Hong Kong students lag behind Taiwan in math, science, and reading, according to CUHK EdDatax Research Centre

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6th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) In a recent academic study commissioned by the Education Bureau, the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s EdDatax Research Centre revealed that 15-year-old students in Hong Kong have achieved commendable results among 81 countries and economies. However, when compared to the data from 2018, Hong Kong students have been surpassed by Taiwan in the fields of mathematics, science, and reading. While Hong Kong’s mathematics performance remains strong, securing the fourth position globally, it falls behind Singapore, Macau, and Taiwan. Similarly, in the field of science, Hong Kong has moved up to seventh place from ninth, but reading proficiency has dropped from fourth to eleventh. Professor Hau Kit-tai from the Department of Educational Psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong suggests that this trend aligns with the previously announced Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) results and is likely influenced by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students may allocate more time to subjects with quantifiable outcomes, such as science and mathematics, resulting in a neglect of reading skills.

In conducting the assessment, the EdDatax Research Centre randomly selected 5,907 students, along with their parents and teachers, from 163 secondary schools across Hong Kong between May and July last year. The study found that despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Hong Kong students’ science scores have experienced a slight increase from 517 to 520 points. However, there has been a decline in mathematics scores from 551 to 540 points and in reading scores from 524 to 500 points. Nevertheless, these scores remain significantly higher than the global average scores of 485 and 476 in science and reading, respectively. It is worth noting that a decline in performance has been observed in 41 countries and economies in mathematics and 35 in reading, indicating a global phenomenon rather than a singular issue faced by Hong Kong.

Professor Hau Kit-tai believes that countries and economies with shorter school closures have experienced fewer disruptions due to the pandemic. The study reveals that 53% of Hong Kong students had their schools closed for more than three months, slightly higher than the average. However, Hong Kong schools have demonstrated exceptional support for continuity in student learning during closures, with 75% of students engaging in online courses daily, surpassing the average of 51%. Furthermore, Hong Kong ranks second in educational equity, reflecting its success in providing substantial support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In response to the findings, the Education Bureau acknowledges the impact of the pandemic, which has entered its third year, on the suspension of face-to-face classes and reduced campus activities, resulting in a diminished reading environment. Students may have reallocated their time to focus on different subjects, leading to a decrease in reading time. The Education Bureau plans to conduct an in-depth analysis in collaboration with the research team, focusing on the reading interests and abilities of students in this age group once the pandemic situation normalizes. They aim to provide comprehensive support to schools through diverse strategies, promoting learning through reading. Initiatives include offering regular subsidies to schools to promote reading, advocating for cross-curricular reading, and organizing various reading and cultural activities to further enhance students’ literacy skills and cultivate a reading culture.