Sixth Form not the only worthwhile option

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 1994, 12:00am

YOUR editorial on August 24 headlined, ''System hinders students'', is critical of the Sixth Form place allocation system.

Before this system was introduced in September, 1991, large numbers of Sixth Form places used to remain vacant each year even though there were qualified applicants without a place. The new system ensures, in as equitable a way as possible, that virtually all available Sixth Form places are filled. In 1990, about 20 per cent of the available 18,000 Sixth Form places were vacant. In the exercise just completed there were 23,480 places available and in the last stage only one per cent (257 places, mostly in the New Territories) were left for central allocation by computer.

The allocation system quite clearly helps larger numbers of qualified applicants find places (two-thirds of them in their own school) and ensures the effective use of all Sixth Form resources.

The fact that some applicants cannot obtain a place in their most preferred schools is less a reflection on the allocation system, than on the mistaken belief of some students and their parents that a Sixth Form course is the only way to pursue education after Secondary Five. The fact is that many applicants for Sixth Form places would be well qualified for admission to vocational courses in the City Polytechnic and the Vocational Training Council's technical colleges and institutes. Despite intensive publicity and clear evidence year after year that graduates of vocational courses are eagerly sought after by employers, there is still a mistaken view that such courses are less desirable than a Sixth Form course.

In reviewing the outcome of this year's place allocation exercise, we shall focus on ways to get across the message that a course of technical education is, for many students, a worthwhile alternative to Sixth Form study.

C. GODWIN for Secretary for Education and Manpower