Hong Kong pupils’ mathematics and science performance has declined in a major international study, with secondary students posting the city’s worst results in more than two decades in the latter subject. The Education Bureau said it would launch a review to see what improvements could be made after noting the “less proficient” performance of Hong Kong students, especially for science, in the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Conducted every four years, the latest findings released on Tuesday showed that Primary Four and Form Two students had dropped 10 and 11 places respectively in the global rankings for science. Primary Four pupils were ranked 15th globally in science achievements in the 2019 edition, compared with fifth four years earlier. Form Two students now ranked 17th in science, while in 2015 they were sixth. The average science score of Form Two students in 2019 was 504, the lowest recorded by any cohort in the seven editions of the quadrennial study since 1995. Those performing better than Hong Kong included Israel, Turkey, Britain, Portugal and the United States. Primary Four pupils remained the world’s second best in their age group for maths, beaten only by Singapore, but Form Two students fell one place to fifth globally, behind the city state, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. More than 580,000 pupils from over 60 countries or regions took part in the latest study, which samples 10-year-olds and 14-year-olds worldwide to compare their performance in maths and sciences with their international peers. But jurisdictions including China and India were not among the participants. In Hong Kong, the assessments were conducted between April and July last year on more than 6,000 Primary Four and Form Two students from nearly 275 schools. Professor Frederick Leung Koon-shing from the University of Hong Kong, who led the study in the city, said there was only a “slight decline” in maths, adding it was normal to see fluctuations between cohorts. “What I would say was the most significant decline in this edition was in Form Two students’ performance in science. It was indeed a huge drop,” Leung said. “But we have not yet been able to pinpoint specific reasons behind the decline, whether it could be because of shortened classroom time dedicated purely to science with enhanced promotion of STEM education,” he added, referring to the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Two top Hong Kong universities slip down Asia rankings for second year in row Leung also said one element affecting the 2019 results could be that it was the first year the assessments were taken online. For maths, students were tested in areas including number, measurement and geometry. In science, primary students were evaluated on life, physical and earth sciences, while secondary pupils tackled biology, chemistry and physics. An Education Bureau spokesman said it would conduct an in-depth study into the results, drawing on the experiences of high-achieving countries and regions to enhance Hong Kong students’ international competitiveness. “We will review our prevailing curriculum policies and teaching and learning measures to figure out the reasons behind, and work out necessary improvement measures to boost our students‘ performance in science,” the spokesman said.