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Broadcasting the Basic Law Seminar live: Appropriate?

Dear Members,

On 16 November, the HKSAR Government will organize a seminar on the Basic Law at which LI Fei, Chairman of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress will be the guest speaker and to which Legislative Councillors and people from various sectors of the community will be invited. It is not uncommon for the HKSAR Government to organize seminars of this kind. What is strange, however, is for the Government to require secondary school students to watch the seminar live and to require school-sponsoring bodies (SSBs) to fill in and return a reply slip reporting the number of schools participating in the activity! This approach is, in my view, inappropriate. Further to our follow-up enquiry, EDB has now confirmed that SSBs can choose not to return the reply slip.

I welcome this revised approach. It lessens pressure on SSBs and schools. It also allows them to make arrangements based on their professional judgment.

After the incident was reported in the media on 24 October, I got a copy of EDB’s ‘invitation’ letter to SSBs, requesting them to – in a reply slip – fill in the number of schools that would watch the seminar live. This kind of request – reporting numbers – makes people feel pressurized. I have indeed received complaints from principals, saying that SSBs have been put in a difficult position.

Education about the Basic Law is necessary and LI Fei’s speech (irrespective of whether you agree to it or not) would be useful as a reference. Asking secondary school students to watch the seminar live is, however, not quite appropriate. For the three reasons set out below, I do not agree to EDB’s approach:

  • Never before – either prior to or after reunification – has there been an arrangement for all secondary school students in Hong Kong to watch a political speech live, not even for the Chief Executive’s Policy Address. Such an unprecedented approach inevitably casts doubts in people’s mind as to whether the authorities want to instil in students a particular interpretation of the Basic Law.
  • It is rather stupid of the Government to require students to watch the seminar live, bearing in mind that the target audience of the seminar would be those who have already got much knowledge of the Basic Law. There exists a gap between what will be discussed at the seminar and the level of secondary school students. Being forced to watch the   seminar for 2 long hours, secondary school students would feel bored or even get annoyed. This approach is counter-productive and does not accord with education principles.
  • EDB should respect the professional decisions of SSBs and schools. SSBs should not have been asked to fill in and return a reply slip, if participation is to be truly voluntary. A more appropriate approach would be for the Government to, after the seminar, provide an edited version summarizing salient points discussed at the seminar together with other points of view, so as to allow students to understand and compare different opinions. This would help our students to look at the issue comprehensively and to develop their independent thinking. Whatever arrangement is made, it should not be allowed to interfere with the normal operations of schools.

It is a good thing that EDB has today (27 October) confirmed that SSBs can choose not to return the reply slip. The Government should, from this incident, learn a lesson and will, hopefully, in subsequent promotions of the Basic Law, respect the professional judgment of schools and refrain from letting politics override education and casually allowing the normal operations of schools to be interfered with.

I would appreciate any views that you may have. They could be emailed to me at [email protected] Meanwhile, as it is getting cool at a time when autumn meets winter, I hope that you will keep warm and I wish you good health.

Policy Address: focused on Tertiary Education, with insufficient attention to Secondary, Primary and Kindergarten education
Press Conference: Schools lack barrier-free facilities Responding to Remarks by CHEN Baosheng, Minister of Education, on National Education in Schools in Hong Kong
Fifteen key items recommended for discussion by the Panel on Education Snapshots Speeches

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:

  1. Policy on non-local students in UGC-funded institutions
  2. Policy on dormitory places in UGC-funded institutions
  3. Review of the roles played by UGC-funded institutions and self-funded tertiary institution
  4. Policy on admission of HKDSE students into universities
  5. Curricular development for Mathematics and Science subjects
  6. Improvements for sub-standard school premises
  7. Adding barrier-free facilities for public schools
  8. Policy on the allocation of school premises to public schools
  9. Timetable for the building of new school premises
  10. Review of the establishment and salary structure of teachers
  11. Review of the number of students and the number of classes in special schools
  12. Review of the establishment and duties of SENCOs
  13. Teacher-to-student ratios in kindergartens
  14. Financial situation of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and fees charged for public examinations
  15. Regulations on school-based management and the system of school consultative committees

Panel on Education: List of outstanding items for discussion

Attending a cocktail reception hosted by Finland

Earlier on I attended a cocktail reception and met with this young Finnish Minister of Education, Ms Sanni Grahn-Laasonen. She was previously a journalist and was not engaged in education.

Physiotherapy: Quota for training and professionalism

Together with a number of professional bodies of physiotherapy, I had a meeting with the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia CHAN Siu-chee on 10 October. We discussed problems relating to the future increase in the number of professional training places and the quality of training as well as the importance of ensuring that graduates will be professionally competent and that the training programmes will be able to secure professional accreditation.

Shuttling in a multi-faceted learning space

Thanks to the arrangement made by Ms LAM Yuk-kei, Principal of SKH Tsoi Kung Po Secondary School and the meticulous ‘guided tour’ given by the Assistant Principal, I went through a gallery of Renaissance, entered a lesson of modern home economics which combines skills for daily life with personal image, and felt nostalgic for the footsteps of Design and Arts & Crafts.

High Table Dinner at Swire Hall, HKU

On 23 October, I returned to HKU’s Swire Hall, which I have missed for 33 years, for a High Table Dinner. Together with current hall residents, we shared hall life then and now.

12 October, Legislative Council Panel on Public Service
Proposing a review of the salary scale of public school teachers

16 October, Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs
When will the composition of the Legislative Council be reformed eventually?

23 October, Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs
Engaging young people in political debates and discussions: selection must be open and merit-based

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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