HK falls to third place in global reading literacy ranking

December 07, 2017 11:50
Prof. Tse Shek-kam (first from right) of the Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research at the University of Hong Kong, oversaw the Hong Kong end of research for the latest PIRLS reading literacy study. Photo: HKU

Hong Kong failed to hold its top spot in an international reading literacy study on primary school students, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which is conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, showed Hong Kong in the third place, behind Russia and Singapore.

In a previous PIRLS study in 2011, Hong Kong was at the top on the list that ranks the reading comprehension levels of school pupils who are in the fourth grade.

PIRLS 2016, which ranked reading literacy among students from 50 countries and regions, saw Hong Kong's average score at 569, down 2 points from 2011, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Russia moved up one notch to be No. 1 with an average score of 581, while Singapore climbed two places to the second position by scoring 576.

PIRLS is conducted every five years with an aim to assess the mother-tongue reading literacy of students in the fourth grade.

In Hong Kong, the Education Bureau commissioned the research team of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research (CACLER) to oversee PIRLS research in the city.

Researchers surveyed more than 7,000 students and their parents and nearly 300 Chinese language teachers and school principals, involving a total of 139 primary schools.

According to the results, Hong Kong students’ reading ability was among the highest but their interest in reading and degree of involvement in reading classes were inferior to most of their global counterparts.

Only 36 percent of the surveyed students said they liked reading, compared to the global average of 43 percent. As for degree of involvement, the ratio was 34 percent in Hong Kong, below the global average of 60 percent and the lowest of all.

Hong Kong University Professor Tse Shek-kam, who was in charge of the study, said students’ insufficient will of involvement means that they may give up halfway easily on things they do, leading them to a possibility of "winning at the starting line but losing at the finishing line".

Tse pointed out that parents’ level of interest in reading can directly affect children’s reading attitude and scores. He urged parents to cultivate such interest and read with their children at home as much as they can.

PIRLS report showed only 13 percent of parents in Hong Kong read with their young kids or told stories to them on a regular basis, far below the global average of 39 percent.

Notwithstanding the slippage in Hong Kong's rank, an Education Bureau spokesman said on Wednesday that the performance of local students was outstanding in PIRLS 2016.

The pupils' continuous remarkable performance validates that Hong Kong education is heading in the right direction, he said, adding that the high rank marks recognition of the concerted efforts of schools, teachers and other stakeholders in providing quality education for students in Hong Kong.

The bureau will analyze the findings of PIRLS 2016 in detail and will continue to collaborate with the education sector, parents and members of the community to sustain the balanced development and good performance of students, the spokesman said.

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