Heads back an allocation scheme based on results

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 12:00am

School principals have come to a consensus that the quality of primary schools should be taken into consideration in the secondary school places allocation system the Education Commission is due to devise this year.

In a survey by the Subsidised Primary Schools Council in November, nearly 80 per cent of primary schools agreed that central allocation should be based on students' school results.

However, there should be a moderation mechanism to rate primary schools. Those that fared better should be allowed to send more than one third of their students to Band One schools, and vice versa, they said.

The survey results were revealed during a seminar on the issue, organised by the Chinese University School Heads Alumni Association.

Primary and secondary principals agreed that the percentage of students each school could send to Band One secondary schools should be based on the school's standard, because of the large variation in school quality.

In 2000, the Academic Aptitude Test (AAT), which underpinned the previous allocation system, was scrapped and the number of secondary school bands was reduced from five to three. This was intended to create a fairer system that put less pressure on primary pupils to drill for tests. The Education Commission would devise a new allocation system to be used from the 2005-2006 academic year. As an interim, students' internal results have been scaled by their primary schools' performance in the AAT from 1997 to 2000.

Dr Anissa Chan Wong Lai-kuen, chairperson of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, said: 'The reality is that the standard of Band One students from some primary schools is no higher than that of Band Three student from other schools. Secondary schools could end up receiving students of a wide ability range and facing tremendous difficulties in dealing with this,' she said.

Schools in countries such as the US, which lacked such banding, could cope because they had smaller class sizes and greater support for their teachers, she said.

Secondary schools are currently allowed to reserve 20 per cent of their places for discretionary allocation. The Education Commission has recommended that by 2005 this should be increased to 30 per cent. Dr Chan said that secondary schools supported the use of an assessment of primary schools that was also beneficial to students' learning. The basic competency assessment being developed by the Curriculum Development Council could be considered, she said. This assessment is a tool which monitors students' achievement without subjecting them to high-stake exams.

Fung Man-ching, who chairs the Subsidised Primary Schools Council, supported Dr Chan's view, but warned against using one single test as a means of assessing applicants for Secondary One. 'Primary school teachers have been given more room to develop students' abilities in both the academic and non-academic sides after the AAT and written entrance exams were scrapped. We do not want to see them reinstated,' he said.

Professor Tsang Wing-kwong, a member of the Education Commission's working group on school places allocation, said that drilling could be minimised if the scaling of primary schools assessed a limited sample from each school.

But Professor Tsang added that the number of discretionary places should not be increased to more than 20 per cent. He said that many secondary schools - especially the elite schools - were exaggerating the problems they encountered with a wide ability range.