Hong Kong

S3 pupils' language skills 'poor'

By Louise Ho (HK Edition)
Updated: 2006-10-28 07:06
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About 30 per cent of secondary three (S3) students failed to achieve a basic competency level in the English language test in this year's Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA).

This is the third year of TSA, conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA). It assesses the competency level of primary three (P3) and six (P6) students in Chinese and English languages and Mathematics. The S3 students participated in the assessment for the first time this year.

Compared to their counterparts in primary schools, S3 students have a lower competency level in all the three subjects, with 75.6 per cent students meeting the standard in Chinese language and 78.4 per cent in Mathematics.

The S3 students' performance in English language test was the worst, with only 68.6 per cent achieving the basic standard.

On the discrepancy in performance between primary and secondary students, HKEAA Secretary General Peter Hill said: "The result is an expected outcome. It is a reflection of an international phenomenon of a gap in achievement between high- and low-performing students over successive years of education".

He said the gap in achievement grew typically in the first few years of schooling.

Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (Education Infrastructure) Eddie Cheung Kwok-choi refused to disclose the number of secondary schools with students with zero competence level. Instead, he said, since this is the first year for the S3 students, the results alone should not be used to assess them.

Non-official member of Education Commission Tong Chung-fan said the gap in achievement had widened because of the imbalance in the teacher-student ratio and a poor learning attitude of secondary students.

As an experienced secondary school teacher, he said classes today had too many students and that the problem had been intensifying over the years. The average number of students in a secondary class had remained around 40, he said.

Another reason for the poor results was that some S2 and S3 students had not focused on school studies as much as their primary counterparts, he said, because they had entered a more rebellious phase of their life and were often more attracted to entertainment and other activities.

To overcome that, he said, the government should consider adopting a "small class teaching" policy, under which there would be 22 to 24 students in a class. Also, it should provide more resources to schools and teachers.

The performance of P3 and P6 students has slightly improved compared to last year, with the percentage in the three subjects varying from more than 70 to more than 80.

But the assessment results indicate a need for primary and secondary students to work on their Chinese and English language skills, especially in raising their writing and speaking ability.

Introduced in 2004, the TSA aims to provide schools with information on students' academic standard so that they would be able to improve their quality.

This year 65,500 P3 students, 77,000 P6 students and 81,000 S3 students took the tests in the three subjects from April to July.

(HK Edition 10/28/2006 page2)