Language education experts are to conduct a survey comparing the literacy skills of more than 1,500 primary students from different types of schools. The research is a follow-up to the 2001 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which tested the literacy skills of Primary Four students from 35 countries. Only six per cent of Hong Kong students achieved the highest scores, and interest in reading was found to be low. Tse Shek-kam, associate dean of the education faculty at the University of Hong Kong, said about 50 primary schools would be studied in March, comparing how students are taught and perform in schools in different sectors - aided, private and Direct Subsidy Scheme. Dr Tse said Chinese and English reading abilities varied among these three types of schools because of their different teaching approaches. The PIRLS study had found that few children had the opportunity to read aloud in class or silently alone. Medium of instruction was also important, though he advocates children below the age of ten should be taught in their mother tongue. 'International schools tend to better in English and aided schools in Chinese. DSS schools may be able to strike a balance between both,' Dr Tse said. 'We hope the research will provide parents with a clearer picture of the different language strengths of these types of schools.'