high PISA score manage their development skillfully, they have more human resources to build a skilled workforce, which is a factor in the income production function.
For those critics with less than sterling math skills, they must have noticed that many professions are not in their menu of choices. They missed the boat long ago because they didn't do well in math at 15.
Eat your heart out. Bashing China and Shanghai won't change PISA results one iota. If HK obstructionists don't engage in political self flagellation and sabotage, we can work on guiding our youngsters to gainful employment. Their PISA shows they are eminently trainable.



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