FOCUSING on technical subjects does not mean having to lose out on language skills, a group of technical school students have proved. The students won Best Reader awards in a territory-wide English reading scheme . Form One student Ngun Shu-kin of Aberdeen Technical School said the only difference between grammar and technical school students was their choice of subjects. Shu-kin, 12, who was named the school's best reader in the Hong Kong Extensive Reading Scheme in English, said: 'We are no different. While they concentrate on arts and science, we focus on subjects like metal work or graphic design.' Amy Lau, 14, of Ho Tung Technical School for Girls said the public unfortunately had a general misconception about the academic ability of technical school students. 'They think we aren't on a level with grammar school students, and that our language skills aren't as good. The fact is that many of my classmates happen to have a very high standard of English,' Amy said. 'Different schools have different approaches and focuses. It's unfair to compare,' added Chan Hoi-ho of Tang Shiu Kin Victoria Technical School. The reading scheme, launched in 1991 by the Education Department, has attracted 109 secondary schools, four of which are technical schools. The scheme helps children to develop their reading habits and improve their proficiency in English through wide reading. Students read books during class hours and teachers monitor their progress. Both Amy and Hoi-ho said they did not confine their reading to class hours only. Some of the 35 to 40 books they had each read in the school term were completed in their leisure time. 'Last year I read in class only, but this year I read even after school as the books are very interesting,' Amy said. Hoi-ho said he made no extra effort to grab a prize. 'I didn't know there was an award for reading more books!' Ms Wong Wing-shan, Hoi-ho's English teacher, said she had observed a marked improvement in her students' English standard after the school joined the reading scheme a couple of years ago. 'It definitely helps the students,' she said. 'And now they read out of habit, which is very important.' However, Ms Wong pointed out that the scheme, developed by the University of Edinburgh and adapted by the Education Department, failed to address the typical interests of Hong Kong students. 'Some of the books and themes may be very interesting to English children but they are rather remote to our students,' she said. The programme consists of 400 books (fiction and non-fiction). The lower level books are mostly readers for teenage learners of English, while the upper level books are longer and include abridged versions of classics and popular fiction. Each book has an introduction, a questionnaire, and an answer card.