NEARLY 70 per cent of school dropouts polled in a survey said the schools were to blame, prompting calls for more resources to improve the quality of education and better preventive measures. Education Department figures show there were 5,221 dropouts from secondary schools in the last academic year and 629 from primary schools. Among the 5,221 secondary school cases, 2,370 students, or 45 per cent, played truant during the year, while the rest either migrated or transferred to another school. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups surveyed 400 dropouts, with 155 respondents aged between 12 to 16 years. The survey found that male dropouts outnumbered females by a ratio of four to one. Most of them left school at around 14 and came from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 32.1 per cent of the cases, the families earned less than $7,500, while single-parent and broken families accounted for 21.6 per cent. Common symptoms of students before dropping out were poor academic performance and a history of truancy. About 69 per cent of the respondents had also violated school regulations like truancy, fighting or smoking before dropping out. The survey report said 67.9 per cent of the dropouts said schools were to blame, saying they had no sense of belonging to school, found the teaching methods unattractive, and thought the school did not care about them. One-third of them also complained that the curriculum was too difficult and about one-fifth said they had been harassed by triad members in schools. Personal and family problems were also common causes for dropping out as students said they felt unable to study or had poor relationships in the family. However, the survey found 50 per cent said they wanted to continue their studies. The executive director of the federation, Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, called for more resources to give special attention to under-achievers, as many dropouts were found to have poor results. She said there should also be a quick approach to render assistance. For example, if a student plays truant for more than two days, the counselling teacher and school social worker should be called upon to follow the case. ''The Government should also review the procedure in handling dropout cases and regulate the co-operation between the Education Department, schools and social workers. ''It is hoped that students can be helped to resume schooling as swiftly as possible to prevent them from quitting school for too long and reaching the age of working, and therefore losing the interest to return to school,'' Ms Wong said. Chairman of the Education Commission, Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse, also called on the department to hasten the procedure in handling dropouts which she said was a bit slow. Principals are required to report if the student fails to attend school for seven days. But Assistant Director of Education, Mrs Grace Yung Leung Yan-mei, did not see any need to change the present arrangement as she said principals could telephone the department first before completing all the necessary forms. Mrs Yung said among the 2,370 cases, more than 1,000 dropouts had found a school place with the help of the department. She said the remaining dropouts were more difficult cases. She added the department was considering to set up a district exchange scheme among schools to allow those students at odds with the teaching staff and classmates to transfer to another school smoothly.