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LCQ4: Student dropout problem

    Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (February 28):


     It has been reported that there were 1297, 1240 and 1362 secondary school drop-outs in the past three school years respectively and, among such students, 10% were from secondary schools whose intakes comprise mainly band one students under the Secondary School Places Allocation System, and some were even elite schools students or gifted students.  Despite having outstanding performance in primary schools, they could not adapt to secondary education for various reasons and eventually dropped out.  It has also been reported that there is a higher risk for students to become hermit youths when they start secondary schooling, and the longer they discontinue schooling, the more likely they may become hermit youths.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the support provided for school drop-outs by the Education and Manpower Bureau and government-aided non-profit-making organisations and whether such support is adequate; if it has, of the assessment results; and

(b) whether the authorities will consider allocating additional resources to assist secondary schools in Hong Kong in ascertaining at the earliest stage the reasons for students' absence from school, identifying students with learning difficulties, providing additional counselling services for such students, educating parents and teachers on the proper ways of handling the problems concerned, as well as encouraging parents to seek assistance, so as to avoid the problems faced by students from being aggravated due to delay in addressing them, and in the end resulting in the students discontinuing schooling and becoming hermit youths?


Madam President,

(a) In the past three school years, the number of dropouts from junior secondary schools was 1035, 989 and 1100 respectively.  The existing practice is that, except for authorised leave such as sick leave, schools must report to the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) all cases of continuous absence for seven days, regardless of the students' age and class level.  The Non-Attendance Cases Team (NACT) of the EMB will analyse and assess the cases using the short-term case management strategy.  When the problem is identified, the NACT will collaborate with parents and school social workers to follow up the case, providing assistance such as educational assessment, family counseling and alternative education programs.  The school development officers of the Regional Education Offices will help the dropouts return to their original schools, or arrange for placements at schools suiting their needs.  When student resumes schooling, the NACT will continue to provide support and monitor the progress according to the needs of the individual cases.

     In respect of the effectiveness of the support, according to the record of the EMB in the past three years, about 60% of secondary school dropouts resumed schooling within the same school year, as a result of the collaborative efforts of non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders including school heads, teachers and parents.

     Besides, since the school year 2000/01, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has launched the "One school One Social Worker Policy" to provide services for needy students and their families.  Through the District Social Welfare Offices of the SWD, there is close collaboration among the Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres, District Children and Youth Outreaching Social Work Teams, Community Support Services Scheme and secondary schools within districts.  The above services are subvented by the Government.  The effectiveness of the services is monitored and assessed under the mutually agreed "Funding and Service Agreements".  According to the assessment reports submitted by various organisations, the services attain the standard set.

(b) The causes of secondary school dropouts are complex, including adjustment problems at school, learning difficulties, lack of learning motivation, inharmonious relationship with peers and/or teachers, family problems, cyber indulgence and social problems like adverse peer influence.  The EMB considers that cultivating a caring and harmonious environment which can foster students' whole person development is a more effective way to present dropout cases.  Therefore, the EMB will continue to encourage schools to, taking into account their specific circumstances, adopt a school-based approach in implementing holistic measures to prevent dropout cases, and to take prompt action for tackling and following up those cases.

     The Government supports schools in helping students adapt to secondary school life, cultivate healthy life habits and strengthen their resilience in face of changes in family situation.  The EMB provides every secondary school with additional graduate and non-graduate teachers, with a view to strengthening remedial teaching, extra-curricular activities, counselling and guidance services.  Additional teachers are provided to schools admitting band three and the 10% academically weakest junior secondary school students.  Every secondary school is provided with one school social worker.  Educational psychologists also support those students with greater needs.  

     As regards teacher training, the EMB regularly conducts thematic seminars and workshops on guidance and discipline for teachers. The EMB will organise a seminar in April this year to equip the school social workers, guidance personnel and teachers with ways to prevent and handle student dropouts.  To enhance the teachers' capacity in identifying and handling students in need, the EMB has commissioned tertiary institutions to organise certificate courses on guidance and discipline for primary and secondary school teachers. The EMB will continue to train teachers to identify and support those students in need.

     Besides, the EMB has been actively promoting the parent education and parent-school collaboration by working closely with the Committee on Home-School Co-operation, Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations (FPTAs) in various districts and Parent-teacher Associations (PTAs) in schools.  Project grants are allocated on an annual basis to FPTAs and PTAs for producing teaching materials, establishing support networks and arranging talks on guidance for secondary and primary school students.  The EMB also regularly organises parent workshops and activities.  To enhance parents' capacity in solving their children's problems, the EMB promotes parent education through programmes in the electronic media, and assist parents and teachers in the early identification of problems and in seeking appropriate assistance.

     The EMB also organises various guidance progarmmes to enhance the life skills of students such as social skills, and skills in emotion management, conflict resolution and goals setting for learning.  Each year, about 2000 students from 65 secondary schools participate in the Enhanced Smart Teen Project which is run by various disciplinary forces.  The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has also earmarked HK$400 million to implement a four-year project for secondary schools, namely "P.A.T.H.S. to Adulthood: A Jockey Club Youth Enhancement Scheme" in collaboration with the EMB and SWD.  More than 200 secondary schools have participated.

     In sum, the EMB has much concern for secondary school dropouts and is committed to tackling the student dropout problem through providing support to school, teachers and parents, as well as cross-sector collaboration.

Ends/Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:23


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