SCMP Wednesday, June 27, 2001

2,500 girls eligible for schools appeal


About 2,500 girls are expected to be eligible to lodge an appeal for admission to a better-ranking secondary school based on a High Court ruling last week.
It is believed the Education Department is not planning to appeal against the court decision that its 23-year-old Secondary Schools Placement Allocation System, which ranks boys and girls separately, is discriminatory.
The judicial review was filed by the Equal Opportunities Commission.
Parents claimed their daughters were being denied opportunities open to boys who achieved identical or lower scores in tests that dictate entrance choices.
The court rejected the department's argument that the practice was to ensure that late-maturing boys, who tend to lag behind girls in academic performance, were given the chance to enter their desired schools.
The department is now believed to be scrambling for solutions to cope with a possible influx of complaints from parents.
A report on the formal investigation prepared by the commission said 2,469 more boys than girls were channelled to a school of their top three choices in 1998, as were 2,412 boys in 1997 and 2,535 in 1996. It is estimated about 2,500 girls, out of 81,000 Primary Six pupils, would also be disadvantaged in this year's secondary school allocation, with results due on July 17.
Although the Education Department has been given a one-year grace period to rectify the problem, the commission has promised to help any parents who feel the education of their daughters is being affected.
Primary Education Resources Association chairman Paul Lee Kit-kwong said the Assistant Director of Education, Lee Kwok-sung, had suggested leftover or abandoned school places be made available for appeals from parents seeking a better school placement for their daughters.
"Mr Lee [Kwok-sung], however, didn't promise that all the appeals would be resolved with the limited places available," he said.
The Education Department will try to assess the academic results of boys and girls jointly to decide whether the complainants' case is well-founded. But if that view is upheld, the possibility is there will not be enough places available in the most popular schools to settle all the complaints.
Cheung Man-kwong, the legislator who represents the education sector, said: "The department must remedy the situation [according to the court ruling] immediately to avoid lawsuits and chaos."