More students need lift from psychologists

Local | Phoenix Un 12 Jul 2018

There is a worrying shortage of psychologists for attachment to schools, with only 21 percent of institutions looking for such professional support receiving help.

This is revealed in a report by a legislative panel, which notes there was a 37-percent increase in the number of students with special educational needs during the 2012/13 to 2016/17 school years. That constitutes an increase to 42,890 students in 844 ordinary public-sector schools.

Put another way, 7.8 percent of students in these schools have special needs.

The Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee expressed serious concern over the inadequacies in the provision of school-based psychology services.

Its study found that in 2016/17 there were 42 schools out of the 844 that received fewer psychologist visiting days than required.

Only 80 schools out of 381 that applied for enhanced psychological services were successful, and among the 764 schools without services 74 had more than 80 students with special needs.

"The committee urges the Education Bureau to expedite liaison with local tertiary institutions to increase the supply of education psychologists," PAC vice chairman Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong said.

He also urged the bureau to plan for extending psychological services to all schools.

Committee members also expressed serious concerns about the fact 6,131 students assessed by school-based psychologists for the first time were seen to have special needs or classed as "academic low achievers," and 1,950 of them were in primary 3 or above by then.

Committee member Tanya Chan said PAC members lacked details about the shortage of psychologists, but if visiting days to schools were to be increased it was obvious more professionals would be needed.

She hoped government officials were advancing on plans to encourage youngsters to enter the profession, especially given the time needed to gain qualifications.

The PAC also believes the government should allocate more resources to expanding psychology services in schools. And as dedicated support is presently limited to public schools, the committee called for allocating additional resources to help students in schools such as those under the direct subsidy scheme.

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