Effect of school places reform 'overestimated by officials'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 12:00am

Education officials have exaggerated the effects of switching to a fairer system of allocating girls and boys to secondary schools, according to a document seen by the South China Morning Post.

A court ruling last month said the 23-year-old practice of processing boys and girls separately was discriminatory.

Officials have warned that processing boys and girls together would cause upheaval at the best schools because girls would seize up 70 per cent of the places.

But a computer simulation exercise carried out by the Education Department early this year showed there was only a small percentage difference in the chances of boys and girls being awarded their first-choice schools when they were processed either separately or together.

The simulation, run on a three-banding system, found that out of all band-one students, 58 per cent of boys would end up at their top choice of school compared with 55 per cent of girls if they were allocated separately. This is based on the fact that the top one-third of boys and girls respectively are classified as band one because the quotas for both have been specified.

However, if the band-one boys and girls are allocated together, 58 per cent of girls and 54 per cent of boys would receive their first-choice school.

In this case, without a gender quota, 28 per cent of boys and 39 per cent of girls are classified as band one.

The computer simulation was based on the academic results of 82,419 Primary Six pupils last year.

The number of students deserving a better-rated school if girls and boys are processed together is estimated at about 2,400 in the band-one group alone.

According to the computer simulation exercise, only 19 of the top schools will end up having 70 per cent of girls in their new intakes and 30 per cent boys if all pupils are processed together.

This compares with 72 top schools admitting 60 per cent girls and 40 per cent boys if they are allocated separately.

The legislator for the education constituency, Cheung Man-kwong, said: 'The Education Department is trying to scare the public by citing the 7:3 ratio [of girls to boys allocated to top schools].

'But the difference is so small that can easily be fixed. It shows their arrangement is inadequate.'

Tik Chi-yuen, chairman of the Committee on Home-School Co-operation, said: 'You now have more than 7,600 pupils appealing, which is even more of a problem.

'And people are not happy with it because the Education Department has given up the principle.'

The Education Department failed to answer why it insisted on a separate allocation - despite the results of the computer simulation showing there would be little difference.

A total of 7,689 appeals, mostly from girls, have been lodged with the department.

The appeals were filed based on the court ruling delivered last month that said the practice of processing boys and girls separately in the secondary school allocation system was discriminatory.

The Equal Opportunities Commission, which sought a judicial review from the High Court, has promised to offer legal assistance to appellants within one year.

The anti-discrimination watchdog has so far received more than 1,000 cases.

It is expected to be swamped with more after the appeal results are released by the Education Department on Saturday and Monday.

Graphic: BOYXGET