Educational Research Journal

What Happens to the Attainment of Our Bottom 20% of Students at the End of Their Nine-year Compulsory Education?

1997.第12卷第2期(Vol. 12 No. 2).pp. 159–173

What Happens to the Attainment of Our Bottom 20% of Students at the End of Their Nine-year Compulsory Education?



A number of recommendations have been made by the Hong Kong Government in the last few years to provide additional resources for schools that take in the weakest 20% of secondary students. These policies implicitly imply that the group of students are having special educational needs as they need extra resources for fulfilling their needs in learning. This study is an attempt to investigate into the attainment level of some of the bottom 20% of students at the end of their 9-year-compulsory education. A sample of 993 Secondary 3 students from 4 schools all located within the same urban district took part in the study to assess both their attainment level and their intellectual functioning. Over 95% of these students were coming from the bottom 20% group of students within the same district. They were all administered the Raven's Progressive Matrices Test for ascertaining their intellectual functioning in terms of their non-verbal reasoning ability. Each student also took the Hong Kong Attainment Tests on the 3 basic subjects of Chinese, English and mathematics. The tests are devised by the Education Research Unit of the Hong Kong Education Department and are standardised for local Primary 3 to Primary 5 pupils. On the test for looking at their non-verbal reasoning ability, over 60% of the students were at least within the average range of intellectual functioning when their scores were compared with other children of the same age in Hong Kong. Their results for the standardised attainment tests reflected that over 90% of the students in the schools were attaining at or below P.5 level across the two major subjects of Chinese and mathematics and more than 70% of the students were attaining at or below P.4 level in the subject of English. The findings indicated that majority of the students are backward in their attainment by 4–5 years. This reaffirmed the findings of the earlier pilot study (Yung, 1994) on another group of S.3 graduates (n = 435) in one of the sample schools a year before this main study. Findings of both studies indicated that majority of the students in the bottom 20% of secondary students should have average intellectual ability to cope with their schooling. Schools with large intake of students from this stratum of secondary students in Hong Kong might need to reconsider how they can modify their curriculum to meet the educational needs of these students in the light of these findings on their academic achievement after 9 years of compulsory education. The data also reflects the need for educators to review the efficacy of the 9 years compulsory education system especially around the years of Primary 3 and 4 when most of the students from the group seemed to have difficulty to move further by their attainment.