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The new government should reinvigorate our education

Dear Members,

An event of great significance to Hong Kong’s education occurred on Monday 22 May: more than 20 representatives, including myself, from major education organisations, had a meeting with Chief Executive-elect, at which she presented her future education policy guidelines and her initial plan for the use of the newly added recurrent expenditure of $5 billion on education.

The current-term Government's spending on education has been shrinking, and expenditure on education as a percentage of Government’s public expenditure has become the lowest since the reversion of sovereignty. However, the teaching and non-teaching workloads of schools have been increasing, which has disturbed teachers’ normal teaching work. PTU has therefore, over the years, been actively striving for an increase in teaching resources so as to release teachers' space. Only then can the quality of teaching and learning be enhanced.

What is gratifying is that Mrs Lam has responded positively to most of the views expressed by PTU. She even hopes that provisions for some of the improvement items can be approved when the new-term Government takes office in July and before the Legislative Council goes into recess so that funds can be used right at the start of the new school year in September to relieve pressure arising from pressing problems now confronting the education sector.

First of all, the strongest consensus PTU shares with others in the education sector is improving class-teacher ratios in secondary and primary schools, i.e., increasing the number of teachers on the establishment of schools. Mrs Lam proposes, according to media reports, increasing class-teacher ratios by 0.1, which means creating 2 to 3 regular teaching posts per school. We believe that improving class-teacher ratios, which stabilizes the teaching profession and enhances the quality of education, will bring about substantial progress because schools will be able to employ as regular teachers existing contract teachers or excess teachers (i.e. those above a school’s establishment), who are on the verge of dismissal. This, however, still falls short of our expectation. Hopefully, this is just the beginning and there will be continuous improvements in the future.

Secondly, we need to deal with integrated education, that is, to enable students with special educational needs to integrate into main-stream schools so that they can all study together. Reportedly, Mrs Lam will make SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) – currently being implemented on a trial basis – a regular feature and gradually extend it to every public secondary and primary school. In addition, students taking degree programmes in self-financing institutions will be given a financial subsidy of reportedly $30,000 a year. These are proposals which PTU has been pushing for over the years and hence they have our absolute support.

As regards early childhood education, our primary aspiration is the implementation of a pay scale for kindergarten teachers. While this was clearly written down in Mrs Lam’s election campaign platform, establishing a pay scale reportedly involves complicated systemic problems and Mrs Lam is said to prefer, as a start, extending the ‘Tide-over Grant’ for kindergarten teachers and allowing their pay to be adjusted by reference to pay adjustments for civil servants, instead of the price index. We appreciate the complexity of the issue, but we are worried that this might turn out to be a long-drawn process. We hope that Mrs Lam will, soonest possible, come up with a clear-cut timetable for the implementation of a pay scale for kindergarten teachers, which is the most direct and effective way to ensure the quality of our kindergarten education.

As Mrs Lam’s existing proposals amount only to $3.6 billion, much more can be done and more policies can be refined. The education sector hopes that this is simply a starting point. The Government should, once again, attach importance to education, solve the problems accumulated over the years and put forward an appropriate blueprint for reinvigorating our education.

Your views on policy implementation by the new Government would be most welcome. They could be emailed to [email protected].

The new government should reinvigorate our education
Impeachment motion against Chief Executive LEUNG Chun-ying Meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration on TSA/BCA
Responding to Government's reservation of $18 billion for educational purposes and Audit Report’s comments on the use of the Language Fund Snapshots Speeches

Impeachment motion against Chief Executive LEUNG Chun-ying

IP Kin-yuen: UGL- Hon Holden CHOW Ho-ding incident: hiding information, acting against the law and regulations, unacceptable

For the suspected interference – through Hon Holden CHOW Ho-ding of DAB – on the part of Chief Executive LEUNG Chun-ying in the work of LegCo’s Select Committee on UGL, 28 Democratic Legislative Councillors submitted a joint written motion to impeach LEUNG.

LEUNG is suspected of malfeasance or having acted illegally because he has no right to interfere in discussions on investigations conducted by the Select Committee. He expressed his views privately to a member of the Select Committee. By doing so, not only did he interfere in the Select Committee’s independent investigation, LEUNG also transgressed the bounds of participation in LegCo’s affairs by the Chief Executive or by the executive authorities.

The impeachment motion is expected to be discussed at a Legislative Council meeting on 7 June at the earliest.

Meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration on TSA/BCA

Together with more than 10 cross-party Legislative Councillors, I had a meeting on 15 May with Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew CHEUNG Kin-chung and Under Secretary Kevin YEUNG Yun-hung. I urged the Government to shelve Primary 3 TSA/BCA or to allow schools and parents to choose whether or not to let their students/children take part in it.

Unfortunately, the officials simply reiterated their earlier view and said that abolishing TSA/BCA would add uncertainty and that the current approach had proved quite effective.

Responding to Government's reservation of $18 billion for educational purposes and Audit Report’s comments on the use of the Language Fund

On 26 April, the Financial Secretary announced that an amount of $18 billion from the sale of land had been reserved for educational purposes. I think this development is good, though belated. I would suggest that in addition to consulting the higher education sector on R & D funding arrangements, the Government should listen to the voice of other people, including those engaged in primary and secondary school education, so as to enable different sectors of education to benefit from the provision.

Separately, in connection with the charges in Director of Audit's Report No. 68 levelled against the effectiveness and management (or the lack thereof) of projects under the Language Fund, I think that not only has EDB failed to formulate indicators to monitor the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the Language Fund, there has also been a lack of effective co-ordination and sustained developments of projects financed by the Language Fund. I would urge the Government to formulate appropriate performance indicators for the Language Fund and to, in progress reports submitted to the Legislative Council, provide more detailed information on the effectiveness of the Language Fund.

PTU’s 22nd Annual General Meeting of Members’ Representatives

On 29 April, I attended the second session of PTU’s twenty-second Annual General Meeting of Members’ Representatives. Member Representatives belonging to higher education institutions asked how to promote democratization in the management of higher education institutions. PTU will continue to advocate revising university Ordinances so as to further protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and to promote democratization in the management of universities.

Visiting Sha Tsui Correctional Institution

On 5 May, together with other members of LegCo’s Subcommittee on Children's Rights, I visited Sha Tsui Correctional Institution for a better understanding of the Institution’s services and operation.

Attending City Forum

On 7 May, I attended ‘City Forum’ for a discussion with principals, parents and academics on the problems facing TSA / BCA.

Guided tour to the Legislative Council

On 17 May, I hosted a group of secondary school students. They were very interested in educational issues. For example, they asked for my views on BCA and on how best to make use of the newly added recurrent expenditure of $5 billion on education.

Panel on Education meeting held on 15 May
Support for the project to construct HKU’s Teaching Building No. 3 in Sassoon Road

Panel on Education meeting held on 15 May
School premises should be included in the redevelopment of public housing estates

Legislative Council meeting held on 17 May
Bringing shame to Hong Kong: Secretary for Education failed to deliver his commitment at an international meeting

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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‧For enquiry and feedback, please email to Office of Legislative Councillor IP Kin-yuen : [email protected]
葉建源議員辦事處 Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
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