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New economy challenge sparks ambitious reform


THE Hong Kong government plans sweeping reforms of the education system, from pre-primary to tertiary levels.

Hong Kong's chief executive Tung Chee-hwa announced plans to double the number of students at university level, to 60 per cent. He also said that improvements would start at the earliest stage, by upgrading the quality of teachers. "We are failing to meet the needs of a knowledge-based economy. It is imperative we catch up," he said.

An extra HK$2 billion a year (pound;174 million) will now be spent to implement the reforms. Starting from the 2002-2003 academic year, all pupils leaving school at 15 will be given subsidised places to continue their studies. Currently only the top 85 per cent are funded to continue at secondary school while 5 pe cent get vocational training.

However, the government has bowed to pressure from elite schools not to scrap the banding of secondary school students - a form of selection based on academic aptitude tests. Instead, the number of bands will be reduced from five to three, with internal school assessments used to allocate places. Primaries can also form links to allow children to transfer automatically to a secondary without going through the banding process.

Primary schools will be allowed to select 50 per cent of their pupils based on their "traditions and characteristics" and written tests.

The Government will wait two years before deciding whether to scrap A-levels and the final school year, increasing university study from three to four years.

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