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Seizing the opportunity for pushing ahead with small class teaching

Choi Ho-pun
Principal Education Officer (Education Commission and Planning)
 

  We are all acquainted with small class teaching (SCT). As a teaching strategy that capitalises on the advantages of smaller class sizes, it enables schools to enhance students’ learning effectiveness by encouraging students to participate in class activities and facilitating teachers in catering for learner diversity. Findings of international studies have suggested that the effects of SCT are more profound on students at a younger age.

 

  The Education Bureau (EDB) has been progressively implementing SCT in public sector primary schools since the 2009/10 school year, starting with Primary One (P1) level. At present, around 340 schools are implementing SCT, accounting for nearly 80% of public sector primary schools in the territory.

 

Achieving success in a decade

 

  Back in the 2004/05 school year, the EDB commissioned Professor Galton of the University of Cambridge to conduct a research on SCT, with the objective of identifying ways to maximise the benefits of SCT strategy. To support teachers in enhancing teaching effectiveness through the adoption of SCT strategy, the following six key principles have been incorporated into teachers’ professional development programmes:

 

(i)    setting clear learning objectives;

(ii)   using effective questioning techniques;

(iii)  encouraging students’ participation in class discussions;

(iv)  organising group and collaborative work to facilitate interaction in learning;

(v)   providing students with informing feedback to help them reflect on their learning effectiveness; and

(vi)  making greater use of the assessment for learning approach to enhance learning and teaching.

 

  Over the years, we have adhered to the above principles when organising a variety of professional development activities, such as establishing learning communities and learning circles, and holding seminars, workshops and experience sharing sessions to help teachers work out appropriate teaching strategies and understand how to employ different teaching modes in a small class setting. We have learnt from the feedback of principals and teachers that SCT can generally increase students’ participation in class, and teachers teaching a smaller class have greater flexibility in adopting different teaching strategies and catering for learner diversity.

 

Addressing the demand for school places with a flexible and pragmatic approach

 

  It is incumbent on the EDB to provide sufficient school places for students. Therefore, we have always been flexible and pragmatic with the implementation of the policy on SCT, taking into account the availability of classrooms to meet the demand for school places in individual districts/school nets, school development, the needs of parents and students, the long-term planning of the EDB and so on. Owing to the transient surge of primary school-age population that began in the 2013/14 school year and peaked in the 2018/19 school year, no additional schools implemented SCT during that period. This was to ensure that sufficient school places were put on reserve to meet the demand. Judging from the current projection of the P1 school-age population, the overall demand for P1 school places has gradually declined to a steady level from its peak. Both the EDB and the school sector believe that this has created a favourable condition for more schools to implement SCT for better learning and teaching.

 

  Last year, we assessed the demand for and supply of classrooms in each school net, and actively approached schools with favourable conditions for implementing SCT, aiming to better understand their needs and provide appropriate support. After careful examination and communication with the school sector, we decided to arrange for suitable primary schools to implement SCT in phases starting from the 2021/22 school year. In the first phase, an additional 11 public sector primary schools will start implementing SCT concurrently. We issued a letter to these schools earlier today, explaining the relevant arrangements and related support measures, which include organising on-site professional development workshops for teachers serving in schools that going to implement SCT and sharing sessions on schools’ experience in taking forward SCT, and reserving places for schools interested in joining professional development activities on SCT as a means to facilitate schools’ smooth implementation of SCT.

 

Looking forward

 

  Providing quality school education has always been our target. It is one of our established policies to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching by pushing ahead with SCT in public sector primary schools. We will continue to regularly review the situation of each district/school net and closely liaise with relevant schools and school sponsoring bodies for the orderly implementation of SCT. In tandem, we will organise relevant professional development and support programmes for teachers on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of SCT and hence the number of students that can benefit from SCT.

 

28 July 2020