More than 100,000 teachers and parents have signed a petition urging new education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung to reduce the size of primary school classes. A total of 97,192 parents from 174 primary schools have signed letters calling for class sizes to be cut from 37 to 35 in conventional classes and from 32 to 30 in so-called 'activity approach' classes, which focus on group discussions and interactive learning. The campaign has been joined by 8,068 principals and teachers - 35 per cent of the total - from 266 of the SAR's 777 primary schools. The campaigners want the cut to start from the 2003-04 school year. The Primary Education Research Association and Subsidised Primary Schools Council, which launched the campaign just over two weeks ago, said the reduction should start with Primary One next year and extend to all levels by 2008. Association chairman Peter Tang Siu-hung said campaigners were pressing for a meeting with Professor Li tomorrow at which they would call for a reduction in primary school class sizes. Professor Li is due to take up the post of Secretary for Education and Manpower next month. An extra two pupils were added to maximum class sizes in primary schools from the 1998-99 school year to cope with the influx of newly arrived children from the mainland. Association secretary Paul Lee Kit-kong said it was a good time to cut sizes as the birth rate had been falling since 1997, with 49,144 babies born last year compared with 60,379 in 1997. 'With the drop in the number of children eligible for primary schools, the government should take the long overdue decision to cut class sizes,' he said. Smaller class sizes are seen by many educators as a key to improving teaching quality in the territory. Mr Lee said it would allow teachers to better cater for the disparity in pupils' abilities. He is also urging the government to raise the ratio of teachers to classes in whole-day primary schools from 1.4:1 to 1.5:1 in line with a recommendation put forward by the Education Commission in 1992. It would mean on average that an extra two teachers would be needed for a whole-day primary school. 'It won't herald extra education expenditure because the cost for additional teachers will be offset by the drop in number of pupils in the years ahead,' Mr Lee said.