Exam fees may be forced up as number of special-needs students skyrockets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am

The number of students with specific learning difficulties has increased nearly sevenfold in just three years.

Education Bureau figures showed 8,870 such students in the 2006-07 academic year compared with 1,360 in 2003-04. The increase has been greatest in secondary schools, where the number has multiplied by a factor of nearly 17, from 165 to 2,760. In primary schools, the figure was 6,110 last year, up from 1,195 in 2003-04.

An Education Bureau representative said the rise was partly due to the 'increased awareness'.

The Ombudsman said the trend implied an increase in the number of applications for special arrangements in public examinations, thus increasing the Examination Assessment Authority's workload in the future.

Only one application was received for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination in 2003, but 48 were received last year. It said more resources would be allocated and more funding needed if the numbers continued to grow - which might result in a rise in examination fees.

The Education Bureau said it had asked an overseas consultant to review the educational psychology service.

It said it hoped that, by the 2011-12 school year, each school would have at least one Chinese and one English language teacher with training in the thematic course on teaching students with learning difficulties.

But Iris Ngan Keung Wai-lin, Association for Specific Learning Difficulties chairwoman, said the arrangement was 'too little, too late'.

'All teachers should have some basic training on how to handle (such) students,' Mrs Ngan said.

The Ombudsman will start another investigation on providing support services for students with specific learning difficulties and is inviting public comment until March 14.