SCMP Friday, June 23, 2000

School 'through train' gathers momentum


Updated at 7.39pm:
Nearly 70 per cent of parents support a ''through-train'' education system proposed by the Education Commission, but most would not move home in order to switch schools, a wide-ranging education survey revealed on Friday.

Of the 508 parents interviewed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 351 support the ''through-train'' concept, whereby students would progress from kindergarten level right through to secondary school without running the present gauntlet of examinations at each stage.

Among those supporting the reform, about 55 per cent believed they would have ''less hassle'' in getting school places for their children and two thirds favoured a phased implementation of the system. But about 68 per cent of supporters said they would not move to other catchment areas where elite schools are located.

''It showed the prestige of schools is not always the most important factor for parents in choosing schools for their children,'' said Professor Fanny Cheung Mui-ching who headed the study.

''There has been much hype over rumours that parents would move or even buy their flats in the catchment area of prestigious schools,'' Professor Cheung said. ''In fact, the parents are not that obsessed with brand names.''

Among those who disagreed with the proposed reforms, 28 per cent believed the students suffer from the lack of competition that scrapping the examinations would bring.

The survey also showed that three-quarters of parents believed a ''virtuous and good pro-learning environment'' was the most crucial factor in selecting the schools. Only 15 per cent valued the so-called brand name schools.

''Parents want their kids to go to school for learning, not to pick up bad habits or be distracted by an 'unruly' class,'' Professor Cheung said.

On the other hand, two-thirds of parents judged teacher quality as the most important element in improving education standards.

Legislator Leung Yiu-chung and education campaigner disagreed: ''Hong Kong students have been overly reliant on their teachers. I don't think it is a good phenomenon.

''The education system should help the students to develop their creativity and potential,'' Mr Leung said. ''Self-learning should be encouraged.''

The Chairman of the Professional Teachers' Union Cheung Man-kwong agreed with the findings of the survey, but said that the education system needed more resources.

''The quality of teachers is important,'' Mr Cheung said. ''However, they are often burdened by a heavy workload. As a result, their performances are being affected.

''The Government should reduce class sizes, so the teachers can concentrate on teaching.''