Pupils with good breakfast habits had better test scores: study

November 28, 2016 11:05
Children who took irregular or poor meals in the morning had lower academic scores compared to others, a Hong Kong study shows. Photo: HKEJ

Children who have breakfast everyday perform better in their studies than those who tend to skip the meal or have irregular eating habits, a study has revealed. 

According to the study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), school students who were in the habit of eating breakfast every day had higher test scores than those who did not do so. 

The positive effects of having breakfast daily are evident from pupils' scores in Chinese language, English language and mathematics, the three subjects covered by the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) that gauges students' attainment of basic competencies, the report says.

For example, the 2015 TSA results showed that students who had breakfast almost every day on average scored 30-50 points more than those who had breakfast no more than twice a week.

International studies had also concluded that it takes as many as one-and-a-half years for breakfast-skipping students to catch up with those taking breakfast daily, researchers pointed out.

Noting that some primary and secondary school students in Hong Kong are not in the habit of eating breakfast every day for various reasons, the researchers advised the pupils to change their habits.

For the study, the education data research center of CUHK conducted random interviews with about 15,000 primary and secondary school students in the city in June and July last year. 

The interviews, on the breakfast habits and food choices of children, showed a correlation between academic performance and breakfast practices.

Hau Kit-tai, a professor of educational psychology at CUHK, said studies have confirmed that breakfast which provides protein, carbohydrates and other types of nutrition helps students enhance their focus, recognition and memory.

Acknowledging the benefits of breakfast for students' health and studies, Dr. Chan Chok-wan, chairman of the Hong Kong Pediatric Foundation, called on authorities to promote the habits among pupils and also formulate a policy on children's health as soon as possible.

Wong Hiu-lei, secretary general of the foundation, said students should have balanced breakfasts that provide protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Bread, cereal, egg, milk and fruit are good choices, she said.

Au Wing-yan, principal of Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Primary School (Ping Shek), said the school has recently begun allowing students to enjoy 20 minutes of breakfast time every day.

But in another case, a school -- the Fresh Fish Traders' School in Tai Kok Tsui -- has stopped providing free breakfast to its students as it was found that the kids did not appreciate the donated meals and tended to waste the food.

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Hong Kong Economic Journal