More than 90 percent of students in Hong Kong were admitted to one of their top three choices in the public secondary school allocation on Tuesday.
“I head to tutorial classes after school immediately. During the examination period [my tutor] had to teach a lot of people so [my tutor] was very tired. [I believe] my tutorial school teacher is even more exhausted than me… I really want to thank him,” said a primary six student who received satisfactory results in the allocation.
She was among the 42,000 primary six students – or 91 percent of all applicants – who received places at one of their top three preferred secondary schools. According to the Education Bureau, 78 percent of all students were allotted to the school they placed as the first priority. The bureau said the figures were about the same as in the previous year.
The latest results reignited concerns over the decreasing number of students entering secondary schools over the past few years. In 2013, the number of secondary one students dropped by more than 5,000 from the previous year. There was also a decrease of more than 2,000 students in both 2014 and 2015. The total number of secondary one students, in both public and private schools, will be at 54,700 in September.
The city’s largest teaching union warned on Sunday that more than 2,500 secondary school teachers could be laid off in the coming years because of the decreasing number of students. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union said that many fresh graduates of the education faculty would not be able to find a job, causing the average age of teachers to rise.
The HKPTU said the average age of secondary school teachers rose from 33 years old to 40 years old and the proportion of teachers over the age of 50 rose from six percent to 20 percent between 1994 and 2014. The Union added that this would harm Hong Kong’s education system in the long run as there would be a lack of young education talent in the future.
The union urged the government to continue to reduce the number of students allocated to each class and improve the teacher-student ratio of secondary schools in Hong Kong.
Local media also reported that the decrease in the total number of students going to secondary school has also affected the number English-language schools in Hong Kong.
Under current regulations, schools are only allowed to use English as the language of instruction if 85 percent of students admitted are in the top 40 percent in Hong Kong. Schools that fail to meet this requirement will be forced to switch to Chinese as the language of instruction.
The decrease in the number of students would have led to over 30 percent of English-language schools being forced to switch to using Chinese. However, the Education Bureau announced that the number of English-language schools in Hong Kong would stay the same even though 30 percent of schools failed to meet the requirement.
Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the decision not to force the language switch was made in order to maintain stability in the city’s schools system. Legislator Ip Kin-yuen of the education sector has criticised this move as appealing to parents and teachers while ignoring the needs and capabilities of students.
The secondary school places allocation is a scheme that facilitates the selection of students to public and subsidised schools.
According to the government, the number of students entering secondary schools will start increasing again in 2017 and will stabilise by 2020.