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Primary schoolkids lose top reading spot

Top News | Riley Chan Dec 7, 2017
Hong Kong has slipped from first to third in the latest world ranking for the reading ability of Primary Four students.

Every five years, the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement uses the Progress in International Reading Literary Study in 50 countries to assess attainments in the students' first language.

The latest study shows Hong Kong students with an average test score of 569. Russia and Singapore claimed the top two spots with 581 and 576 respectively.

A total of 3,533 Hong Kong students - 1,837 boys and 1,695 girls - from 139 primary schools took part in the test commissioned by the Education Bureau from March to June last year.

They were asked to finish one information-providing passage and a literary one, with 40 minutes for both assignments.

Hong Kong's slide comes after it was first in 2011 with an average score of 571.

Tse Shek-kam of the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Education said the SAR needs to "take bigger steps" to keep pace with Russia and Singapore.

"Looking at the score, there wasn't a significant change in Hong Kong students' reading ability over the years," he said. "But apparently Russia and Singapore are taking big steps each year while Hong Kong made no progress."

Apart from the test, the study also polled the pupils on reading interests and lesson engagement, while some 3,500 parents were asked about reading habits.

And Hong Kong ranked bottom of the 50 in student engagement in reading lessons, with 52 percent saying they were "somewhat engaged" and 14 percent said they were "less than engaged."

One-third of parents in the 50 participating countries said they enjoyed reading, but the figure was a lot lower in Hong Kong at 17 percent.

"Many parents in Russia read to their children every night," Tse said. "The reading culture directly impacts students' reading attainment."

Despite Tse's points, the Education Bureau was pleased overall with the results.

"The continuously remarkable performance of Hong Kong students validates that SAR education is heading in the right direction," a spokesman said.

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October 2018