Education chiefs have defended their decision to run a $4.8 million training programme for school leaders on preparing for the new senior secondary curriculum before key details are released.
The Education and Manpower Bureau is due to tell schools by the end of this month how many Form One classes they will be allocated next year, which will indicate their likely number of senior secondary classes. Some principals are concerned about whether their classes will be cut as secondary student admissions fall with the birth rate.
Prior to this week's announcement that funding could be removed from schools with only one Form One class, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, Secretary for Education and Manpower, warned last year that at least 30 secondary schools may have to merge after the number of secondary classes fell.
Yet the EMB has already run workshops for more than 2,250 school leaders from 464 schools on how to plan for the new curriculum to be launched in 2009.
Following the workshops, which cost about $4.8 million, participants were given three months to prepare a detailed action plan on implementation of the new curriculum. School leaders are being invited to share the outcomes of their planning in a second series of workshops from Monday.
But Lawrence Lour Tsang-tsay, chairman of the English Medium Schools' Association, questioned the wisdom of running the programme before schools knew how many classes they would have and universities had released details of their admission requirements for the new school-leaving diploma - due out in the summer.
'We are waiting for these two vital pieces of information and once we have them, we can really start planning what subjects to offer to which classes and we can start planning for our manpower requirements,' he said.
'If you don't know how many classes you will have, then you can't really plan your curriculum.
'If you have only four classes, you may have to plan it one way but if you have five classes, you may have to do it differently'
Catherine Chan Ka-ki, principal assistant secretary for curriculum development, said: 'The number of junior secondary places may be changed in some schools. But schools need to start to plan early. School leaders need time to deliberate among themselves and to communicate with other people in the school community to build up a consensus about the way forward.'
Schools should come up with tentative plans that could be revised when the number of classes and university admission requirements were released, she said.