The standard number of pupils in a class will not be reduced before 2007, a senior education official said at a City Forum yesterday. Rejecting teachers' calls to reduce class sizes in primary schools, Cheng Yan-chee, deputy secretary of the Education and Manpower Bureau, said the government would only consider reducing class sizes after whole-day primary schooling was fully implemented in 2007. His comment followed two recent rallies by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union against a cut in the number of primary school classes, which left 500 teachers redundant. The union said a reduction in class size could solve the unemployment problem and raise teaching quality at the same time. Mr Cheng said more 'scientific research' was needed before opting for smaller classes. 'There is no international standard showing the optimal number of students in a class yet, therefore we need more time to do research,' he said. He added that a reduction in class size was not a solution to teacher unemployment. 'The problem of redundant teachers is a natural consequence of a fall in population, while cutting the size of classes is an issue involving different teaching approaches,' he said. The teacher-student ratio had been reduced from one teacher to every 26.9 pupils to just 20.8 pupils in the past 10 years, Mr Cheng said. Cutting class sizes in small schools without sufficient numbers of students would be unfair to other schools, he said. Mr Cheng acknowledged that of 542 teachers who lost their jobs due to a cut in the number of classes this year, 184 had not yet found a permanent teaching post. A spokesman for the Education and Manpower Bureau said about 160 redundant teachers had attended a two-day interview session organised by the government last week. Mr Cheng said they would make recommendations to schools about hiring the teachers who were interviewed. He said there were 218 teaching vacancies. 'Some teachers are still unable to find a job because their specialised subjects do not match the schools' needs,' Mr Cheng said.