Clearing the air on special schools

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 April, 1999, 12:00am

Education Department says low enrolment does not mean institutes fail to do their job Enrolment is not an indication of a school's effectiveness, the Education Department said.

The department was responding to the comments of the Audit Commission's Report on the low enrolment rate of skills opportunity schools and the Hong Kong Sea School.

'The effectiveness of practical schools lies in their ability to provide an alternative education to help unmotivated students or potential dropouts, while that of skills opportunity schools lies in their capability to help students with severe learning difficulties to acquire independent living skills which they will carry into their adulthood,' the department said.

It said both types of schools had helped enhance children's self-esteem, cultivate their social skills and train them to cope with the challenges of life.

It also pointed out that education was a long-term investment, the effect of which could and should not be weighed at the time of delivery. The effectiveness of school education should be measured qualitatively and not merely quantitatively.

The department said it would do its best to implement the recommendations in the Audit Commission's report to improve education services provided by practical schools and skills opportunity schools.

On the 31.4 per cent under- utilisation of the planned skills opportunity schools places in 1998, the department said that, in actual fact, the enrolment was 960, representing 78.7 per cent of the approved places.

On admission criteria for these schools, the department said the existence of ability differences among pupils was a common phenomenon in all schools and intelligence quotient was not the sole factor in placing pupils in skills opportunity schools.

The department will review whether the admission criteria can be relaxed. In particular, it will examine whether it is reliable to depend on Hong Kong Attainment Test results and parental choice. It will also try to improve placement opportuni ties for Secondary Three leavers of skills opportunity schools and will work closely with the Vocational Training Council.

On integration, the department said it had always believed that children with special educational needs should be integrated into ordinary schools as far as practicable.

The decision of integration should be made on educational grounds and be beneficial to the students. It should not be made simply according to students' preferences nor due to financial considerations.

The department added that pupils with different education needs required different support services and there was no single support programme suitable for all pupils.

Students in special schools are often unmotivated and have severe learning difficulties. Additional support services which cater to their specific learning needs are required to help them to learn and develop.