Hong Kong's reputation as an international centre has taken another knock. This time, a study shows English students in the SAR's education system are generally at least two grades below the standards of their international peers. As a result, the Education Department has recommended the English curriculum for students in senior primary and junior secondary be adjusted downward by at least two grades to help them learn the language more effectively. Researchers at the department's Curriculum Development Institute have proposed that more than half of Primary Six pupils be taught English at the level equivalent to Primary Three, while Form One students should learn the language at Primary Four level. The recommendation follows the poor results of more than 400 senior primary and junior secondary students in the Cambridge Young Learners English Tests over the past two years. The pupils were sponsored by the institute to sit the international test at Level 3, intended for children of primary school age who are learning English as a foreign language. A total of 119 Form One and Form Two students, mostly between the ages of 12 and 14, were randomly selected from among the four secondary schools involved in the scheme. They sat the test in February, and their scores ranged from about 45 per cent to about 60 per cent. A total of 222 Primary Six pupils from six schools under the $5 million pilot scheme sat the Cambridge test in November 2000 and February this year. Their results ranged from as low as 34 per cent to 66 per cent. 'The test results of these pupils show that most junior primary and senior secondary pupils had been taught English at levels well above their actual proficiency,' said Tsui Hon-kwong, research officer at the institute's research evaluation and projects section.