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Initial Response to the Budget for 2018/19

Dear Members,

First of all, may I wish you a Happy New Year of the Dog, good health and plain sailing in all your endeavours!

The Government announced its Budget after the Lunar New Year. Earlier on I had, at a tea gathering with the mass media on Day 5 of the Lunar New Year (20 February), publicly pointed out that given a huge surplus, the Government should, while ensuring sufficient resources for the implementation of policies and for long-term measures, consider distributing cash to the entire community, a move which is fairer than ‘sweetening’ measures such as tax rebates. Unfortunately, the Budget has failed to ‘benefit the entire community’, for which I will continue to strive, together with other Legislative Councillors.

On education, the Budget has responded to some of the education sector’s aspirations, such as allocating $2 billion to expedite the installation of lifts in public sector schools and allocating $2.5 billion to launch the eighth round of Matching Grant Scheme for universities. These are good things. However, the Budget is silent on the major aspirations of the education sector, such as increasing the establishment of teachers and increasing the proportion of graduate teacher posts.

As regards the additional recurrent expenditure of $2 billion – said to be for enhancing the professional development of teachers, strengthening support for kindergartens, improving integrated education, and supporting schools in enhancing the promotion of life-wide learning – no details have been provided and the focus has remained unclear. This is disappointing.

In addition, the Budget mentions the Government planning to waive examination fees for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) in 2019. While this idea is well intentioned, it has caused a great deal of controversy. Teachers, parents and students have expressed to me their worries that this new measure could attract a large number of private candidates, which would affect school candidates and cause confusion. I raised these worries with Financial Secretary Paul CHAN Mo-po at a Legislative Council meeting. In response, he said he would carefully consider these worries. I hope that the Government will, following careful consideration, come up with a scheme which will ensure that DSE is conducted in a normal fashion and free from any interference. In the long run, I believe that DSE examination fees should be subsumed within the scope of our 15-year free education.

Finally, 11 March will be the date for Legislative Council By-election. I hope that you will encourage your family members, colleagues and friends to actively cast their votes so as to enable the Legislative Council to restore checks and balances and to advance democracy!

We would appreciate any views that you may have. They could be emailed to [email protected]

Initial Response to the Budget for 2018/19
Guideline on class absence in kindergartens Urging the Government to eliminate incentives for Primary 3 TSA / BCA drills
More than half of primary school students do at least 7 homework assignments every day Snapshots Speeches

Guideline on class absence in kindergartens

In its announcement on 23 February, EDB sets for kindergartens the number of days of class absence which triggers the notification mechanism at 7, same as that for primary schools and secondary schools. I welcome this move. A comparison between the notification mechanism for kindergartens and that for primary and secondary schools shows, however, the existence of disparity, especially in respect of follow-up actions.

At present, the notification mechanism for primary and secondary schools has a clear flow chart showing – following a notification submitted by a school – the follow-up actions to be taken by the school as well as EDB’s follow-up actions in investigation, counselling and support. Under the latest notification mechanism for kindergartens, what the Government will do, following receipt of a notification from a kindergarten, is simply to remind the kindergarten of how to respond and handle child abuse cases, while stopping short of offering any further support and making any intervention in the case. For kindergartens without counsellors or social workers, they will certainly be hard pressed.

Under the 7-day notification mechanism, should there be signs of child abuse, kindergartens are required to notify EDB even if class absence is less than 7 days. This requirement is indeed very important. However, the guideline requires kindergartens to refer to Social Welfare Department’s ‘Procedural Guide for Handling Child Abuse Cases’, which runs to as many as 354 pages. Given the existing manpower situation in kindergartens, it is really difficult for them to digest the Procedural Guide and understand how to handle such cases.

I would like to reiterate that I welcome the Government taking positive actions to combat child abuse. But, it is necessary for the Government to be more proactive and strengthen the counselling manpower of kindergartens. Only then will kindergartens be able to make effective and timely identification and intervention before a child abuse case gets worse.

Urging the Government to eliminate incentives for Primary 3 TSA / BCA drills

On the issue of ‘Urging the Government to eliminate incentives for Primary 3 TSA/BCA drills’, I undertook a series of activities with PTU, parents' representatives and other Legislative Councillors in early February including:

1. Holding on 7 February a ‘Cross-Party Legislative Councillors Press Conference’, at which representatives of parents, and Legislative Councillors from various Parties unanimously urged the Government to eliminate incentives for drills, failing which to suspend this year’s Primary 3 TSA/BCA

2. Organising on 11 February, together with PTU and the Alliance of Parents, a petition at the East Wing Forecourt (Civic Square) of the Central Government Offices to convey to the Government our aspiration: ‘No drills’

3. Having on 13 February, together with PTU and a group of primary school teachers, a meeting with Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung to discuss matters relating to this year’s Primary 3 TSA/BCA.

Having undergone evolution and alienation over the years, TSA/BCA as an assessment tool has become the root source of excessive drills. To eliminate incentives for drills necessitates a 3-NO approach – NO names of students, NO names of schools and NO reports on assessment results to schools and school sponsoring bodies – so that TSA/BCA can no longer be used as a tool for comparing different schools, thereby thoroughly wiping out incentives for drills.

More than half of primary school students do at least 7 homework assignments every day

From an investigation with teachers, PTU discovers that more than half of their students have, on average, to do 7 homework assignments or more on a school day, with 8% of them having to do as many as 10 homework assignments or even more.

According to the teachers interviewed, four major reasons preventing them from giving students fewer homework assignments are:

1. Extra exercises necessitated by excessively voluminous and varied curricula;

2.  A drills and examination-oriented culture;

3. Pressure for TSA/BCA drills; and

4. Extra exercises necessitated by the large number of policies (such as STEM) implemented by EDB.

We would suggest that the authorities conduct a comprehensive review of the depth and breadth of primary school curricula; that the Government, parents, schools and teachers work together to reform the culture of vicious competition in Hong Kong; that incentives for TSA/BCA drills be eliminated; that full-day schools be encouraged to provide, during lesson time, guidance to students so that they can complete part of their assignments in class; and that the effectiveness of homework policy be reviewed.

New Year tea gathering with the mass media

On 21 February (Day 6 of the Lunar New Year), the Professional Guild organized a New Year tea gathering with reporters at which we conveyed our New Year wishes to our friends in the mass media and shared with them our outlook for the year ahead.

May I wish all teachers ‘pleasure in teaching’, and all students ‘pleasure in learning’. I also hope that the process of teaching benefits both teachers and students.

Writing spring couplets at PTU

The annual event of writing spring couplets for members coincided with the celebration activities of the 45th anniversary of PTU’s establishment. We had the God of Fortune with us. He distributed red packets to members, wished all people good health, safety in going and coming, success in all their endeavours and realization of their dreams.

Legislative Council Midday Concert

On 9 February, the Legislative Council organized a midday concert featuring the winning team of Hong Kong Youth Music Interflows Awards 2016: Ko Lui Secondary School. As a manager of the school, I was most delighted with their excellent achievement in music. I would like to, once again, thank student CHAN for teaching and providing me with guidance on drumming skill, which enabled my maiden musical performance to proceed smoothly!

Exchange between PTU and Taiwan’s National Federation of Teachers Unions

The Chairman of Taiwan's National Federation of Teachers Unions (NFTU), with which PTU enjoys a very good working relationship, specifically led a delegation to the Legislative Council earlier on. As host, I made good use of the one hour for which the delegation was available to visit several major ‘tourist spots’ of the Legislative Council Complex, including the Conference Room and the Roof Garden on the 5/F. In the warm sunshine, we discussed exchanges on educational issues between our two organisations and believed that we would have even more opportunities for co-operation in the future.

2 February 2018: meeting of the Panel on Education
Concern over inadequacies in sex education and Government’s policy on the prevention of sexual harassment

2 February 2018: meeting of the Panel on Education
Government should have plans to relocate sub-standard special schools or renew the facilities of sub-standard special schools

2 February 2018: meeting of the Panel on Education
Improve the policy on school teacher-librarians and enhance students’ interest in reading

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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