Date of Meeting: 25 October 2000
Asked by : Hon Lau Kong-wah
Replied by : SEM
Will the Government inform this Council:
(a) in respect of each education administration district,
(i) of the respective numbers of primary school places and classes needed in this and each of the next two school years; and, in order to meet the increased demand for school places, the number of additional classes and primary schools provided in this school year as well as the number of additional primary schools required in each of these school years; and
(ii) in order to achieve the goal of enabling 60% of primary school pupils to study in whole-day schools by September 2002, of the number of additional classes needed and the respective numbers of primary schools to be required in this and the next school year;
(b) of the number of pupils allowed for each class in deriving the above figures, together with a comparison of these figures with the ideal size of 35 pupils in each conventional class, as recommended in the Education Commission Report No. 5 (ECR5); and
(c) whether it plans to implement the recommendation in the above report; if so, of the implementation date; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) (i) The demand for public sector primary school places and classes in the 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years in respect of each district is shown in Annex A.
The supply of public sector primary school places is planned on a district basis. The projected population of each district is used as a reference in projecting the number of additional school places required to satisfy future demand. In addition, we also take into account such factors as possible mobility of students across districts (for example, some parents may wish to send their children to study in schools not in their residing district), existing supply of school places (including those provided by private schools) in the relevant districts, and the need for new schools to replace schools demolished in housing redevelopment projects. Where it is considered that additional public sector school places are needed in certain districts through building of new schools, the necessary preparation and construction will normally start three to four years in advance.
The number of additional primary schools (and classes) in the 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years are at Annex B.
(ii) Our interim target is to enable 60% of our primary school pupils to study in whole-day primary schools by the 2002-03 school year. The target is planned on a territory-wide, instead of a district, basis. In each of the 2000-01 and 2001-02 school years, 480 additional whole-day classes will be needed to achieve the target. These additional classes will be partly provided through constructing 12 new schools in this school year and seven in the next school year. The rest will be provided by converting existing bi-sessional schools through administrative means. These 19 schools are in addition to those provided in Annex B.
(b) and (c) The ECR5, published in 1992, recommended that:
(i) for primary levels, the size for each conventional class should be reduced from 40 to 35 and for each Activity Approach class from 35 to 30. In other words, the average class size will be reduced from 37.5 to 32.5;
(ii) for secondary levels, the size should be reduced from 40 to 35.
The Government has accepted the above recommendations. Starting from the 1993-94 school year, we started to reduce the class size in Primary One, with a view to progressively extending the reduction to the next higher level a year at a time. The original target was to achieve an average class size of 32.5 in all primary levels by the commencement of the 1999-2000 school year, and a class size of 35 in all secondary levels by the commencement of the 2004-05 school year.
As the phased reduction of class size was being implemented, the Government had to respond to another pressing demand from the community. For many years, the education sector and the general public have been requesting the Government to speed up the progress of whole-day primary schooling. However, implementation of whole-day primary schooling requires a large number of additional schools. The major difficulty faced by the Government is the shortage of school sites.
In order to implement whole-day primary schooling as soon as possible, the Government had adopted a variety of measures to increase the supply of classrooms and schools. These measures included identifying more sites for building new schools, accelerating the School Building Programme to build more than 70 schools between 1998 to 2002, designing primary schools with fewer classes to suit smaller sites, converting existing bi-sessional schools to whole-day operation through administrative measures, and adding classrooms to existing schools.
But even with the above measures, we were still short of school places to achieve early implementation of whole-day primary schooling. In 1997, therefore, a decision was taken to adjust the class size slightly: two pupils were added back to each class in primary schools (that is, an average class size of 34.5), the reduction of class size in secondary schools was temporarily suspended. With the slight adjustment in class size, more land resources could be pooled together to enable 60% of primary school pupils to study in whole-day primary schools by the 2002-03 school year, and to work towards a tentative target of full implementation of whole-day primary schooling by the 2007-08 school year.
We are on course to achieve 60% whole-day primary schooling by 2002-03. We will regularly review a number of factors, such as school site availability and population changes, to see if the tentative target of 100% whole-day primary schooling by 2007-08 is achievable. In parallel, we will review from time to time when we could put an end to the interim adjustment to class size. We also welcome views from the education sector and the community on the relative priorities of reduction in class size and the early implementation of whole-day primary schooling, given that both initiatives are competing for land resources.