Psychologists to spot problem pupils
Psychologists will be hired to supply counselling services to 200 primary schools in an effort to diagnose children with emotional problems at an early stage.
The move comes after three Form Two students killed themselves in a suicide pact on Cheung Chau on Sunday. The teenagers, who attended Maryknoll Secondary School in Ngau Tau Kok, burned charcoal and took sleeping pills.
Director of Education Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said yesterday the 10 psychologists would initially offer their services to 25 schools from September before the scheme was extended to 200 of the 800 primary schools by 2007-08 at a cost of $10 million.
The initial 25 schools, which have yet to be chosen, will be selected for having a higher proportion of pupils with behavioural problems.
'The educational psychologists will focus on offering diagnosis of the emotional problems faced by needy pupils,' Mr Cheung said.
He said he had been briefed about the weekend's tragedy, and urged children under emotional pressure to talk to their parents, teachers and peers.
Of the nearly 1,000 suicide victims last year, more than 30 were aged between 10 and 19, Mr Cheung said.
Dr Lam Shui-fong, associate professor with the University of Hong Kong's department of psychology, applauded the programme but warned of a shortage of qualified staff.
She said there were only 55 educational psychologists in Hong Kong who were working in the Education Department and with voluntary organisations.
She said that hypothetically, 40 educational psychologists would have to be trained if one served five primary schools, adding that the number of psychologists being trained could not meet the soaring demand for their services.
Dr Lam said the two-year masters programme in educational psychology provided by her department - the only local course of its kind - only offered 10 government-funded places a year.