Hong Kong came third in a survey taken every five years measuring the reading literacy of Grade Four primary school students.
The city placed behind Russia and Singapore in the “Progress in International Reading Literacy Study” (PIRLS), with an average score of 569. The survey included 61 education systems worldwide.
Professor Tse Shek-kam, director of the Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research, and head of the study, said the survey measured students’ reading literacy against a number of benchmarks, such as “intermediate” or “advanced”.
He explained that while Singapore had more primary students who could read at an “advanced” level, Hong Kong students’ performances were more even across the board, with a higher number of students reading at a “high” or “intermediate” level.
The survey assessed 3,533 Primary Four students across 139 primary schools around Hong Kong. The city’s score this year is slightly lower than in the last survey, conducted in 2011, and showed a decrease in the use of Cantonese as the language of instruction.
Overall, female students scored better than male students, with a difference of nine points in their average scores; the global average difference between female and male scores is 19 points.
Tse cited the fact that many textbooks and education systems are geared towards a female mode of learning, and called for stronger male role models in male students’ lives.
Students also fared better with comprehending informational texts, as opposed to literary texts. According to the study, this could correspond with
Hong Kong’s reputation as “an information-rich city”.