Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong schools may need to cut summer holidays short

South China Morning Post

The education sector is preparing for class closures to last beyond March, as teachers make up for lost time with online lessons

South China Morning Post |

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Accommodating the needs of cross-border students may make returning to school in early March a challenge.

The education sector is preparing for class closures to last beyond March, with the school year likely to be extended into the summer holidays, according to the chairman of one of the biggest head teachers' associations in Hong Kong. 

Teddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, made his remarks on Tuesday as primary and secondary school heads said a shortage of masks, and accommodating the needs of 25,000 cross-border students, would make returning to school in early March challenging.

A timeline of the Wuhan coronavirus 

To make up for lost teaching time, head teachers said they would start online teaching and learning as early as this week and had prepared to shorten the summer holiday.

Educators have also urged the government to delay or cancel the Primary Six exam for secondary school places, set for March, although the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exams which are two months away should go ahead if possible.

The government first lengthened the Lunar New Year holiday for two weeks from February 3 out of safety concerns following the coronavirus outbreak, and extended it again last week until March 2 at the earliest.

At Fung Kai No 1 Primary School in the border town of Sheung Shui, where about half of the 1,100 students are cross-border students, online teaching will begin by Wednesday.

Principal Chu Wai-lam said the school had prepared short video clips and worksheets to be uploaded online, so students could watch and complete tasks. He said besides YouTube, materials would also have to be uploaded onto its Chinese counterpart Tudou to cater for the needs of cross-border students.

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Chu was not expecting classes to resume in March, and said the school had about 3,600 children’s face masks, and 1,600 adults’ masks in stock, but believed it was not enough as students usually have to use two or more masks a day.

“I dare not predict how long our stock [of masks] can last if classes resume,” he said.

Chu said border crossings had to reopen if schools were to do so, because most cross-border students travelled via Huanggang Port, Lok Ma Chau, Lo Wu and Man Kam To control point, which the government decided to shut starting on Tuesday.

Teddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, photographed at The Hong Kong Management Association K S Lo College in Tin Shui Wai.
Photo: SCMP / Xiaomei Chen

Tin Shui Wai Methodist Primary School principal So Ping-fai said an exchange trip to the mainland had been suspended earlier following the government’s advice, but for other overseas trips some parents had also expressed concerns.

So, adviser to the Subsidised Primary Schools Council, also suggested the Primary Six exam for secondary school places should be delayed or cancelled because of a lack of time for students to prepare.

The bureau said it understood stakeholders’ concerns on class suspension and public exam arrangements, and would announce new measures this week after discussions with relevant bodies, such as the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy secondary school student groups Students Connect and Inspidemia, which formed last year during the anti-government protests, announced the results of an online survey conducted over the past week, which showed more than 85 per cent of over 11,000 respondents supported indefinitely suspending classes amid the outbreak.