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Why I did not support the Budget

Dear Members,

There have been mixed reactions to the Budget published by Financial Secretary CHAN Mo-po on 28 February. It is true that the Budget proposes measures to benefit the people. However, the general view of the public is that whilst the Government is in possession of a huge surplus, it has failed to properly allocate resources, nor has it let everybody have a share of the benefit. In view of strong dissatisfaction and widespread opposition from the community, the Financial Secretary came up with a supplementary scheme revising the Budget so as to allocate a maximum of $4,000 to citizens meeting stipulated requirements.

For the education sector, the situation is somewhat similar. It is true that the Budget proposes, among others, increasing resources to expedite the installation of lifts in public sector schools, increasing nursing staff for special schools, allocating resources to implement the eighth round of matching subsidy scheme in post-secondary institutions, and reserving a recurrent expenditure of $2 billion for education. These measures are, of course, appreciated and welcomed by the education sector. The Budget is, however, silent on core education problems which need to be solved. It is also devoid of concrete plans to make use of the resources reserved for education. Looking at a cheque bearing a figure but without content, I could only, with a strong sense of conflict in heart, cast a vote of abstention.

In actual fact, the education sector has, for quite some time, reached consensus on quite a number of items, including increasing the teacher-to-class ratios in primary schools, secondary schools and special schools, increasing the number of GM/APSM posts, implementing a pay scale for kindergarten teachers, and increasing research grants for universities. All these items require recurrent expenditure. What is most unfortunate is that the Government, choosing not to make a decision until it has got the deliberation results of the task force in respect of each of these items, has failed to provide in the Budget any concrete plans to implement these items. As is well known, the financial year for the education sector starts in early September. If implementation measures for these items are not announced before the summer holidays, it is very likely that appropriations could not be used until September of the following year. What the Government is doing can be likened to ‘satisfying hunger with pictures of cakes’ (feeding on illusions) and does not bring about actual benefits. Appropriations could simply disappear this year with opportunities to solve education problems at an early stage missed.

On several occasions, I have therefore suggested to the authorities and the Financial Secretary that they come up with a supplementary scheme for the education sector, for example, first announcing that the proportion of GM/APSM posts and the teacher-to-class ratio in public-sector schools will be increased, on both of which consensus has already been reached in the education sector. For other items, they could await the results of further studies. It is unfortunate that my suggestion has not been taken on board. This being the case, I had no alternative but to cast a vote of abstention. I hope that the Government will, soonest possible, come up with a concrete plan so as to enable the resources reserved for education to, soonest possible, be utilized and bring benefits to our teachers and students.

Improving our education remains a long journey. I hope that fellow workers will continue to let us have their opinions, which can be emailed to [email protected]

Why I did not support the Budget
Discussing the implementation of the policy on ‘One Social Worker for Each School’ and student guidance in primary schools Responding to reported changes to the assessment framework for Liberal Studies
Non-local students applying via JUPAS do not compete with local students for UGC-funded programmes Snapshots Speeches

Discussing the implementation of the policy on ‘One Social Worker for Each School’ and student guidance in primary schools

On the implementation of the policy on ‘One Social Worker for Each School’ and student guidance in primary schools, the Panel on Education passed four motions on 13 April, including urging EDB to respect the professionalism of Student Guidance Teachers (SGTs) and to, while ensuring that existing guidance service personnel and resources will not be affected, adopt a ‘1 + 1’ guidance service mode and improve the social work service and guidance service in primary schools; urging the authorities to provide a 5-year transition period so as to enable those existing guidance personnel who do not have a Social Work Degree required under the ‘One Social Worker for Each School’ policy to acquire the requisite qualification; and urging the authorities to review and re-establish the student guidance training programme.

Together with Hon CHEUNG Chiu-hung and Hon SHIU Ka-chun, I had a meeting with Secretary for Education YEUNG Yun-hung on 26 April and re-iterated the requests set out above. Unfortunately, EDB’s circular memorandum issued to primary schools on 27 April announcing implementation details for the ‘One Social Worker for Each School’ policy in primary schools failed to respond to our aspirations. Therefore, at the Panel on Education meeting held on 11 May, I moved a motion urging EDB to, soonest possible, respond to the motions passed by the Panel on Education in the previous month, and to review how to achieve synergy between social workers and other guidance personnel so as to help our primary school students in need of guidance. The motion was passed by the Panel on Education.

Contents of Motion :

On 27 April this year, the Education Bureau issued to primary schools a circular memorandum on "The Policy of One School Social Worker for Each School in Primary Schools". Under the new policy, if a public sector primary school retains its existing Student Guidance Teacher, it will not be provided with a regular social worker post on the establishment. Moreover, the Bureau has not introduced adequate measures to allow schools to retain existing professionals providing guidance service to students, including student guidance personnel.

Obviously, such policy is not in line with the four motions passed by this Panel on 13 April. It also falls short of the public expectation for the allocation of additional resources for social workers on top of the existing resources. This Panel reiterates our demands in the four motions passed that the authorities should conduct a review expeditiously to enhance the guidance system of primary school teachers as well as the collaboration between social workers and other student guidance personnel under the system, so as to better help students overcome anxieties associated with growth and learning.

Responding to reported changes to the assessment framework for Liberal Studies

The Government intends, according to media reports, to change the curriculum and assessment framework for Liberal Studies in our senior secondary education and to come up with a detailed proposal through the newly established Task Force on Review of School Curriculum. If these reports are true, this approach of the Government is, in my view, inconsistent with our well-established mechanism.

At present, curriculum developments and changes to the education system in Hong Kong are invariably handled through a major consultative body called the Curriculum Development Council, which comprises such stake-holders as scholars, teachers and principals and which conducts discussions in a professional manner. The Council and its committees already had several meetings last year to discuss issues relating to Liberal Studies. Eventually, the Council stated that there was no need to change the assessment framework for Liberal Studies, which is a clear reflection that the changes reported in the media do not come from the Curriculum Development Council, nor are they based on professional advice.

EDB must clarify whether the media reports are accurate and if so, why it intends to handle changes to the curriculum through a newly established task force and whether the intended changes are prompted by political pressure and whether changes to Liberal Studies will be made because of political considerations.

It must be clearly understood that changing a curriculum is a very important issue, particularly because the NSS curriculum itself is the outcome of discussions and design efforts over a long period of time. Any changes to the curriculum must be thoroughly and carefully considered and meet professional requirements. I hope that the Government will ensure that changes, if any, are based on education professionalism and curricular theories and intended for the development of our students, rather than being prompted by political considerations.

Non-local students applying via JUPAS do not compete with local students for UGC-funded programmes

Earlier on, parents reflected to me their worries that non-local students applying for university enrolment via the Joint University Programme Admissions System (JUPAS) are in competition with local students for JUPAS enrolment quota. I raised a written enquiry at the Legislative Council meeting on 9 May, seeking Government’s response.

The authorities pointed out that non-local students applying for enrolment via JUPAS will be considered together with other non-local students applying for enrolment outside JUPAS. When a university enrolls a non-local student via JUPAS, the university will not count that enrolment against the enrolment quota for UGC-funded programmes for local students.

Non-local students applying for enrolment via JUPAS do not, therefore, compete with local students for UGC-funded programmes allocated for local students.

CityU stops offering self-financed part-time Social Work Bachelor Degree programme in 2017/18

Together with Hon WONG Pik-wan, Hon SHIU Ka-chun and Hon CHEUNG Chiu-hung, I had a meeting with CityU’s representatives on 8 May, to discuss the issue of CityU stopping its offer of self-financed part-time Social Work Bachelor Degree programme in 2017/18 and to express our concern over the matter.

Visiting Munsang College

To get myself prepared for a discussion of an agenda item on Munsang College constructing an assembly hall, I visited Munsang on 9 May. Thanks to the sharing by the school’s management and students, I had a better understanding of the urgency surrounding the construction of its assembly hall building and the efforts Munsang had made over the past two decades to strive for its construction. While Munsang’s campus is big, space available for indoor learning and the average space per head for activities have all along been lower than relevant standards.

I should stress that as long as a school lacks standard facilities, the Government has a responsibility to provide them, irrespective of whether the school has ever benefitted from any school improvement projects in the past.

The joy and pain of moving to a new housing estate

Together with members of Legislative Council’s Panel on Welfare Services, I went earlier on to On Tai Estate and On Tat Estate to better understand the community support and service support available in estates. During the visit, I came across an elderly lady, who told me that being eventually allocated accommodation after a lengthy wait for years made her more excited than winning a Mark Six lottery!

Adapting to a new environment is not easy; kids transferring to another school is even harder. Further to the experience of Shatin Shui Chuen O Estate, the painful phenomena of parents scrambling for school places for their kids and primary school students taking the trouble of travelling a long way from such areas as Aberdeen and Tseung Kwan O to their school are now repeated in the new estates. Given the availability of both land for schools and the demand for school places, wouldn’t it have been possible to spare parents and students the torment inflicted on them if EDB had adopted a people-based approach and synchronized the availability of school premises with that of the estates?


Legislative Council guided tour

Taking part in a ‘Meeting with Members of the Legislative Council’ programme on 15 May, I had a chat with more than 10 students from Aplichau Kaifong Primary School, followed by a barrage of questions from our student ‘Members’ covering matters close to them, such as housing, student happiness index and my interests and habits.

When carefully responding to questions from our student ‘Members’, I immediately recalled the first occasion when I became interested in education: I was reading a book named ‘Education and Human Progress’. If a society fails to nurture good youth, it will suffer stagnation in development. Therefore, when the students asked me what advantages Hong Kong possessed, I replied, “Young people have all along been our greatest expectation.”

11 May 2018: meeting of the Panel on Education
How many schools in Hong Kong are still devoid of an assembly hall?

5 May 2018: special meeting of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs
Expressing concern over public consultation on the enactment of local legislation to implement the National Anthem Law

3 May 2018: Legislative Council meeting (Chief Executive’s Question and Answer Session)
Expressing concern over whether the Government intends to disparage the status of Cantonese

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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葉建源議員辦事處 Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
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