School principals call for smaller classes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 5:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 5:38pm

About 200 school principals protested outside the Legislative Council on Friday in an unprecedented show of unity in calling for smaller classes.

Hong Kong secondary school class sizes remain relatively large – 34 students per class on average – despite a long discussion in the sector about introducing small-class education amid falling enrolments.

But instead of cutting class sizes, government officials have proposed reacting to declining enrolments by cutting the number of classes, which would also reduce the subsidies given to affected schools.

An alliance of school principals from 18 districts said the number of students per class should be reduced to 30 over the next few years.

On Friday morning the school heads, many dressed in dark suits, gathered outside the Legislative Council and chanted slogans before the education panel held a meeting to discuss the matter.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim told the meeting the drop in enrolments is only temporary, and that the number of students eligible for Form One will begin bouncing back from 2017, according to government figures.

“We cannot hastily cut the class size across the board because the situation is only temporary,” he said.

More than 70 people attended the meeting – including many of the protesting principals – calling for the government to grasp the opportunity to introduce small-class teaching, long adopted in the Western world.

Educator Chik Pun-shing said it was a “golden opportunity” for authorities to introduce small-class education, because falling enrolments make the policy change possible without spending extra money.