Principals reject 40-pupil class plan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am

Almost all secondary school headmasters and teachers polled in a survey have rejected a government proposal that critics say would result in schools closing if they fail to have 40 students in classes.

Nearly 99 per cent of heads dismissed the Education and Manpower Bureau proposal as being 'harmful to the quality of education'. About 95 per cent want the proposal shelved.

The survey, conducted by the Professional Teachers' Union, polled 129 headmasters and 1,405 teachers at 177 secondary schools.

It showed that 98 per cent of teachers wanted the authorities to take advantage of the decline in enrolments to adopt small-class teaching instead.

At the centre of the dispute is a proposal to restructure classes at secondary schools in the wake of the 3+3 senior secondary system, to be introduced in 2009.

The bureau wants to have 40 students in a Form One class. From the 2006-07 year, schools that can fill only one or two Form One classes will have to pass a government inspection.

If they fail, they will be excluded from the government secondary school places allocation scheme, dooming them to closure.

Last month the Legislative Council's education panel rejected the proposal in an attempt to force the bureau to cut class sizes and save schools with low enrolments.

Presenting the survey findings yesterday, the union's vice-president, Chik Pun-shing, said they appreciated enrolment would decline with Hong Kong's falling birth rate.

'The government should take this opportunity to cut class sizes. Closing schools kills education rather than improves it,' said Mr Chik, adding a class of 25 should be the optimum size.

He said teachers also feared they could face dismissal if schools closed.

'In this case, headmasters and teachers will have to spend more time on thinking of ways to attract more students to enrol, not how to improve students' standards,' he added.

The Education and Manpower Bureau questioned the impartiality of the union survey results.