Policy Address: focused on Tertiary Education, with insufficient attention to Secondary, Primary and Kindergarten education
In Carrie Lam’s first Policy Address, I am pleased to see that some of the new measures are in response to aspirations of the education sector, such as air-conditioning allowance for secondary and primary schools, improvements to facilities on school premises and various funding injections into tertiary education. All these measures deserve affirmation and are to be welcomed. However, most of the new measures are focused only on tertiary education; not much is mentioned about secondary education, primary education and kindergarten education. Nor are there clear indications of efforts being made to implement various projects on which the education sector has already reached strong consensus. On the whole, the Policy Address is disappointing. Here are my key responses to the Policy Address in connection with policies on education:
1.The Policy Address does not provide concrete response to such aspirations as improving teacher-to-class ratios for secondary schools and primary schools, comprehensively pegging teaching posts at degree-holder level, reviewing the establishment structures and remunerations of principals and teachers, shelving TSA and relieving pressures on school children.
2.The Policy Address is silent on the implementation of Chinese History as an independent compulsory subject in junior secondary schools in the 2018/19 school year. I agree that students should have an in-depth understanding of Chinese history and culture. As regards the way of teaching, there should be adequate space for professional autonomy.
3.The Policy Address fails to respond to the education sector’s consensus on the implementation, soonest possible, of a salary scale for kindergarten teachers and manpower increase. To safeguard the professionalism of kindergarten teachers, I would call on the Government to put forward a concrete scheme and a timetable.
4.On special education, I would call on the Government to increase the number of kindergarten teachers and resources for engaging substitute teachers or to provide at least one special education coordinator for each school so as to support the planning for and development of integrated education, without which the effective implementation of Government's ‘Zero Waiting’ target cannot be achieved.
Chief Executive’s Q & A Session (2017-10-12) : Did the Chief Executive give a concrete plan for pegging at degree-holder level teaching posts in secondary schools and primary schools? (video)
Press Conference: Schools lack barrier-free facilities
The Code of Practice on Education under the Disability Discrimination Ordinan cestates, “Educational establishments have the obligation to provide an accessible environment to persons with disabilities or otherwise they commit an unlawful act of discrimination, …”
At least 68 schools remain deprived of lifts. Why is the Government still making the excuse of ‘lack of resources’? At a press conference I had with CHONG Yiu-kwong (PTU’s Vice President) and WONG Chung-fu (Principal of Hui Chung Sing Memorial School) on 24 October, we called on the Government to fulfill its legal responsibility and expedite the installation of the lifts in schools!
Responding to Remarks by CHEN Baosheng, Minister of Education, on National Education in Schools in Hong Kong
At an interview with the media from Hong Kong on Monday 23 October, CHEN Baosheng, Minister of Education, said, “In the promotion of national education, teachers have a pivotal role to play. Teachers should first recognize and love the country. The HKSAR Government should let teachers have a proper understanding of the country’s situation.” CHEN added, “Various disciplines and courses taught on the mainland are richly associated with patriotism and nationalism, which contribute towards enhancing students’ sense of recognition of national identity.”
On the same day, I issued a statement pointing out that the Minister of Education should respect the autonomy of education given to Hong Kong under the Basic Law and that it is inappropriate to express, in public, opinions of a directive nature on matters relating to education in Hong Kong, irrespective of whether the contents of such opinions are correct or not. On this, the Minister of Education must exercise great caution and restraint.
Separately, based on the principle of ‘One Country’, I agree to the implementation of national education in Hong Kong. In the spirit of ‘Two Systems’, however, there should be clear distinctions between national education implemented in Hong Kong and that implemented on the mainland in terms of education objectives, contents, and methodologies. National education implemented in Hong Kong should accord with the principle of civic education, allow students to be exposed to different views, help them to develop independent thinking and inherit Hong Kong’s long tradition of local education, with the Chinese nation and Chinese culture serving as the major points of entry leading to the recognition of national identity.
I believe that only when exchanges and co-operation between Hong Kong and the mainland are conducted in accordance with the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ can education return to professionalism.
Fifteen key items recommended for discussion by the Panel on Education
At the first meeting of the current session of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Education held on 12 October, I was again elected Vice President. I proposed that, on top of the items already scheduled for the Panel, the following 15 key education items be discussed, covering tertiary institutions, secondary schools, primary schools, kindergartens and special schools:
- Policy on non-local students in UGC-funded institutions
- Policy on dormitory places in UGC-funded institutions
- Review of the roles played by UGC-funded institutions and self-funded tertiary institution
- Policy on admission of HKDSE students into universities
- Curricular development for Mathematics and Science subjects
- Improvements for sub-standard school premises
- Adding barrier-free facilities for public schools
- Policy on the allocation of school premises to public schools
- Timetable for the building of new school premises
- Review of the establishment and salary structure of teachers
- Review of the number of students and the number of classes in special schools
- Review of the establishment and duties of SENCOs
- Teacher-to-student ratios in kindergartens
- Financial situation of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and fees charged for public examinations
- Regulations on school-based management and the system of school consultative committees
Panel on Education: List of outstanding items for discussion