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Hong Kong schools

Education Bureau may launch random inspections at Hong Kong schools to check enrolment records

Suggestion comes after it emerged a primary school may have exaggerated its number of pupils to avoid a funding cut

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 10:44pm

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau is considering launching random inspections at all schools to check their enrolment records after a school was suspected of exaggerating its pupil numbers to avoid a funding cut.

Recently appointed Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin made the suggestions after it emerged that 21 pupils at Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun had been absent for up to two years, but remained on the roster.

Teachers at the school had questioned whether it was done to get more subsidy from the bureau and to avoid class closures.

Choi, also a former principal, told the media during a lunch gathering that the current practice involved bureau staff visiting schools which face a shortage of pupils at the beginning of the school year to check their enrolment numbers.

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But Hing Tak was not among these schools. “[It] has over 20 classes and [does not look like] one of those schools facing a loss of classes or closure,” she said.

But after the news on its governance issues, the bureau will now look at conducting random enrolment checks at all schools, according to the education undersecretary.

It will also consider increasing the number of checks, if they do not prove to be a hindrance to schools.

Questions have also been raised on why the matter had not been spotted by the bureau earlier, as it had access to schools’ attendance records.

Principal Marcus Wong Kai-lun of Emmanuel Primary School said that schools were required to key in their daily attendance numbers on a web system.

Another principal, who wanted to stay anonymous, said through the system, the bureau was able to know whether pupils had been absent for a period of time. “I wonder which part went wrong [for the Hing Tak case]; did they misreport the attendance?” he asked.

But a veteran educator placed on the board of the troubled school to help it sort out its issues defended the bureau’s handling of the situation. “We believe the Education Bureau is very serious and detailed and followed procedures to slowly investigate the matter,” board member and former principal Lui Ki-cheung said.

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On Tuesday, Hing Tak principal Chan Cheung-ping claimed the students were on official leave as they were sick or had to return to the mainland to handle family matters. She slammed the bureau for “having a verdict before a trial is carried out”.

The case came as fears of closure grow among school administrators, as the last batch of children born to mainland parents in Hong Kong just before the 2012 ban, enter primary school in 2018. After that, the number of primary school pupils in the city will almost certainly drop.