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LCQ 19: Primary school building plans


    Following is a question by the Hon Tam Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (April 20):


I have received complaints from primary schools in a number of districts that, while there are surplus primary school places in the districts, the Government is still planning to build additional primary schools in the districts concerned, which will aggravate their under-enrolment situation and may be tantamount to a waste of public money.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers of primary one classes reduced/expected to be reduced in various school zones in the past three school years and in the coming school year;

(b) of the latest revised numbers of primary schools planned to be built in various school zones in the next three years;

(c) whether any measures have been adopted in the past year to improve the accuracy of the projected supply and demand of primary school places, and to update the school building programme in a timely manner (for example by consulting schools in the districts concerned and conducting surveys to verify the latest district population data released by the Planning Department annually), so as to avoid building new primary school premises while there are surplus primary school places, and hence save public money from being wasted; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) whether it plans to review the procedures for allocating new primary school projects to school sponsoring bodies ("SSBs"), with a view to avoiding the abortion of the preparation work of selected SSBs in planning new primary schools when the originally planned school projects are shelved under an updated school building programme; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a) The number of Primary Onr (P1) classes reduced in each district over the past three school years (from the 2002/03 to 2004/05 school years) is provided in the Appendix. The Appendix gives details of the number of P1 operating classes in local primary schools (including all local public and private sector primary schools) and the changes over the previous school year.  According to the projected number of school-age children (mainly aged six) for P1 and the student enrolment ratios of local primary schools averaged over the past several years, we expect that the number of P1 students in local primary schools will decrease by about 5% in the 2005/06 school year as compared to the 2004/05 school year.  However, as non-public sector schools do not participate in the central allocation of P1 places, it is not possible to predict the number of P1 classes to be operated in these schools and hence the total number of P1 classes in all local primary schools prior to the commencement of a school year.

(b) The number of primary school projects which are under construction for completion within the next three school years is set out as follows:

District                           School Year

                       2005/06     2006/07    2007/08

Eastern                   2            --         --

Southern                  1            --         --

Kowloon City              --           1          --

Kwun Tong                 2            --         --

Sham Shui Po              1            1          --

Kwai Tsing                1            --         --

Yuen Long                 2            3          --

    All the above school projects are for conversion of bi-sessional primary schools to whole-day operation.

(c) Primary school places are planned on the basis of the 18 administration districts.  The objective is to enable children to attend schools close to their home.  The current supply and demand projections of primary school places are the best estimates made on the basis of the latest information available to the Administration.

    As regards the demand for public school places, the demand projections are compiled on the basis of the latest projections by district (see Note) of school-age (aged from six to 11) population.  By applying the established planning parameters (e.g. the standard class size), the projected figures are expressed in terms of classes.  It is difficult to make accurate projections of the demand for primary school places by district for each of the coming years.  As far as the overall demand is concerned, it should be noted that population projections are premised on assumptions on fertility, mortality and migration.  Any significant gap between these assumptions and the actual situation may distort the projections.  In particular, the annual number of new arrival children from the mainland and their age distribution are also difficult to ascertain.  Projections on them can only be made on the basis of trends or average numbers over the past years.  In recent years, the number of new arrival children has seen quite substantial fluctuations (for instance, the number of new arrival children aged from six to 11 differs by more than 15 000 between 1998 (about 19 300) and 2004 (about 3 700)).  This being the case, a discrepancy between the actual and the projected demand is inevitable.

    At the district level, factors like demographic changes, parental choices, availability of public transportation networks, popularity of schools may also affect the actual demand.  Moreover, sites suitable for school construction may not be available in districts with supply shortfall.  All these make the planning of district school places more difficult.

    As for the supply of school places, the Government's School Building Programme aims not only at meeting the projected demand of school places, but also improving the quality of education, including enhancing existing infrastructure (such as building new school premises for the conversion of bi-sessional schools to whole-day operation, redevelopment or reprovisioning of schools operating in dilapidated and substandard premises) and injecting diversity to the education system (such as the development of Direct Subsidy Scheme schools, "through-train" schools and Private Independent Schools) to provide more choice for parents and students, as well as to encourage schools to seek continuous improvement.

    To ensure that the projected supply and demand of primary school places can reflect the latest situation, the Education and Manpower Bureau will update the projected demand for school places whenever the latest district population projections are released by the inter-departmental Working Group on Population Distribution Projections (normally released yearly).  This together with the latest figures on the supply of school places will be used in the regular reviews of the supply and demand of primary school places in various districts.  The Bureau will revise the School Building Programme having regard to the review outcome and the existing policies.

    In the light of the latest population projections released by the Census and Statistics Department in mid-2004, which point to a more rapid decline in school-age population than the previous projections, we are reviewing the School Building Programme and will brief the LegCo Panel on Education on the review outcome and the latest school building proposals later this year.

(d) We have planned to review the procedures for allocating new schools to school sponsoring bodies (SSBs) and have invited Independent Commission Against Corruption to study possible areas for improvement.  If we allocate new school premises only after funding approval has been obtained from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, preparation work of the SSBs for the new schools will unlikely be wasted.  However, the SSBs concerned cannot participate in the design of the school project.  As a result, the new school premises may fail to meet their curriculum and teaching requirements.  On the other hand, if we allocate new school premises to the SSBs prior to the funding approval, they can participate in the design of the school premises at the planning stage.  However, whether a school project can proceed is subject to technical feasibility and the Finance Committee's funding approval.  As such, we cannot rule out the possibility that the preparation work of the SSB would become abortive.

    In reviewing the procedures, we shall take into account views expressed by Members on the subject and strike a balance among the various considerations mentioned above, with the promotion of quality education being the key objective.

    Irrespective of the outcome of the review, we shall continue to monitor closely the latest population projections and adjust our School Building Programme accordingly.  We shall also maintain close liaison with the SSBs concerned; they will be kept informed of the progress of the projects so that timely adjustments can be made as appropriate.


The population distribution projections by district are compiled regularly by the inter-departmental Working Group on Population Distribution Projections on the basis of the latest territorial population projections provided by the Census and Statistics Department and the available planning information of housing development proposals.

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2005


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