Sweeping changes to regulations which stipulate how many pupils schools may admit on a discretionary basis will be unveiled by the Education Commission next week.
The commission's report is also expected to propose the abolition of the dreaded Academic Aptitude Test and reduce the so-called bands of primary students from five to three. The aim is to ensure schools admit students with a wider mix of abilities.
The Post understands that primary schools will only be allowed to select 15 per cent of their Primary One intake, instead of the present 65 per cent. However secondary schools will be able to increase their discretionary intake from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
The move is intended to eliminate the current Primary One admission system's tendency to skew intakes in favour of children whose parents and siblings attended a particular school or who are followers of the school's religion.
At Secondary One level, the changes will strike a balance between respecting historic links between some primary and secondary schools, giving schools more scope to recruit students and giving parents a higher chance of sending their children to a school they prefer.
The proposals have drawn a mixed reaction from educators. The Professional Teachers' Union fears the changes may encourage secondary schools to choose students on the basis of academic results. Union president Cheung Man-kwong said the proposal would favour pupils whose parents had connections with schools. But Stephen Hui Chin-yim, chairman of the Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools' Council, welcomed the move to allow secondary schools more discretion. 'Parents will now have more choices,' said Mr Hui, who believed that schools with a long history and good reputation would benefit most. It would be easier for parents to send their children to their former schools even if they lived outside the catchment areas, he said.
Mr Cheung, a member of the Education Commission, said the proposed changes to the Secondary One admission arrangements were inconsistent with the goal of fostering the all-round development of students.
'In a society which places a great emphasis on academic results, the proposal is likely to mean students' academic performance will take precedence in the schools' assessment of enrolment applications,' Mr Cheung said. 'It is ridiculous that the scope of discretionary allocation by primary schools is drastically cut while that of secondary schools increases.'