More than just tutorials

More than just tutorials

Some centres are transforming themselves into day schools in response to the changes in the senior secondary school system

In 2012, the first batch of secondary school students will be taking the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examinations. Students will sit just one set of exams, rather than two.

The changes are expected to have the side effect of cutting enrolment in tutorial centres, by more than a quarter in some cases.

To cope with the expected loss of business, some tutorial centres are rising to the challenge by turning themselves into day schools.

Cantab Education, which operates six centres across the city, is one private education provider planning to shift its focus from tutorial classes to day school operations.

The chain expects the replacement of two public exams with one will reduce its overall admissions by up to 30 per cent and the switch can help it gain students. Its target will be Form Five graduates who cannot secure a Form Six place in mainstream schools.

Cantab says at its schools, these students will be able to choose to go on to Form Six in the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination curriculum or study Form Five under the HKDSE curriculum. Students will study a curriculum similar to those offered by mainstream schools, covering Chinese and English languages as well as elective subjects.

The company will hold classes at its centres in commercial buildings and shopping malls. It will also spend up to HK$100 million to build new campuses, upgrade teaching facilities and hire star tutors.

The new infrastructure will include laboratories to meet the needs of the curriculum's biology and chemistry syllabuses.

Among its six planned new campuses is one in Sha Tin, which will have an indoor sports complex and a swimming pool to offer a school life closer to regular schools.

Another tutorial chain, King's Glory Education, started a similar move last year by building laboratories in two of its centres and opening classes under the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education curriculum.

However, classes offered by private tutorial centres can be very different from those in regular schools.

Because of a lack of space, many tutorial centres do not have facilities such as libraries, sports grounds and assembly halls.

Cheung Man-ping, chairman of the Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Group, says tutorial centres cannot provide a holistic school life.

'The new senior secondary structure emphasises things such as whole-person education, liberal studies and how to broaden students' horizons. But facilities at these private day schools are incomplete,' he says.

'In many cases their classes are conducted in a small room in a shopping mall. It's hard for them to achieve the goals of the new syllabus.'

Cheung also says the focus of the new academic structure is shifting towards the learning process and away from open exam results. 'The exam-oriented teaching approach is the [opposite] of the new syllabus' objectives.'

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