Falling birth rate could mean fewer educators will be required, Rosanna Wong warns More than 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers yesterday marched to the Central Government Offices to protest against a cut in the number of primary school classes, which left 500 teachers redundant. The Education Department said it was trying to help the redundant teachers find new jobs, but this has been criticised by a group of fresh graduates of the Hong Kong Institute of Education as unfair. Legislator Cheung Man-kwong, who is also the chairman of the Professional Teachers' Union, said 210 out of the affected teachers had not been able to find permanent teaching positions. Mr Cheung blamed the redundancies on the cut in the government's education spending, which was announced by former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung. 'But where is Antony Leung Kam-chung now?' he asked the crowd, which gathered at Chater Garden before marching to the government headquarters. He said the cut should be reversed after the resignation of Mr Leung last week. The union leader also warned that teachers would hold a hunger strike if the problem could not be resolved. But the teachers could be in for even worse times ahead, with the chairwoman of the Education Commission, Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, indicating fewer teachers might be needed in the future. She said there was not much the government could do with the reduction in classes and teaching positions. 'It is a natural consequence of the shrinking population,' she said. The institute might need to reconsider the number of trainee teachers admitted in the long term if the birth rate continued to decline. Cheng Yan-chee, Deputy Secretary of Education and Manpower, said officials would meet the 210 unemployed teachers, school sponsoring bodies and professional education groups next week to try to find a solution. 'We consider that schools with vacancies should offer teaching positions to these teachers,' he said. Mr Cheng said schools had been told since February that these teachers were to be given priority if permanent teaching positions became available. But the group of students from the Institute of Education said this preferential treatment meant that they would not be able to find a job. A spokeswoman for the student group, Chen Se-wan, said: 'Out of about 600 student teachers who graduated in June this year, none have found a job so far. 'The hiring of teachers should be fair. We have prepared for years to contribute to the education sector. All we need is a level playing field.' The institute also urged the government yesterday to remove the restrictions on the open recruitment of teachers as soon as possible. But Ms Wong said teaching was not the only way out for these new graduates. 'It is not necessary for one adhere to what was studied when pursuing a career,' she said. 'I hope they could consider jobs other than teaching.'