Pupils at top schools continued to show excellence in English in the new Diploma of Secondary Education exam - but limited Chinese-language skills have cost some of them a place at university.
Most elite schools had a pass rate of close to 100 per cent in English, but saw their pupils struggle in Chinese, a subject in which results at all schools were poorer than in the final A-level exams, which also took place this year.
Typical pass rates in Chinese at top schools were about 80 per cent, compared to 79.3 per cent at all schools, while 95.3 per cent of pupils passed the A-level.
The 70,000 diploma students earned a maximum grade of 5**, with 1 the lowest score. A grade of 2 is considered a pass, but for Chinese and English a grade of 3 is needed for a subsidised university place.
St Paul Co-Educational School pupils scored a 100 per cent pass rate in English, but 8 per cent of pupils there will miss out on a university place after failing to get the required marks in Chinese.
At Diocesan Boys' School in Mong Kok, one of the city's oldest schools with a history dating back to 1869, some pupils vowed to challenge their mark after falling short of the requirement for university.
Principal Terence Chang says the majority of pupils scored well enough for a university place, scoring at least 3 in both languages and achieving level 2 grades in mathematics, the new liberal-studies curriculum and at least one other subject.
He predicts 60 per cent of his pupils will be able to enter university, compared with an average of 37 per cent for a Hong Kong school.
One pupil at the school said he got grade 2 in Chinese.
'I plan to appeal and get my paper re-marked, especially for the integrated-skills paper,' he said. 'I know many of my classmates also failed in that paper. I think I spent too much time revising for English instead of Chinese, but I guess this is what most students at our school do.'
Chan Wing-kit, principal of the YWCA Hioe Tjo Yoeng College, said the fact that so much learning across all subjects was carried out in English might have cost pupils the chance to develop Chinese-language skills.
'The percentage of students in Hong Kong scoring level 3 or above in English and Chinese are about the same, at 49 per cent, but for our school 100 per cent of students got level 3 or above in English and around 80 per cent got level 3 or above in Chinese,' he said.
'Some students are able to fulfil university requirements in all subjects except for Chinese.'