Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

School Effectiveness of a Streamed-School System: A Multilevel Modelling of the Hong Kong Secondary Schools

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

School Effectiveness of a Streamed-School System: A Multilevel Modelling of the Hong Kong Secondary Schools

Article excerpt

This study has two distinct features that are different from current studies using multilevel analysis on school effectiveness. First, it uses a very large dataset, and second, the analysis is on a streamed-school system. The initial findings of this study record three differences from studies in the West: (a) the relatively large size of school effect in the Hong Kong schools; (b) the negative correlation between intercepts and slopes for prior attainment; and (c) the differential effectiveness for low and high ability students. The study highlights the issue of whether or not the results of school effectiveness research based on mixed ability schools can be generalised to some countries in East Asia where students are streamed to schools according to their academic ability. It suggests the need to explore whether the contextual factors that influence the effectiveness of schools in a mixed system are duplicated in a streamed-school system.

Introduction

Studies of school effectiveness (Boskers & Witzers, 1995, 1996; Levine, 1992; Purkey & Smith, 1983; Scheerens, 1992; Scheerens & Boskers, 1997) have been well reported for schools that take in students of mixed ability. However, in China (Hong Kong) and, to a great extent, in East Asian countries, schools take in students of similar rather than mixed ability. In these countries, students compete to enter the good primary schools. Primary school students compete to enter the good secondary schools, and then compete to enter universities. One consequence of this highly competitive system of education is that only the best students can enter the good schools, the next best students to the next best schools, and the weak students to the less preferred schools. In other words, students are streamed to schools based on how they do on public examinations.

One purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of schools in Hong Kong. Will school effects be larger as a result of this streaming of students to schools rather than to classes as is the practice in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States of America, and elsewhere?

The streamed school system is also practised in a number of European countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria. Daly (1991) did examine school effectiveness in Northern Ireland, where some streaming existed in the public educational system. Interestingly he did not observe any greater school effects. However, in doing this type of study, Gray (1989) raised the need to use a large number of schools to ensure the accuracy in determining school effects.

Schooling in Hong Kong

Public schools in Hong Kong are different from other countries in that the students were streamed to schools according to their academic achievement. Specifically all graduates of primary schools had to sit for the Academic Aptitude Test (AAT) in Chinese and in numerical reasoning. The score distribution of the AAT was used to divide the student population into five bands: Band 1, Band 2, ..., Band 5. A school would be assigned quotas of Band 1, Band 2, ..., Band 5 based on how the students in the school performed on the AAT. The more successful the students of a school were in the AAT, the more Band 1 or Band 2 quota they would gain for their particular school. The less successful they were, the more Band 4 and Band 5 quota the schools would get.

Once the primary schools have been assigned the different quotas, how were students assigned to secondary schools? First, the Primary Six students in a school were ordered on how they did in the school internal examinations on the following six subjects: English, Chinese, mathematics, health education, social studies, civic education and other subjects. Next, the best students in a school were assigned to Band 1 until the quota for the school in Band 1 was filled, the next best students were assigned until Band 2 was filled, and this process continued, until all students were allocated to the five different Bands. …

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