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  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 4:28pm
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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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A person I know used to send flowers anonymously
to hard working and plain looking female colleagues
on February 14
I learnt from this beautiful woman
that one shouldn’t overstuff oneself on Boxing Day
Annual events that repeat themselves
should be appreciated from different angles
please don't neglect the plain and ordinary
Please don't neglect the plain and ordinary
The fact that Asians rank higher is not just because of generally stricter parenting, but also because the fact that most Asians (both in Shanghai and Hong Kong), are forced into tutoring camps where they are providing with test questions constantly are told to memorize how to respond. That combination makes it quite hard to actually do poorly in exams, but also produce students to build their critic, application, and also understanding skills for themselves.
The right balance must be struck when educating our youths, since that you end up with students who comes out of the system with the inability to do anything apart from what they are told, and when they are confronted with a problem that is outside the norm, they aren't able to apply their knowledge to solve issues.
Without a focus on understanding and application, Asia will continue to be unable to innovate, and continue to only follow the steps of our Western counterparts, since that although test scores in Western society may not as superior, the smart few also think of new ways to get out of their predicament.
Having interviewed a lot of locally educated students, it often disheartens me that so many candidates possess great scores, but are unable to hold up an interesting and interactive conversation, and when thrown a curve-ball during an interview, they just aren't able to adapt and think outside the box; whereas, Western educated Asians are more often able to answer the curve-balls, but worst scores.
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.
5,000 randomly selected. I can't help suspecting how random it is. It doesn't surprise me the HK Govt would attempt to mislead the researchers' sample selection.
HK students are battle toughen in exams so they should rank high in science and math. But reading? That is a total surprise. The daily school curriculum is already suffocating enough for the majority. Playtime is precious usually during meals. Reading is for the smarter ones with proper parental guidance.
15 year olds in band 2 & 3 schools do not read. Period. The majority of these students would presume SCMP is a Chinese newspaper. Trust me.
Kudos to excellent students from Shanghai. It's unfortunate that so many more of their compatriots living in migrant work camps in the least desirable areas of great cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou as well as hundreds of millions of children struggling in impoverished rural regions can not share in the same opportunities as our esteemed Shanghai-students. Most of them are privileged to attend private schools charging upward of US$10,000 or $60K RMB annually with additional expenses for tutors. Such is the new reality in today's China where the top 2% (28 millions) consume 35% of all the world's luxury goods and services (Gucci, Prada, Mercedes, BMW, private jets and yachts) with another 20% (280 millions) reaching developed world- consumption standards (US$15K to $20K annually) but a staggering 75% (1.1 billion+) living at the subsistence level - according to the World Bank. The fact that children of the privileged-elites score exceedingly well in academic evaluations is not surprising, but the sad truth remains where hundreds of millions of children struggling in migrant work camps and rural regions can not even qualify to be evaluated is beyond shameful. For China, the world's largest socialist country, to extol achievements of its well-connected elites (2%) while hiding the dire plight of its overwhelmingly-vast majority (75%) is criminal. This reflects a corrupt and tyrannical regime focused on exclusive-gains through exploitation of its people.
N I suppose HK is much better with many living in pigeon holes, or subdivided homes, or caged homes. At least China can claim to be still a developing country with a GDP per capita of US$10,000, and they do acknowledge that. HK likes to boast that it is Asia's World City, a world class advanced economy, but unfortunately a sizeable group live in appalling Third World conditions

Usual false sense of superiority promoted by the likes of SCMP. My son goes to the same school I went to 40 years ago; I constantly worry that the school tries to squeeze the last bit of magic out of him...
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.
Can't agree more. And I quote ""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,".
In other words, if HK had "prepared" for it, it will trump the whole world!
Why can't some HK people just learn to be gracious in defeat?
I for one, can't believe that HK could be relaxed about the whole thing, given the hyper competitive nature of many of its residents, such as constantly comparing themselves to Singapore for instance, as SCMP has shown over the years




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