Adding five or six pupils to every Primary One class in three districts for the coming school year would compromise the quality of small-class learning, a teachers' union says.
The Professional Teachers' Union said a new policy aimed at increasing Primary One places to cater to an influx of children born in Hong Kong to mainland mothers and a higher local birth rate in 2012 was a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
"The rising demand in districts close to the border may be transitional because of the cross-border pupils, but the increase of pupils in Kwun Tong … is a structural population change in the district and will last for some years," union president Fung Wai-wah said.
Fung said because of the new measure, at least two primary schools in Kwun Tong would have to cut their number of classes despite having vacant classrooms available.
Come September, schools in Tai Po, Yuen Long and Kwun Tong will have 30 pupils in each Primary One class, up from 25 pupils in previous years. Nine schools in Tin Shui Wai, which is part of Yuen Long district, may have 31 pupils per class.
But about 80 primary schools in the three districts had been implementing small-class teaching since 2009. Adding more pupils to classes meant halting the current policy, Fung said.
"The new policy would wipe out all the … advantages pupils and teachers have gained from small-class teaching," he said.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen described the policy as an "economic trick" to save on funding. He estimated the government would save up to two times the public funding for schools in the long run if pupils were added to existing classes instead of opening new classes, because schools would then not be able to hire more new teachers. "The bureau is just lazy, pushing forward a policy that does not take into account pupils' welfare," Ip said, suggesting the government use vacant classrooms or campuses to accommodate new classes instead.
The union collected 4,000 signatures from Kwun Tong district educators in support of small-class teaching. It will petition education officials today before the Legislative Council's education panel meeting.
The Education Bureau said it would continue to formulate pragmatic measures that balanced different concerns to alleviate the impact of changes in pupil population.