System fails 'genius' who is a dunce

EDUCATION chiefs have come under attack after a 13-year-old boy with an exceptionally high IQ but a pitiful classroom record has been turned down for a place in a special school.

The Education Department has been condemned by his principal, Ms Lisa Yip Sau-wah, of Sha Tin Tsung Tsin Secondary School, who has been forced to make special provision for him in her school.

Ms Yip is convinced the case of the Secondary One student, who is ''very backward in academic attainments'', is not an isolated case, and has raised her concern in a letter to the Director of Education, Mr Dominic Wong Shing-wah.

''Either we tailor-make something for him, by providing primary education in a secondary school setting, and adding to the workload of our teachers who have no training in special education, or we turn a blind eye to the situation by letting him sit in class knowing very well he has little idea of what is going on,'' Ms Yip said.

''The boy has an average intelligence score in verbal skills, but an exceptionally good score of 130 or above in non-verbal reasoning.

''Judging from the assessment conducted by the Education Department, I take it there is nothing wrong with the child's intelligence, although he is seriously behind class level.'' Ms Yip said she thought the boy would be qualified for special education - since the case clearly suggested learning difficulties of some kind - and was not only surprised but disappointed when the department could not offer any help.

''I believe he is not the only student in Hongkong who is seriously behind in his academic attainment, perhaps due partly to our education system,'' she said.

''This boy, for instance, was allowed to be promoted year after year when he was in primary school. And there are a few newcomers in our school who have shown similar difficulties.'' Ms Yip said she had initially wanted to use the boy as a test case by first sending him to the department for assessment and then derive a plan for other students with similar difficulties.

''But the education psychologist, despite the boy's serious backwardness in attainment, said only that he should benefit from intensive remedial support in the basic subjects which would have to be provided for by our school.

''This means we will have to start teaching him Primary Two and Three subjects. He cannot have lessons with his classmates because he will not follow the lessons anyway.'' Although the school was willing to make special provision for him, she said it did not have the the Education Department's support.

''Our teachers have not received training on special education, and these students are best dealt with by those who have received special training.'' She said she was shocked to see the case ''being thrown back to us''.

''I believe there are principles, because of a lack of support by the department, who are waiting for children to reach 15 years old so the problem will automatically go away.

''I am afraid I do not have the heart to allow this to happen. I cannot let my students waste more of their time. This particular one has already wasted six years.'' Ms Yip said she was amazed to find a child would not necessarily ''get the right medicine after a diagnosis is made''.

The child, who could not be named, is thought to have suffered no major emotional or social problems.

He excels in abstract reasoning, but is weak in subjects such as vocabulary. He is also thought to be obedient, with no behavioural problems.

His mother, a housewife, said she was puzzled by the Education Department's decision.

''I thought the best thing for him was to achieve the minimum requirement so he can be qualified for vocational training. It would be best if the Education Department could help,'' she said.

''But I am lucky the principal is helping. I wonder what will happen to my son - or other children - if the school just lets them hang around until they are old enough to leave school.'' The Education Department could provide no information on the qualifications for special education. It promised to look into the matter.