Students excel across gender and social groups despite being in large class sizes The Pisa study indicates that Hong Kong's education system is among the strongest in terms of equity, with a narrow range between the top and lowest performing students. Gender differences between girls and boys are also among the least marked in the world. Student performance is above the OECD average and the impact of family background is found to be lower. Moreover, variation in reading, maths and science literacy is far below the OECD average. Hong Kong is among only a handful of countries, including Korea, Japan, Israel and Finland with 'the most desirable scenario for education policymakers - one where a country has a high mean score and the gap in literacy performance among students from different family backgrounds is relatively small'. Hong Kong is presented as a model for being able to achieve high average levels of learning and reducing disparity among students - contrary to the common belief that there is a trade-off between quality and equity. 'Hong Kong is, surprisingly, one of the most equitable,' said Andreas Schleicher, head of the Pisa programme. Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, Hong Kong's Secretary for Education and Manpower, was particularly pleased with this finding. 'Through education, we have promoted social mobility and social stability alongside students' ability. Quality and equality need not be a necessary trade-off,' he said. Pisa also affirms that in Hong Kong and other East Asian countries, students perform well despite the large class sizes. Hong Kong's average class size, at 38, is the second largest, after Brazil and Japan with marginally higher averages of 38.8 pupils in each class. 'Class size alone does not seem to have a significant negative impact on student performance,' the report concludes, after noting that among the East Asian countries, performance does not appear to be affected by the larger student numbers. The Pisa study shows dramatic differences in reading literacy standards between boys and girls in all countries. Girls outperform boys by wide margins in reading, while boys do better than girls in maths. In science, performance is more equal. In Hong Kong, the differences exist but are less marked. Ip Kin-yuen, a lecturer in the Department of Educational Management and Professional Support, said: 'We should treasure the good things in the Hong Kong education system. They need to be identified and preserved. There is a potential problem if we change too fast without taking stock of what we are doing now. 'But we must also identify and address the weaknesses.'