Some blame the mother-tongue policy for poor results, while others point to scheme allowing brightest to skip exams Only one of the six students who scored five As in this year's A-Level examinations came from an elite school, breaking years of tradition. The surprising outcome was attributed to a controversial medium-of-instruction policy and a scheme that allows the brightest to skip the A-Level hurdle by entering university after Form Six. For the second year in succession, no candidate scored six straight As. Those with five came from Hang Seng School of Commerce in Sha Tin, HKTA Tang Hin Memorial Secondary School in Sheung Shui, Cheung Chuk Shan College in North Point, Belilios Public School in Tin Hau, Shun Lee Catholic Secondary School in Kwun Tong and Wa Ying College in Ho Man Tin. Only Belilios is regarded as an elite school. Despite a long history of straight-A students, the best St Paul's Co-educational College could muster was four As. Principal Anissa Chan Wong Lai-kuen said about 20 of the school's Form Six students gained entry to university last year through the Early Admission Scheme (EAS), while another 10 left to study overseas. Ms Chan said the scheme had affected the classroom atmosphere because there was less interaction among students. 'Learning is about interaction. The stimulation is affected when a group of outstanding students leave school,' she said, while stressing she was satisfied with her students' overall results. Only 72 students were left to sit the A-Levels at Queen's College after 38 joined the EAS last year. Its best result this year was three As. This year also saw a new low in the number of students getting top scores since the introduction of the EAS in 2002, when there were six six-A and 20 five-A candidates. A total of 418 students were enrolled in the scheme last year. Some educators said the poor overall results were partly the outcome of the mother-tongue education policy that forced all but 112 secondary schools to teach Form One to Five in Chinese in 1998. The 33,800 exam candidates this year were the first batch to be affected by the policy. Anita Poon Yuk-kang, associate professor of education at Baptist University, said controversy surrounding the policy had prompted many parents to send their children to international schools or overseas in 1998, resulting in a drop in the overall standard. Dr Poon said that while the focus was on the fall in pass rate in this year's Use of English by three points to 76.6 per cent, it was equally worrying that fewer students passed a number of non-language subjects, including mathematics and statistics, Chinese history, physics and liberal studies. 'Many Chinese-medium schools opted to switch back to English teaching in Forms Six and Seven without giving students sufficient support for the transition,' she said. 'The students ended up spending much of the time struggling with the English language, sacrificing the non-language A-Level subjects.' The government should look at primary and secondary education as a whole when devising the medium-of-instruction policy, she said. However, Tai Hay-lap, an advocate of the policy and principal of a Chinese-medium school, predicted his students' A-Level performance would see a rebound in the next few years as they gained confidence in mother-tongue education, despite a 5 per cent drop in the school's English pass rate this year. University of Hong Kong mother-tongue education expert Tse Shek-kam said the fact the pass rate in Chinese language and culture also dropped showed the results had more to with the quality of student intake rather than the policy. Results of the Joint University Programmes Admissions System will be announced on August 9.