One of the outcomes of the adoption of compulsory education in Western countries has been the emergence of segregated schools and classes [Tomlinson, 1983], The same phenomenon occurred in Hong Kong, where the development of compulsory education during the 1970s witnessed the rapid creation of a variety of special education settings to meet the needs of those children deemed to have needs not able to be met by the regular schools. Accordingly, as more and more students were drawn into primary schools, those students viewed as unable or unwilling to take advantage of the regular curriculum offerings were assigned to a subsidiary system of schools and classes which became known as special education. This paper describes the emergence of Hong Kong's Resource Classes within this historical context and provides an overview of their current operations. There are currently 489 local Resource Classes operating in 304 Primary Schools. These generally cater for up to 15 children who are identified as having Learning Difficulties in the basic subjects of Chinese, English and Mathematics. Two modes of operations have emerged as meeting this perceived need. One type of Resource Class withdraws students from their regular classes to receive remediation from specially designated Resource Class teachers. The second model leaves the students in their regular classes but provides supplementary instruction outside normal hours. In the mid-1990s there were approximately 7,335 pupils enrolled in Resource Classes, with calls being made for the addition of 50 to 60 more classes per year [Board of Education, 1996 and 1997]. Despite [or because of?] this rapid growth, the Board of Education  has indicated that Resource Classes are not functioning effectively and need improvement. It has also called for research into ways this could be done and which of the two types of class arrangements is more effective. This paper reports on research undertaken to inform these problems. In order to determine more precisely areas of Resource Class dysfunction, this study distributed questionnaires to a broad sample of experienced teachers from Hong Kong Resource Classes. The questionnaire was based primarily on organisational and management features emphasised in the Education Department's "A Guide to the Operation of Resource Classes in Ordinary Primary Schools"  and canvassed areas such as: mode of operation, accommodation and resources, selection of pupils and teachers, time-tabling and teacher workload, teacher training and support services, and the mainstreaming of pupils. The results of this survey indicate that the Resource Class teachers confirm the Board of Education's concern that there are areas of weakness in the management, policy focus and operation of these classes. For example, Resource Class teachers report that there is a lack of clear management direction: their principals sometimes do not have experience or an understanding of the needs of these classes and the Education Department may be reluctant to provide strong support for fear of interfering in an area which might be seen as falling within the principal's jurisdiction. In some circumstances this can result in a management vacuum. Similarly, tensions can be observed within existing policy reports. Current calls for the mainstreaming of students with Learning Difficulties are not consistent with calls for the drafting of more and more students into segregated classes [Board of Education, 1996]. In operational terms, the selection of teachers for duty in Resource Classes varied greatly between schools and the conditions enjoyed by teachers and their students ranged from comfortable to primitive. This paper concludes that the difficulties noted within the running of Resource Classes in Hong Kong are significant and warrant intervention. Suggestions are made which might aid this process.
|Publication status||Published - Nov 1997|