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Catholic schools agree to reduce classes

Falling numbers of pupils prompts review of form one numbers

Sister Mary Lucy Chung, supervisor of Immaculate Heart of Mary College Sister Mary Lucy Chung, supervisor of Immaculate Heart of Mary College
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • March 2, 2011
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Thirty-two Catholic high schools have joined a government-proposed voluntary scheme to reduce one out of five form one classes in the next academic year that begins in September.

The education bureau announced that 202 out of the 226 high schools that run five form one classes in the territory had applied as of February 25, the deadline for the scheme. On average, a local school has 35 students in one class.

In view of 30 percent forecast drop in high school enrollment, a press release of the Catholic Education Office says that the diocese as a major school sponsoring body running 87 high schools here agrees the scheme after serious consideration.

A positive response can ensure the continuation of schools of various cultures to cater the different needs of students, it says.

“If we do not respond positively, 100 schools in Hong Kong will have to close down and about 5,000 teachers unemployed, which also means 5,000 families being affected,” said Dominic Chu Fu-yau of the Catholic Board of Education.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary College is one of the participating schools.

“Our management board is aware of the downward trend since 2009 and the situation is especially serious in Shatin district where we are,” said Sister Mary Lucy Chung, school supervisor.

“School principals in the district have discussed and explored solutions together as no one wants to see some schools have to disappear suddenly,” said the sister of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Other educators and parents are also concerned about the impact of the scheme.

“We used to allot students into different classes according to their learning abilities but the scheme would squeeze students together without regard to their needs, said Mary, a Catholic teacher.

“How to keep their schools from being killed” is a crucial issue for all principals as there will be at least 6,000 students less by September, said another veteran Catholic educator.

Parents may misunderstand that reducing class means the school has dropped its quality and no one wants to study. In order not to turn the educational sector into a “killing field,” all Catholic schools should face the difficulty together to help the survival of those schools that are already encountering insufficient enrollment, he said.

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