Unpopular school aptitude test could go by next year

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 12:00am

The Education Commission has agreed to scrap the 22-year-old Academic Aptitude Test and may bring in the new school allocation system next year instead of 2005.

The abolition of the test - which ranks primary students' performance to decide which secondary school they should attend - will be discussed at the Executive Council next Tuesday. If agreed on there, current Primary Five pupils will be the first batch to escape the much-criticised test.

Commission members are also considering bringing forward from 2005 to next year a system under which secondary schools will have the freedom to choose 20 per cent of their new students from primary schools. The remaining pupils will be ranked into three bands in their schools, according to internal performance. No public exam will be necessary.

Secondary schools will need to publicise their admissions criteria when selecting the 20 per cent. No written entrance examination, only an interview, will be allowed.

Each student can only apply for one secondary school under the 20 per cent discretionary quota during the first stage of the allocation drive. If they fail to secure a place, they will be placed under the central allocation system in the second stage.

Stephen Hui Chin-yim, a member of the commission's subgroup on secondary school place allocations, said: 'Pupils coming from prestigious primary schools may have some advantage in the discretionary admissions drive. However, it will also stimulate primary schools to work harder when they notice their children are not being favoured by secondary schools.

'The new banding method will also discourage parents from battling for the popular secondary schools because their children will stand a good chance of getting into these schools by staying in the top third at their school.' A consultation paper unveiled in May by the Education Commission - the Government's think-tank on education policies - proposed a five-year interim method of allocations. It suggested a school's average aptitude test results over the past three years be used to decide future students' banding until 2005.

The sudden move to bypass the interim method came as a surprise to some education workers. Nelson Lau Ming-ki, headmaster of Long Ping Estate Primary School in Yuen Long, said: 'I do welcome it. It will enable schools to accept students on different levels of ability. Currently, the Band Five schools are suffering because they take on the poorest students.' Mr Lau said many school heads believed it unfair to use old aptitude test results to decide the fate of students. The move is expected to be included in a final proposal that will be submitted to the Education and Manpower Bureau after the consultation period closes at the end of next month.