Enrolment halves in 29pc of schools

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am

Analysis of new figures shows extent of collapse in student numbers as birthrate plummets

Figures released this week highlight the dramatic impact the falling birthrate is having on school enrolment.

Almost 30 per cent of primary schools had less than half as many Primary One students last year as they had in Primary Six, the statistics show.

The figures, which bode ill for further school closures in coming years, reveal that in 332 of the city's nearly 600 primary schools, Primary One enrolment had fallen by at least 10 per cent by last year. More than 15 per cent of schools had less than a third as many pupils in their lowest grade as there were about to leave.

The dramatic fall in enrolment was discovered in a detailed examination by the South China Morning Post of the primary school profiles published by the Committee on Home-School Co-operation on Monday.

The profiles, which include the number of students and classes each school had enrolled in each year and the number of classes in each on April 30 this year, paint a striking picture of the impact the past decade's declining birthrate is having on schools across the city.

The list includes 45 schools which had already ceased admissions and were due either to close or merge with another school.

This year a further 13 schools were ordered to freeze admissions after they failed to attract the minimum 23 students to form a Primary One class. Two of those schools are running a privately-funded Primary One class this year in the hope they will be able to stay open by attracting the new minimum of 21 students for next year's entry.

The effect of the decline in birthrate has been accentuated on the individual school level by an allocations system that relies on parental choice rather than evenly distributing students between the existing schools.

SKH Ching Shan Primary School showed one of the most marked drops in enrolment. Last year, the school had 295 students in nine classes at Primary Six. There were just 36 in its single Primary One class.

But a minority of schools has managed to maintain more robust student numbers. In 162 schools, admissions have remained relatively stable in recent years - judged by having a less than 10 per cent decline in the number of pupils between Primary Six and Primary One last year.

Good Hope School, in Kowloon, for example, had 225 pupils in Primary One; five classes each containing the legal maximum of 45 students.

Seventy schools had shown an increase of more than 5 per cent, though in the majority of cases this increase was not sufficient to result in the school being allocated any extra Primary One classes.

A further 12 could not be compared as they were new schools which did not have students in all six year groups in the last academic year.

Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung this week announced changes to the standard class size and minimum enrolment threshold, which would come into effect next September.

The standard class size is to come down from between 32 and 37 to between 30 and 35, while schools will only need to attract 21 pupils to open a Primary One class, down from the current minimum of 23.

Mr Suen said the changes were intended to minimise the number of classes that would need to be cut.

Falling enrolment

The dramatic fall in the birthrate over the past decade has caused the number of school entrants to decline

The number of primary schools with less than half as many Primary One students as Primary Six at the end of April this year: 164