Fears of overcrowding in border school classes
Plan to increase class sizes to accommodate mainland pupils at primary schools in Sheung Shui may reduce teaching quality, say experts
Dennis Chong and Thomas Chan
A temporary increase in places at Sheung Shui primary schools to cater for the influx of mainland children could jeopardise the government's push for smaller classes and damage teaching quality, education experts fear.
Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung announced yesterday that class sizes at 28 schools near the border would be increased by five, while additional classes would be added to some schools to cover an expected shortage of 1,400 primary one places. The average class size would be 36.
Education-sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said schools would become overcrowded.
"Some special rooms may have to be converted to classrooms," he said. "Crowded campuses will lead to a drop in teaching quality."
Officials have said that the influx of cross-border children to the city's schools will be resolved first with temporary measures.
Meanwhile, officials are considering an overhaul of the school allocation system to make sure places across the city are more evenly taken up.
Yesterday, Yeung said he was "confident" of finding "a place for those who want to study in North District". The undersecretary was referring to a recent pledge by Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim. He said students in three northern areas given places outside their school "net" could apply for relocation.
They would have to do so after the results of allocation came out. Yeung said parents would have a week to decide whether their children would stick to their allocated school, most probably in Tai Po, or would try to change.
Officials also admitted some schools would have to use makeshift classrooms, as construction work may not be finished by September to make way for the extra classes.
Ip said sending students to Tai Po schools would inconvenience those living in Sheung Shui.
North District Primary School Heads Association chairman Chan Siu-hung said some principals were worried the quality of teaching would drop if more students were enrolled. He also urged the bureau to render professional teaching support to North District schools.
Chairwoman of the North District Federation of Parent- Teacher Associations, Chan Yung-chun, said the bureau should allocate more resources to each school to cope with the rising number of students.
"Schools should adopt a double class-teacher system," Chan said. "Or, at least, each class should have one more teaching assistant."
Yeung said extra resources, including money, would be given to schools based on their situation.