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LCQ 8: Students with specific learning difficulties


Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Selina Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (November 24):


Regarding the assistance to people with specific learning difficulties (SpLD), will the Government inform this Council:

(a) how it defines and identifies children with SpLD aged below 12, and how it assesses and handles persons with SpLD aged 12 or above, and of the respective numbers of children and persons involved;

(b) of the arrangements in respect of the assessment of SpLD levels, provision of teaching resources, formulation of adjustment measures in public examinations and support for parents of people with SpLD; and

(c) whether the Education and Manpower Bureau will impose a mandatory requirement that additional teachers recruited for the implementation of "teaching by subject specialists" should receive training in teaching people with SpLD.


Madam President,

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) are defined as serious and persistent difficulties in learning which are not due to intellectual disabilities or sensory impairments. Difficulties in reading and writing (dyslexia) is the most common type of SpLD. These students fail to read and/or spell accurately and fluently. They are slow in word retrieval, or may demonstrate deficits in visual-perceptual skills, orthographic awareness, phonological awareness or memory.

(a) With regard to identifications of pupils aged 12 or below, the Education & Manpower Bureau (EMB) has recognised the importance of early identification of learning difficulties since 1980s. "Observation Checklists for Teachers" (OCT) were distributed to public-sector primary schools annually for early identification of P.1 pupils with learning difficulties, who are then provided with Intensive Remedial Teaching Programmes (IRTP). In March 2001, the "Hong Kong Specific Learning Difficulties Behaviour Checklist" was developed and distributed to all primary schools. In September 2004, the new OCT with norms was developed for earlier identification of pupils four months after admission to P. 1 instead of at the end of the first term to facilitate teachers' effective identification and support for pupils with the needs.

As for specialist assessment, the EMB and the tertiary institutions have jointly developed the first norm-referenced "Hong Kong Test for Specific Learning Difficulties in Reading and Writing" for use by psychologists since August 2000.

The EMB has formed a research team with lecturers from the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Institute of Education, to develop an assessment test for secondary school students. This test battery may be available for use by psychologists in the 2006/07 school year. Although a local standardised test for assessing SpLD of secondary students is not yet available, psychologists currently assess students' cognitive abilities by administering selected subtests of relevant standardised test batteries. Besides examining the work samples of the students, the psychologists also consider the observation made by teachers and parents.

At present, there is no survey on the prevalence rate of students with SpLD in Hong Kong. The numbers of students with SpLD known to EMB is 3595. Besides the EMB, assessment service for students with SpLD is also provided by the Department of Health, mainly through the Child Assessment Centres (CAC) and Student Health Services (SHS).

The EMB provides support services for students with SpLD and a full range of teaching guides and teaching resources to teachers. For details, please refer to the reply in the second part of this question below.

(b) EMB has set up the Special Education Resources Centre (website: with rich teaching resources for teachers.

In the past few years, EMB has gradually built up a full range of teaching resources. These include

* a booklet on Teaching Suggestions for Teachers (2000);

* a multi-media CD ROM and a booklet for student personnel in primary schools to enhance support for parents (2001);

* guidelines on helping students with SpLD (2001); and

* "Fun With Reading and Writing" - a resource package containing one multi-media CD-ROM, one CD and one set of four booklets on teaching materials, including teaching demonstrations, suggested activities and worksheet (2002);

* a set of multi-media CD ROMs with games, jointly developed by HKU, CU and EMB, to train Chinese word-reading skills of pupils with SpLD (2003).

With regard to accommodation and adjustment measures in public examinations, EMB representatives participated in a task group of the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority (HKEAA). These EMB representatives helped to formulate guidelines and vet applications for special examination arrangements. Details of the special examination arrangements can be found in the leaflet "Providing services to candidates with specific learning disabilities" (website: When vetting applications, HKEAA will consider the internal assessments accommodations made by schools in the past years.

In support of parents, EMB has strengthened the student guidance service since 2002/03, so that most schools have a full-time student guidance personnel (SGP). Through talks, these school-based SGP support parents and students individually or in small groups. A multi-media CD ROM and booklet were produced for SGP to enhance parents' understanding and skills in supporting children with SpLD.

The EMB produced leaflets and conducted workshops for parents of students diagnosed with SpLD to enhance their children's reading and writing skills and self-confidence. The EMB will publish a training manual for SGP to conduct school-based training for parents. The draft manual is ready for try-out in this school year. Officers of the EMB also meet with representatives of parents associations regularly so as to understand their needs and offer assistance.

(c) The EMB plans to increase the class-to-teacher ratio for eligible whole-day primary schools from 1:1.4 to 1:1.5 with effect from the 2005/06 school year. The objective is to reduce the teaching workload in order to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and the professional development of teachers. Specialised teaching will start with the English language subject first, to be followed by Mathematics or Chinese Language. The EMB has no intention to introduce additional qualifications or training requirements when implementing this initiative.

Nonetheless, each year, the EMB organises seminars/workshops on specific learning difficulties for teachers. In the 2003/04 school year, nearly 2000 teachers, including language and mathematics teachers, have participated in these training. All mainstream school teachers may also choose to attend the Professional Development Course for Teachers (Catering for Diverse Learning Needs) provided by the Hong Kong Institute of Education since the 2004/05 school year.

Ends/Wednesday, November 24, 2004


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