Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Lean and the Fat Years

There are simply not enough places in the primary schools in Hong Kong, particularly in the northern district.   This is mainly because of the increase in the number of babies born in Hong Kong in recent years, both by local women and by mainland women coming to give birth in Hong Kong.  The shortage of places is keenly felt this year, and is expected to get worse in the next few years.

Many of us still remember that only a few years ago, there was a shortage of primary school students.  Many schools were closed, and many teachers dismissed.  I was (and still am) sitting on the management board of a primary school.  We were unfortunately situated in a district where the buildings and the inhabitants were growing old, and the shortage of students was particularly severe.  The school was actually run quite well, according to the Bureau of Education’s own inspections.  But the school was forced to make many teachers redundant, who were, understandably, quite bitter and disillusioned.  Fortunately, our school survived, despite the near-fatal cut in number of classes and teachers. 

We have since been given a new building in a growing district, and we are now getting more students than we have places for.  Many other schools suffered worse fates, and many were closed permanently.  Many teachers were dismissed, forced into early retirement, or to find other employment, often something they were not prepared for.

The decline and increase of the number of births did not happen overnight. A school system run with a longer planning horizon would have found ways to retain the schools and teachers in the lean years, in anticipation of recovery in a few years down the road - to avoid the disruption to the schools, and anguish and suffering forced on the teachers.  Unfortunately, our school system does not seem to be run with a very long term perspective.  And there does not appear to be a  strong sense of care for the well-being of the teachers.

In the mean time, many secondary schools are being threatened with closure, because of a supposed lack of students, ...  While, in several year's time, most likely there will be a rush for secondary school places just like that for the primary schools now.   Do people (in the government) never learn?  Or care at all how their decisions affect the schools, the teachers, the students, and the parents?  Perhaps, as some people speculated, that their own children are enrolled in either international schools or overseas schools with fees paid by their allowances - hence they cannot not feel the pain?

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