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SED's remarks at Legislative Council Panel on Education meeting

    Following is the translation of remarks made by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, on "Small Class Teaching in Public Sector Primary Schools" at the Legislative Council Panel on Education meeting today (February 29):


    The Chief Executive has announced that the Government will implement small class teaching (SCT) in public sector primary schools by phases, starting from the cohort of Primary One students in the 2009/10 school year.

    The Government has responded positively to the aspiration of the community for SCT. SCT will facilitate the interaction between students and teachers, and amongst students, and will provide the platform for a more diversified teaching and learning culture.

    Ideal SCT does not stop at reducing the class size. Our primary schools are expected to make the most out of a change in school environment and a reduction of class size to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

    We have consulted our major stakeholders on the arrangements for implementing SCT over the past few months.

    70% of our public sector primary schools have confirmed their readiness to implement SCT in the 2009/10 school year should the prevailing condition allows it.

    In the coming few months, we will project the supply and demand of school places in the 36 school nets under the Primary One Admission scheme throughout the  six schools years from 2009/10 to 2014/15, taking into account  individual schools' preference of class sizes and the physical capacity of their school premises.

    For school nets with anticipated shortfall of classes during the six-year period, we will address the shortfall through borrowing school places from adjacent school nets with surplus if the situation allows. We will strive to let schools, which have indicated their readiness, to implement SCT in the 2009/10 school year.

    For schools with a shortfall in classrooms that cannot be addressed in the short term, we need to consider detailed planning for school building and explore the possibility of revising the delineation among school nets as longer term measures to meet the demand for classrooms.

    After completion of our assessment, we will, in June 2008, inform each public sector primary school of its planned class size in 2009/10.

    We understand that there are many uncertainties in student projections. We might not be able to alter this fact but we could alleviate some of the problems brought about by uncertainties.  In this regard, to complement our SCT policy, all public sector primary schools will be subject to an enrolment cap, irrespective of whether the schools are implementing SCT. We are inclined to set an enrolment cap at 10% above the approved class size. This would mean there would be a buffer of two places per class for schools opting for SCT and three places per class for those with class size of 30. We are prepared to consider further adjustment to the cap in future.

    For the next few months, we will draw up plans for teacher professional development and school-based support, making reference to recommendations under  the SCT Study. In order to further assist all schools which have indicated their readiness to implement SCT in 2009/10 school year, we have reserved funding for the creation of about 700 teaching posts in the 2008/09 school year, time-limited for two years. These posts would create room for teachers to make preparations for school-based curriculum, develop relevant teaching strategy and prepare teaching materials to tie in with the teaching environment after the implementation of SCT.  The posts would also facilitate teachers' participation in professional development activities such as experience-sharing and in in-service training courses etc.

    The Government's commitment and investment in SCTis beyond doubt. While children in schools implementing SCT will benefit from the policy initiative, we should also address the needs of children studying in other schools, whether the latter are remaining in "larger" classes due to constraints with supply and demand for primary school places, or out of their own volition. We are willing to offer additional teaching posts in 2009/10 to these schools provided that they will utilize the additional resources to put in place school-based measures that will improve teaching and learning and pave the way for transition to SCT in future.

    To conclude, the Government's substantial investment in education and  determination to improve basic education is witnessed by all. To take forward the implementation of SCT, we need time to map out and implement plans on hardware and software. In the past few months, we have consulted our stakeholders to facilitate the progressive implementation of the policy. Today, we welcome legislators' views on SCT, so that we can revise and improve our plans by taking your views into account before we finalise the detailed arrangements before September this year.

    Thank you Chairman.

Ends/Friday, February 29, 2008
Issued at HKT 19:59


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