It's class warfare in battle to cut schools down to size

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2011, 12:00am


All schools are equal under a government plan to reduce classes, but some are more equal than others. These are the elite schools.

Their alumni are often wealthy donors and powerful people, so it is much more difficult for the government to encourage them to join the class-reduction plan. Officials want about 200 secondary schools to volunteer to cut a secondary-one class as part of government efforts to cut costs because of falling birth rates.

But alumni of Wah Yan College in Kowloon and King's College in Sai Ying Pun are leading the rebellion, and many parents who want to enrol their children in such elite schools do not want them to cut classes.

Alumni of King's College are considering launching a judicial review of the school's decision to join the scheme.

And those from Wah Yan have successfully forced it to pull out of the scheme last week after they threatened to cut donations.

But the saga took a new twist as Wah Yan rebuked alumni for interfering with its internal administration.

Wah Yan students left messages on Facebook saying that the principal, John Kang Tan, on Monday announced the school had terminated its relationship with alumni association, the Wah Yan One Family Foundation. The school is expected to conduct fundraising activities independently of the foundation in future.

The school was unable to comment yesterday because of the public holiday.

A Facebook message said: 'The school announced to students that the foundation has changed from a money-donating organisation into a political one. It interfered with the school's administration using monetary politics and overthrew school policy on the strength of money.

'From now on, the school will reject funding from the foundation and conduct fundraising event 'Unconditional Love for Wah Yan' and will conduct walkathon and overnight concert on 6th of May.'

The chief executive of the foundation, Monty Fong Wing-hong, said he knew about the latest development but denied it had been interfering with the school's management.

'We are a separate entity from Wan Yan school,' he said. 'We don't have the power to interfere with the school's administration. We are just expressing our opinions and we will continue our fund-raising activities.'

The foundation has reserves of HK$85 million and counts among its members people such as I-CABLE Communications chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, and ITC Properties Group chairman Cheung Hon-kit. Wah Yan College joined the scheme in February, pledging to cut its Form One intake to 144 from 180 in September.

The scheme aims to share the load of falling numbers by encouraging schools to reduce the number of their Form One classes so that pupils originally assigned to schools running five classes will have to go to those suffering from insufficient enrolment.

The Education Bureau has offered an extra annual subsidy of HK$250,000 for five years to participating schools.

King's College also has powerful alumni, such as former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying and Executive Council convenor Leung Chun- ying, a hotly tipped candidate for the next chief executive. Both have voiced vehement objection to the school's joining the sche me.