Axe hangs over more schools in the villages

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 December, 2004, 12:00am

Amid purge on under-enrolment, Legco motion seeks a reduction in class size

The Education and Manpower Bureau has started another phase-out of under-enrolled primary schools just as a Legco motion calls for the reduction of class sizes to 25.

At present, schools failing to recruit at least 23 pupils for Primary One must cease admissions and close in three years. The bureau has set the standard class size at 37 and for schools adopting the 'activity approach' to teaching it is 32.

Chan Cheung-chow, principal of Ng Wo Public Primary School, said the bureau had notified the Yuen Long village school last week that it had to shut down next year. The school, established for more than 40 years, has about 40 Primary Three to Six pupils in class sizes of about 14 each.

Mr Chan said other village schools in the New Territories in similar situations were facing closure, including Lowu Public School, Kwan Ti Public School and Lung Shan School.

The move began last year as part of a cost-saving drive when the government raised the minimum quota of Primary One admissions from 16 to 23. At that time, 54 schools were ordered to cease Primary One classes and earlier this year 23 schools were told to stop taking in Primary One pupils.

'The birth rate has been declining and there are fewer students,' said Mr Chan. 'It is inevitable that some schools, especially village schools which have been operating in small scale, will have to shut down ... it is a pity that our students will no longer be able to enjoy the close relationship with teachers once they transfer to bigger classes.

'While our class size is always below 25, mainstream schools are above 32.'

The latest closure orders came as legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee submitted a Legislative Council motion yesterday, suggesting that the government reduce class sizes to 25 for schools in areas with a sharp decline in students.

She argued that small-class teaching will not increase the cost of education, citing a study she recently conducted with the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Contrary to the government's $800,000 cost estimate per primary class, Ms Eu said it would only cost $485,000 because smaller classes could be taught in existing classrooms without extra facilities.

'The government should progressively implement small-class teaching in primary schools, and then in secondary schools, to enable teachers to tailor their teaching to students' varied abilities, so as to realise and achieve the goal of quality education,' Ms Eu said.