Schools teaching in English shed 600 places in reducing class sizes

Competition for top schools could be fiercer than ever with class sizes shrinking next year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 4:10am

Competition among primary-school children for places in the top secondary schools next year is likely to be keener than ever, with the number of places available in schools allowed to teach in English dropping by 600.

The drop is the result of a policy of reducing class sizes at government-funded secondary schools to avoid schools closing or teachers being made redundant amid a temporary drop in pupil numbers.

Officials have previously said that cutting class sizes at every school will reduce pupils' chances of getting a place in a top school, and some schools have chosen not to reduce class sizes next year.

Still, a leading educator said that as demand for school places was not equal, with those at elite schools particularly sought after, competition for certain schools would be great.

But the educator, Liu Ah-chun, said parents should not worry unduly because the drop in pupil numbers - 5,000 next year alone - would exceed the places lost by reducing class sizes at secondary schools as a whole.

"The population dropped and proportionally the number of band one students also decreased, and this rate of drop is even greater than the drop in the available places. Parents should not be overly worried," said Liu, a former chairman of the Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, who has been involved in talks between teachers and the government about the reduction in class sizes.

Schools are divided into three bands according to the educational attainment of their pupils, with the top schools in band one.

School principals had sought to cut class sizes by six, to 28, over three years, saying this would foster small-class teaching which they say improves education. But they agreed to a government proposal to cut classes by three or four, with one or two places to be cut from each class next year.

Officials have refused calls to make the cuts permanent, saying smaller classes do not necessarily improve education.

A majority of schools will reduce class sizes by two next year, reducing Form One places by around 5 per cent. Fifteen schools have decided not to participate in reducing class size.

The principal of one school that decided not to join said it was opting out in order to meet the high demand for places.

"Schools of our type, with a [big] demand, have opted not to [reduce class sizes] this year," said Leung Wai-shun, Queen's College assistant principal.

He said the school was expecting 800 applicants for its 43 discretionary Form One places.

Some 60,000 Primary Six students will begin applying soon for secondary school places.