The 'high-cost and ineffective' are expected to be on hit list of the first to go in sweeping review of allocation of resources Schools have urged the government to look for alternative means to cut costs after the Education and Manpower Bureau revealed that it would close down 'high-cost and ineffective' schools. Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower, said that the EMB would provide indicators to define 'high-cost' and 'ineffective schools' next month. But she stressed that the EMB would not require schools to close with only a few months' notice. 'The schools will be allowed to phase out in about two to three years,'' she said at the meeting of the Legislative Council's education panel this week. She added that both mainstream and village schools would be looked at. Ms Law also said that the EMB was considering implementing a scheme which allowed two teachers to share a post on a voluntary basis. A government review of 90 village schools will be completed in June. A list of village schools the government intended to close would be released, Ms Law said. Wong Tim, principal of Pun Chung Public Primary School in Tai Po, said his staff was prepared for the school's closure as it only had 10 students this year. But he urged the government to inform the targeted village schools of the arrangements by the end of next month. 'We want to know whether we will be required to close right away or phase out gradually,' he said. The principal said it was unfair to halt the School Improvement Project - introduced in 1994 to upgrade all schools - in many village schools. 'There is no way we can compete with the urban schools for students as we lack even the very basic teaching and learning facilities,' he said. Mr Wong said many village schools had successfully fostered a close relationship between teachers and the students' families. 'Since we all live so close to each other, teachers have a better understanding of the students' needs compared with their counterparts in urban schools,' he said. Leung Shiu-chun, principal of S.A. Sam Shing Chuen Lau Ng Ying School in Tuen Mun and chairman of Hong Kong Subsidised Primary School Heads Association, said it was frustrating to see that some schools in the district would have to close not because of any wrongdoings, but due to the decline in birthrate. He foresaw problems if this trend was reversed. Mr Leung said the EMB should consider other items to cut. 'What gets on our nerves is that the research conducted to support some insignificant policies in the past was often much more costly than the schools' operational spending,' he said. The falling birthrate was an opportunity to implement smaller classes, he added. The principal also criticised the EMB for not removing the additional classes put in some popular primary schools when demand was high a few years ago. The association, together with Subsidised Primary Schools' Council and Primary Education Research Association, this month sent a petition to the education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung to call for the removal of the additional classes. Peter Tang Siu-hung, who chairs the Primary Education Research Association, doubted many teachers would be willing to share a post with a colleague. 'The scheme could only be implemented voluntarily. I believe many teachers won't consider it because they probably need to spend the same amount of time at school with half of a full-time post's salary,' he said. Tony Hui Tak-keung, the EMB's chief school development officer (islands), said that village schools that had low enrolment rates and combined classes would be among the first targeted for closure. Teaching and learning were seriously affected in combined classes, while students were deprived of a chance to socialise with others of their same age in those schools.