Education chief gives schools two weeks to avoid axe

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:00am

Arthur Li tells primary principals to come up with alternatives if they want to keep operating

Education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung yesterday gave under-enrolled schools two weeks to come up with viable plans to avoid being shut down.

His comments came after Saturday's protest by 4,000 students, parents and teachers from the 31 schools which have been ordered to end Primary One classes from September, a ruling which would ultimately result in their closure.

In a meeting with principals from 23 of the primary schools, Professor Li gave them until April 13 to come up with alternative plans. He gave them the options of becoming private schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme, merging with other primary schools, or requesting the Education and Manpower Bureau to conduct a special inspection which could allow them to resume admitting Primary One students next year.

Professor Li said he hoped schools would choose from these options or submit individual proposals within two weeks. 'Schools may still submit their requests after April 13. We have already done our bit to provide a flexible approach, and it is now up to schools to make decisions and draw up their own proposals,' he said.

'The [bureau] is prepared for individual schools to submit their plans, or require a special school inspection.' Special inspections would begin at the end of next month. But he added that the suggested options were not open to 51 other schools that were ordered to cease Primary One classes last year.

Leung Yik-tin, principal of Chi Kit School in Mongkok and spokesman for a coalition of 20 schools opposed to this year's closures, criticised the bureau for rushing them into a decision.

'May and June won't be the best time for school inspections because of exams, while from July onward schools will be on summer holidays.

'Though Professor Li said we may still submit our decisions after April 13, there is little choice,' Mr Leung said. He said yesterday's meeting failed to result in any compromise regarding Primary One admissions this year and that more than half of the affected schools did not welcome the prospects of an inspection. 'Inspection is meaningless because schools still won't be able to operate Primary One classes this year,' Mr Leung said.

They would face great difficulties resuming admissions next year because of the negative impression given to parents.

Mr Leung said the coalition would continue to press for the right to admit Primary One students this year.

Leung Kee-cheong, principal of another of the affected schools, the Fresh Fish Traders School in Tai Kok Tsui, said he would be the first to apply for a special school inspection.

'Primary One admission does not matter to us,' he said.

'All we want is justice - to clear our school from Professor Li's remarks that most of the affected schools are among the lowest in quality.

'The public shall see and judge for themselves whether it is fair for the bureau to shut down our school once the results are published.'