'300 more schools needed if class size cut to 25'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2000, 12:00am

An extra 20,000 teachers will have to be hired and 300 more primary and secondary schools built if class sizes are reduced to 25 pupils, legislators were told.

Legislators have suggested that class sizes in both types of schools should be reduced to this level. Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun yesterday ruled out setting a priority on scaling down the size of classes, saying promoting whole-day schooling was more important.

'We cannot help question whether there are enough qualified people to enter the teaching profession to fill up the extra vacancies. Instead of using a fishing rod with no hook to fish, we should try to be more realistic.'

Mrs Law said it was hoped all primary schools could provide whole-day schooling by 2007.

At present the average teacher-to-student ratio - measured separately from class size - at primary schools is 1:22, while that at secondary schools is 1:19, according to the Education and Manpower Bureau.

On anti-poverty measures, Mrs Law said economic growth was the foundation of job creation. 'If we keep the unproductive and inefficient mode of operations just because we want to keep more jobs, it will eventually harm Hong Kong's competitiveness.'

She also said the Government was conducting a staffing study to find out the labour supply and demand in the next 10 years and that there was a need to import more information technology professionals.

Mrs Law said about 40,000 secondary school students were expected to benefit from a government plan to buy notebook computers for needy students to borrow.

In a written reply to lawmakers, she estimated about $200 million was required to cover the cost of the computers, maintenance and security measures.

The main beneficiaries, she suggested, would be from low-income families who could not afford to buy computers for use at home. The Quality Education Fund has agreed in principle to fund the proposed scheme.

Assuming that one computer was shared between two students, about 20,000 computers would be required. The vendor would then be responsible for maintenance.