SCMP Wednesday, May 17, 2000

EDUCATION REFORM

Special classes to help remedial students catch up with their peers

CYNTHIA WAN


Pupils with learning difficulties are to get remedial lessons a year earlier in an attempt to improve the low success rate of returning them to the mainstream.

From September, pupils found with learning problems in Primary One will be assigned to "resource classes" when they enter Primary Two, a year earlier than the current system, which places them in the classes from Primary Three up.

Resource classes will be given before and after school or during lunchtime, in addition to normal classes, rather than having the pupils segregated. Additional teachers will be deployed to schools running resource classes to provide two teachers per class. "We hope that by offering the resource classes earlier, the children can catch up sooner and won't need remedial measures when they go on to senior level," said Assistant Director of Education Lee Sai-kin. "Also, there won't be any labelling effect since they won't be taught separately."

At present, only about 1.3 per cent of the 9,000 pupils with difficulties catch up with their peers after attending remedial classes, with most staying in the programme. Less than 30 per cent have been able to catch up in subjects like Chinese, English and mathematics. An extra 40 resource classes will be made available from September on top of the existing 690 classes, at a cost of $300 million a year.

About 85 per cent of the remedial pupils have average intelligence but "inadequate learning habits".

Nelson Lau Ming-ki, a member of the Union of Heads of Aided Primary Schools, welcomed the new measures but expressed reservations about their effectiveness.