Underpinning Principles and Objectives
5.1 Student learning is affected by factors such as aptitude, self-concept, learning attitude, life experiences and socio-economic background. Grouping students of different backgrounds and abilities together can help foster a society marked by patience and harmony. With proper guidance, students with different strengths and aptitudes (e.g. different linguistic, interpersonal, thinking and leadership skills as well as creativity) may benefit from cooperative and collaborative learning.
Through mutual stimulation, they can complement and enhance each other’s overall development through broadening one another’s knowledge base and horizon. We therefore share the view practised in other developed countries that, insofar as the stage of basic education is concerned, we should not rely too heavily on academic results to assess students’ ability or to select students. Instead, schools should be encouraged to adopt an open attitude with regard to admitting students of different abilities and backgrounds.
5.2 Based on the rationale just described, we proposed in the Education Reform proposals published in 2000 the following long-term goals in reforming the SSPA mechanism:
(a) The nine-year basic education will become a coherent stage (a through road) during which pupils will no longer be required to take any high-stake public examination; and
(b) The allocation bands will be eliminated gradually to remove the labelling effect on schools and pupils.
5.3 At that time, we did not favour immediate implementation of these long-term goals. Instead, we recommended a transitional phase during which the short-term SSPA mechanism should be put in place. The Government started to implement the short-term SSPA mechanism as from the 2000/01 school year in accordance with our recommended blueprint. Details are as follows:
Discretionary Places (DP)24
5.4 Starting from 2001, the percentage of DP places for secondary schools has increased from 10% to 20%. Secondary schools can, according to their own education philosophy and characteristics, decide on the admission criteria, which have to be made public beforehand. They may arrange selection interviews but no written test is allowed. Past data indicate that both parents and schools have made good use of the increased DP quota to increase students’ chance of getting admission to their preferred secondary schools25.
24 The DP stage takes place before the CA stage. At the DP stage, parents may apply to any one secondary school. If a student has secured a school place at the DP stage, he/she will be automatically allocated that place.
25 From 2001 to 2005, the number of students securing a place at the DP stage accounted for 13.9%, 15.2%, 15.9%, 16.8% and 18.8% respectively of the total number of students participating in the allocation.
Central Allocation (CA)26
5.5 Starting from 2001, the number of allocation bands has been reduced from five to three with a view to reducing the labelling effect. Some people consider the increased randomization in school places allocation being unfair to students. Since a natural corollary of the reduction of allocation bands from five to three is the increased number of students within the same band, and it is possible that because of their random number, top students’ school choices may not be handled first.
5.6 Some schools also indicate that the reduction of allocation bands has widened the within-school diversity in student ability. The EMB has analyzed the SSPA results from 2001 to 2005 (i.e. after the implementation of the short-term mechanism) and those in 2000 (i.e. before the implementation of the short-term mechanism). When compared with the results in 2000, the diversity in the ability of the S1 intake in about 40% of the secondary schools has in fact reduced or remained the same in 2001. The percentage has gradually increased to more than 50% in 2005.
The number of schools that have admitted S1 students with relatively greater diversity in ability in 2005 has reduced by 10% when compared to that in 2001. On addressing the problem of student diversity, many secondary schools have actively made use of
26 The CA operates on the basis of school nets. Within the same net, S1 places are allocated by allocation band, parental choice and random number. Currently, there are 18 school nets. Students participating in the SSPA belong to the net in which their primary school is situated.
the resources27 provided by the Government to adjust the teaching strategies and cater for student diversity. Some have achieved notable results while others are still at the adaptation or exploratory stage and will need more time to consolidate experiences.
5.7 The EMB notes from school inspections that whether a school can cope with student diversity hinges mainly on whether the school can effectively enhance students’ motivation and interest in learning, and help them learn how to learn. In addition, equally crucial are the vision and leadership of the principal, the shared mission and morale of the staff, the flexibility and attitude of the school in resource deployment as well as parental support, which are also the very factors that help make a school a highly effective learning community. A study conducted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2003 indicates that those secondary schools that pay greater attention to the issue of student diversity are more likely to be able to address it.
5.8 Upon the abolition of the Academic Aptitude Test (AAT) by the EMB in 2000, students entering secondary schools have their school IA results (i.e. the second term of P5 and the first and second terms of P6) scaled by the average of their primary schools’ AAT results in the 1997/98, 1998/99 and 1999/2000 school years for
27 The resources include: providing additional teachers and recurrent grants to schools with greater intake of academically low achievers for strengthening remedial teaching, introducing the School-based Curriculum Development Scheme, providing the Capacity Enhancement Grant to allow teachers to concentrate more on the diverse needs of students, etc. At the initial stage of implementing the reduction of allocation bands, the EMB arranged a number of seminars and workshops and visited schools with greater intake of low achievers to brief them on the related support measures. Additional support measures have also been introduced in cooperation with other departments (such as the Social Welfare Department and the Hong Kong Police Force).
determining their allocation bands.
5.9 Parents and primary schools welcomed the abolition of the AAT in 2000, which has created more room for primary schools to organize different learning activities such as project learning, reading schemes as well as extra-curricular and life-wide learning activities so as to widen and diversify the learning experience of their students. However, the education sector generally considers it unsatisfactory to use the AAT results of many years ago for determining the allocation bands of students.
They point out that the Government should formulate a long-term and fairer scaling mechanism.
5.10 When the interim SSPA mechanism was implemented in 2000, the Government undertook to conduct a review in the 2003/04 school year with a view to assessing whether the pre-conditions for implementing the “post-transition SSPA mechanism”28 as recommended by the EC in 2000 were in place. Hence, the Working Group has taken the “post-transition SSPA mechanism” as the starting point of its review.
To increase the DP percentage from 20% to 30%;
To allow each student to apply to two secondary schools.
To maintain the three-band system. Students in each primary school who have not secured an S1 place during the DP stage will be divided into three allocation bands according to their school IA results;
To allocate school places according to the school nets, allocation bands and school choices of parents/students.