News Centre

11 Jun 2007

CUHK Study: Family chats about society help students learn more science

11 Jun 2007

Do family chats help children learn more? Yes and no. When fifteen-year-olds who talked with their family more often about social or political issues (society issues), they developed better reasoning skills and scored higher in science, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. However, casual chats do not improve students’ science learning. Thus, parents can chat with their children more often about complex, societal issues to improve their science learning.

First international study of family chats and science learning

Professor CHIU Ming Ming, at CUHK's Department of Educational Psychology, did the first international study of how family chats about society affected students’ science learning based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (OECD-PISA) collected 107,834 fifteen-year-olds’ science test scores and questionnaire responses (for 41 countries and regions; Hong Kong sample size: 4,405).

 Number of family chats about society per month 

 % of 15 year olds in Hong Kong 

Less than 1

35 %


13 %


28 %

9 or more

24 %

Family chats about society are uncommon. They occur less than once a month for 58% of the children in the 41 countries. They did not differ by family SES, number of parents, or country wealth. Hong Kong students ranked 11 th out of 41 countries, showing that Hong Kong parents engage their children in social or political discussions more often than parents in most countries. In families that chat more often about society, students learn more science. 

 Family behavior

 Science test scores 

 2 more family chats about societal issues per week

+ 5%

 Buy 83 more books

+ 5%

 More family chats on simple topics (e.g. dinner time) 

no significant effect

Recommendations for parents

1) Chat with children about current social or political events (e.g., July 1 handover)
 ‧Tell stories about public figures (e.g. Donald Tsang did …)
 ‧Talk about different views of the same event (In contrast, Audrey Eu …)
2) Ask for and listen to children’s ideas about these current events
 ‧Ask about people's behaviors (Should s/he have done that?)
 ‧Ask them how they would act in this situation (What would you do?)
 ‧Ask them to explain their ideas (Why would you do that?)