Hong Kong students fare poorly in understanding the wider world

Study conducted by Chinese University and think tank Roundtable Education finds this is especially true for those from poorer families

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 4:14pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 4:14pm

Hong Kong senior secondary students have a weak international perspective that needs strengthening, with those from poorer families being worse off, a study has found.

The revelation came as Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim sang the praises of the city’s “high quality” education system.

The poll was conducted by Chinese University’s International Affairs Research Centre and think tank Roundtable Education from June to July. They surveyed 657 Secondary Four to Six students from 26 schools.

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It found that about 20 per cent of the respondents disagreed or totally disagreed that they had a sufficient “international horizon”, while around 60 per cent indicated that their level was average.

The students also did not fare too well in a section that tested their international knowledge through 11 questions on issues such as public health, global climate and terrorism as the students answered on average only 5.97 questions correctly.

Wilson Chan Wai-shun, a PhD candidate at Chinese University and one of the researchers, noted the score was a “bare pass”, adding there was room for improvement for students’ global vision.

George Tsang Ka-lok, director general of Roundtable Education, pointed out that there was a positive relationship between the students’ family economic condition and the students’ self-assessment of their global vision and international knowledge.

For example, the average mark for international knowledge for those with an average family monthly income of up to HK$20,000, HK$20,000 to HK$40,000, and HK$40,000 or above was 5.84, 5.86 and 6.49 respectively.

Chan said that in follow-up interviews with teachers, researchers found that one of the advantages the more well-off had was having more access to information, such as being able to travel overseas more and interact with people from other cultures.

Jacky Fung Chai-ching, director of Roundtable Education, said it was timely to look at the issue of global vision, with students likely to work overseas or with people from different cultures.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is also currently working on a new test on global competence to be included in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

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The organisation said the test was intended to “offer the first, comprehensive overview of education systems’ success in equipping young people to support the development of peaceful, diverse communities”.

Looking forward, Tsang recommended using resources to develop the global vision of students from grass-roots families and optimising curriculum and teaching strategies.

One way to do this is to use films during liberal studies lessons to help students overcome unfamiliarity with other cultures.

Lawmaker-elect Leung Yiu-chung, who used to be a teacher, agreed that students had a weak international perspective, especially compared with before the 1997 handover.

He noted that the government and society did not encourage students to learn more about other countries.

“Students are now preoccupied with Hong Kong and mainland China issues, unlike during the colonial era when the culture included more international aspects,” he said.

The findings of the study are at odds with Eddie Ng’s comment earlier in the day during a visit to Lima, Peru.

He noted that studies had suggested that Hong Kong had done “relatively well in providing educational opportunities with a relatively high quality and high equity for all students”, which he said in turn facilitated social mobility.