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Warning sign in global test 2017.01.06
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THE Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that covers 72 countries and territories shows that 15-year-old students in Hong Kong ranked high in reading, mathematics and science. But their science ranking dropped from second place three years ago to ninth, falling behind Taipei and Macau. As Hong Kong is determined to develop innovation and technology, the drop should be seen as a warning.

The latest PISA study assessed more than 500,000 students including 5,000 from 138 secondary schools in Hong Kong. Most were in Forms 3 and 4. Students from Singapore did best in all three subjects.

What should be of concern is the fact that the average marks of Hong Kong students was 523 – the lowest ever – compared with a high of 555 in 2012. It is still quite good to be number nine in science. If a child is ninth in class, parents need not panic. But when the student’s marks fall, the parents have to pay more attention. They have to look for the reasons and tackle the problems.

The PISA is not a test of a student’s scientific knowledge. It is an assessment of a student’s scientific reasoning ability. Hence some basic scientific concepts and data will be provided in the questions. Students will have to find appropriate information for analysis and explanation. The answers refl ect their analytical abilities.

Making the best use of the mind

THE assessment is not a global science quiz. High marks are not guaranteed even when students have acquired a large amount of scientific knowledge.Students must show how they use their minds in the search for knowledge. That is the basic requirement to nurture scientifi c research and innovation.

Unfortunately, some schools and parents put marks above everything else. Adopting the mentality of comparing with others, they tend to instil knowledge and answering skills in students as much as possible. Even extracurricular hours are crammed with such activities to create a high scoring curriculum vitae for the students. This‘spoon-fed education’ greatly narrows the room for free exploration. When even schools joining the PISA are drilling their students, things run counter to nurturing scientifi c rational thinking.

PISA participants are 15-year-old students. The assessment results reflect problems in junior secondary and primary education. If Hong Kong wants to have a new generation that is highly rational, it cannot just rely on the implementation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in schools.

(Published in the Sing Tao Daily on 7 December)

Glossary

scientific reasoning 科學推理
category 範疇
science quiz 科學常識問答比賽
deduction 推論
mental exercise 思維活動
curriculum vitae 個人簡歷
rational thinking 理性思維
decathlon 十項全能運動

 

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