Primary One Admission System
Date of sitting: 6 March 2002
Asked by: The Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Replied by: SEM
It is learnt that some schools consider that Education Department's primary one allocation mechanism, which makes use of computer programmes, lacks transparency, rendering it impossible for schools to know about parents' choices of schools for their children. The Government has implemented the new primary one admission system since the beginning of this school year, and the percentage of centrally allocated places has increased from the previous 35% to 52.8%, further exacerbating the problem of the lack of transparency in the allocation of places by computer programmes. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
whether the current specific arrangements and procedures for the allocation of places by computer programmes involve human factors or administrative procedures which may cause schools to admit fewer students than it should have admitted according to the actual choice of the parents, and thus resulting in these schools operating fewer primary one classes;
- how it can ensure the allocation of places by computer programmes is done in a fair and impartial manner; whether the Government will allow school representatives to observe the procedures of the allocation of places by computer programmes; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
- whether it has any specific measures in place to enhance the transparency of the allocation of places by computer programmes; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
- whether it will consider, after the parents have made their choices, providing individual schools with information on the numbers of parents who have chosen the schools and placed them in their first ten choices, so as to enhance the transparency of the mechanism; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that.
- The existing (Primary One Admission) POA system comprises two categories of central allocation places. 10% of these central allocation places are open to all applicants irrespective of school nets, and each applicant may choose up to three schools. The remaining 90% of the central allocation places are restricted to applicants residing in the same POA net as the schools, and each applicant may choose not more than 30 schools within the school net.
At the Central Allocation stage, the number of Primary One classes which a primary school may operate is primarily based on the school's class structure in the preceding year. Other relevant factors are the supply of and demand for Primary One places within the school net, parental choices, the number of classrooms available, the optimum class structure for the school as well as the number of children already admitted by the school during the 'Discretionary Places Admission' stage. Based on the result of a computer analysis of the actual choices made by parents during the Central Allocation stage, the Education Department (ED) would work out the number of children to be allocated to each primary school. As a matter of principle, if the number of children which has been allocated to a particular class of a school is less than that for a normal class and at the same time, there are still unfilled places in the other schools of the same school net, the school may not be allowed to operate that particular class. For example, if there are 96 children in a school net, the school net would need to provide three Primary One classes altogether. If there are only two schools in the school net, and 40 children have chosen School A while 56 children have chosen School B at the Discretionary Places Admission and the Central Allocation stages, then School A would operate only one class whereas School B would operate two classes.
In late February each year, parents of children requiring central allocation would be invited in writing to submit applications in March regarding their choices of schools. The ED would conduct computer analysis of parents' choices and arrive at a view in May on the number of Primary One classes for individual schools and notify the schools accordingly. Central allocation of places by computers would then be conducted for these applicants.
- During the process of central allocation, the computer would first assign a 'Random Number' to each applicant. If the Primary One places of a school are oversubscribed, then the places concerned will be allocated on two bases. First, parents' choices; i.e. the computer would first process the first choices of all the applicants. If the number of first-choice applications for a school exceeds the number of places available, then the computer would process the second choices of these parents, and so on. The second basis of allocation is the 'Random Numbers' of the applicants and this would apply only when the demand for places in the schools concerned exceeds the number of places available. The entire allocation process is computer-run and operates without any interference until all the applicants are allocated a place. To ensure fairness and equity of the allocation process, changes to the allocation results and re-run of the allocation programme would not be allowed. The computer processing would also be closely monitored by experts.
As the entire allocation process is computerised, schools would not be able to see how the system inside the computer works. Hence, observing the computer allocation process would not help enhance transparency. ED would be happy to explain the details of the allocation process to those schools which wish to have a better understanding of it.
- The ED has always adopted various means to explain the POA system to schools and parents; for example, through seminars and publicity leaflets. This year, the ED has produced a VCD for distribution to parents and schools. The VCD explains the details of the computerised central allocation process. In the "Report on Primary One Admission" published by the ED each year, detailed information such as the number of discretionary places allocated in each school net, the demand for and supply of places for central allocation and the number of places eventually allocated, as well as an analysis of applicants choices vis-à-vis the schools to which they have been allocated, is provided. In addition, the ED would also report regularly to the Primary One Admission Committee on the progress of the allocation exercise and consult members where appropriate. The chairman and the majority of the members of the Committee come from different types of primary schools and kindergartens.
- Since Primary One places are allocated on the basis of the supply of and demand for such places in the school nets, parental choices as well as the 'Random Numbers' of the applicants, there are bound to be discrepancies between the number of applicants who have chosen the schools as among their first 10 choices and the number of students eventually allocated to the schools concerned. Therefore, such information cannot provide schools with any meaningful reference. Nevertheless, the ED would provide individual schools with such information if they so request.