Many long-serving teachers have been made redundant because their schools have to cut classes due to falling enrolment. They deserve sympathy. Efforts must be made to help the good teachers among their ranks find new positions so their experience will not be wasted. Indeed, unions and the government have worked together for years to help surplus teachers find new jobs. It must be said, however, that the arrangements for helping these teachers were too generous to old-timers. Until last year, schools were required to follow the 'last to join, first to go' principle in deciding who to dismiss. As performance did not count, schools were effectively barred from making personnel management decisions on professional grounds. In most cases, younger teachers had to go. That unjust and unprofessional rule was abolished this year. Still, schools have been encouraged to fill their vacancies with redundant teachers first, by being barred from signing up teachers outside this pool until after July 15. Even this 'deadline' has since been deferred because about 200 of the 542 redundant teachers have still not found employment. The Institute of Education's 600 graduates this year remain unemployed because schools cannot hire them yet. It would be easy to put the blame on officials for causing this mess by failing to make better staffing projections. But staff forecasting can never be an exact science. While there is room for adjusting the size of teacher training programmes in the light of an ageing population, the issue of quality must not be overlooked as efforts are made to match supply against demand. It defies the rules of a free labour market that schools are not allowed to decide who they can hire or fire on merit. The unions have been pushing for smaller class sizes as a means of creating more teaching positions, thus creating jobs for the surplus teachers. In Hong Kong, a typical class in primary schools that have adopted the activity-teaching approach has 32 pupils, while the class size for those adhering to the so-called traditional approach is 37. The figures are high by international standards, and many educators believe it will be hard to change the passive learning culture so pervasive in local schools unless classes become smaller to allow for more inter-active learning. But smaller classes cost money. Official estimates are that it would cost $3.6 billion more a year if each class were to have 25 pupils. While smaller classes should be pursued as an issue of quality, we would however caution against doing that hastily as a means of creating employment. This would mean allowing schools with surplus teachers, regardless of performance, to have smaller classes. That would be unfair to students and teachers at schools with no enrolment problems. That would also be unprofessional.