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2019.01.28

 

Influenza: Class suspensions: the Budget

Dear Members,

With the temperature making abrupt fluctuations recently and with the influenza epidemic raging ferociously, please keep warm and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

Recently, concern has been focused on class suspension of kindergartens and child care centres (hereunder collectively referred to as kindergartens) due to serious influenza outbreaks. Class suspension is not something that can be or should be allowed to become a regular feature. We must carefully review the situation and respond appropriately.

The most proactive approach is to ensure that we have effective epidemic prevention measures. The vaccination rate of our small children is below 30% at the moment. This must be raised. The medical sector advocates that Government’s vaccination scheme be extended to kindergartens. To this, the Government should respond enthusiastically and positively. At the same time, fellow workers in kindergartens and parents should also play a useful role: stepping up physical exercises of our small children and helping them to develop a good habit of personal hygiene. These are important components of effective influenza prevention.

Class suspension this time is rather massive in respect of kindergartens: more than 200 of them were involved on the very first day of class suspension. At first, the Government only required kindergartens to individually announced their class suspension. I disagreed. I requested the Government to centralize the issue of a full list of kindergartens whose classes are suspended, so as to avoid confusion in communication and to avoid creating extra burdens on kindergartens. I am much pleased to note that the Government readily acceded to my request and issued a full list right on the evening of the very same day of my request.

I also queried the suspension criterion adopted this time: changing from ‘20% of children being infected’ to ‘3 cases of inflection within 4 days’. How has the new criterion been arrived at? Is it appropriate? And will it be our long-term criterion in the future? To all these questions, the Government should provide answers.

Extending the scope of vaccination requires additional manpower and funding from the Government. I hope that the Government will, in its Budget to be published on 27 February, increase financial provisions so as to ensure adequate resources and manpower to tackle the influenza epidemic. Apart from this, I have, as I have done all along, compiled a ‘Preview of Expenditures on Education and Policy Recommendations’ and submitted to the Government 35 recommendations on education dealing with different educational groups. For example, for kindergartens, I recommended implementing a salary structure for kindergarten teachers and increasing the number of teachers and administration staff members. For primary schools, secondary schools and special schools, I recommended continuously increasing teacher-to-class ratios, pegging all teaching posts at GM/APSM level, improving the establishment and salary structures of middle- and high-level administration staff. For post-secondary education and vocational education, I recommended increasing school places and extending the scope of financial support in tuition fees for students taking self-financing programmes, etc. It is my hope that the Financial Secretary will, having regard to the importance of individual policies and our financial capabilities, make necessary financial provisions to improve our education and bring benefits to our students.

You are most welcome to have a look at the summary of the ‘Preview’ and let me have your views on the ‘Budget’. They can be emailed to [email protected] . With the Year of the Pig approaching, may I wish you happiness, good health and great success in your endeavours!

Influenza: Class suspensions: the Budget
Responding to the review report prepared by the Task Force on Review of Self-financing Post-secondary Education Shui Chuen O Primary School:
a construction planning blunder
Raising the standards for school premises and teaching equipment Snapshots Speeches

Responding to the review report prepared by the Task Force on Review of Self-financing Post-secondary Education


Last month, the Task Force on Review of Self-financing Post-secondary Education (hereunder referred to as the Task Force) took on board a number of PTU’s recommendations, including providing self-financing institutions with more financial support of a non-recurrent nature, extending the scope of coverage of the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors, and providing financial support for programmes with high upfront investment in hardware so as to help them to take off. I welcome this positive approach of the Task Force.

Among other things, the report recommends that the Government should support and facilitate the migration of self-financing arms of publicly-funded institutions providing post-secondary self-financing programmes to the new unified regime under the Post-Secondary Colleges Ordinance, and flexibly address their concerns over linkage with their parent institutions and academic accreditation. In respect of this recommendation, I notice that the self-financing arms of the eight universities involved and other self-financing institutions have widely divergent views and there are controversies over this recommendation.

The Panel on Education, which I chair, will soon discuss the Task Force’s review report. With the consent of Panel Members, we shall invite representatives of postsecondary institutions to express their views in the Legislative Council so that the Education Bureau and Legislative Council Members will be able to hear different views. Separately, the review report recommends that programme operators whose development and institutional capabilities fall short of their original plan and prescribed standards may be de-registered. Whether this recommendation practically means that inadequate student intake or other situations will affect those programmes which partially satisfy the interest of a small number of students and for which student intake is limited remains to be clarified by relevant authorities.

Shui Chuen O Primary School: a construction planning blunder

Residents of Shui Chuen O Estate in Shatin are facing a serious problem arising from the failure to synchronize the Estate with the premises of Shui Chuen O Primary School in planning and completion. While residents were already admitted into the Estate as far back as 2015, the new premises of the school are still not yet available and will, indeed, remain so until 2022, i.e., 7 years after admission of residents. This compelled residents ‘scrambling for school places’ for their children. Some of the students have to attend classes in temporary premises in Tai Wai and others have to study in Ma On Shan, which requires a traffic time of 40 minutes, completely defeating the objective of allowing children to study in the vicinity of their residence.

To reach the new premises (yet to be completed) of the school located at the top of a mountain, I made a visit earlier on. Walking up the ‘long slope’ to the school premises took me 20 minutes and there was no shade whatsoever along the entire stretch of the slope. Arduous the trip was. Even more arduous it will be when our primary school kids loaded with their heavy school bags go up the slope to their school in future.

On the problem of Shui Chuen O Primary School’s premises being painfully late in completion and far away from students’ residence, I held a press conference together with the District Councillor concerned to draw attention to the problem. I also asked at a meeting of the Panel on Education whether the authorities would admit there having been a planning blunder. Denying it, the Education Bureau simply admitted that the mechanism had room for improvement, and indicated that the Bureau had at the beginning consulted the Architectural Services Department and reflected that the site for the school was not ideal. In the end, however, the Bureau was told that the site allocated for the school was the only site available for a primary school for the Estate.

Raising the standards for school premises and teaching equipment

Many schools have told me that they are facing two ‘old problems’: the ossification of standards for school premises and the obsolescence of the list of standard furniture and equipment. For example, the standard area of a teachers’ room in a newly constructed school has remained unchanged for nearly 20 years. A standard auditorium of a school continues to be unable to accommodate all of its students. In addition, the list of standard furniture and equipment prepared by the Education Bureau for new schools continues to include such obsolete items as portable card-type radio recorders, VHS video tapes, electric typewriters, which are of no use in teaching nowadays.

Together with a school principal, I held a press conference earlier on to reflect these problems to the authorities. Subsequent to our reflection, the Education Bureau acknowledged, in a written reply, that the ‘furniture and equipment reference list’, had not had a comprehensive review for quite some time, adding that the list was now under review and that the education sector would be consulted in due course. We welcome this approach of the Bureau and its efforts to ensure that the standards are brought up to date, so that schools can avoid or minimize unnecessary administrative and financial burdens and focus on the enhancement of teaching effectiveness.

Joint petition for reviewing and amending HKU’s Statutes

The HKU Alumni Concern Group, the HKU Students' Union and the HKU Teachers and Staff Association initiated a joint petition requesting the University to review and amend the ‘Statutes of the University of Hong Kong’ so as to change the procedures for the appointment of external members of the Council and to entrust the Council with the authority to appoint the Council Chairman.

The joint petition, bearing a total of 1,547 signatures, has been passed to the Registrar of the University, Mr Henry WAI Wing Kun. It is important to note that revisions to the Statutes advocated in the petition do not involve any amendments to the law. It is simply an internal matter of the University and the procedure involved is relatively simple. I hope that the Council will handle the matter seriously.

Visit to LegCo by mainland students taking Master’s Degree programmes at EdUHK

Mainland students taking Master’s Degree programmes at the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) visited LegCo this morning. As I had taught for quite a long period of time at EdUHK’s predecessor, the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd), I felt having a special relationship with the students.

It happened that on the date of their visit, LegCo Members were querying the Secretary for Justice and other officials. I took the opportunity to introduce to the students Members’ role in monitoring the work of the Government. The students were very interested in and enthusiastically asked questions about the work of LegCo and the role of LegCo Members, LegCo’s composition, and remunerations for Members. I hope that the students have, through the visit, got an understanding of the importance of checks and balances of power and of the importance of LegCo monitoring Government’s performance.

 

Asbury Methodist Primary School establishes BMCPC Asbury Community Cinema

While there are many opportunities to watch movies in cinemas, it may not be easy to enjoy, in a primary school, cinema-quality images, acoustics and seating. Once again making breakthroughs despite limitations in space (being a match-box school) and in resources, Asbury Methodist Primary School has, with a sponsorship, established within its small premises a cinema named BMCPC Asbury Community Cinema for the purpose of promoting life education. This is certainly a unique and commendable achievement.

Thanks to the school’s invitation, I was honoured to take part in the cinema’s opening ceremony and its première. Asbury Methodist Primary School has all along been encouraging teachers and students to get into the community and integrate education with daily lives. In addition to promoting life education, the cinema brings benefits and is accessible to the community, including the elderly, the education sector and the cinema industry.

Visit by a Member of the European Parliament

Mr Brian Hayes, a Member of the European Parliament and Convenor of Hong Kong Friendship Group came and visited LegCo. Seven Members of LegCo’s Parliamentary Liaison Subcommittee had a useful meeting with him.

At a time when Sino-US trade frictions and disputes over Brexit are topical issues in the world arena, the connection between Hong Kong and Europe is particularly deserving of attention. At the meeting, we heard directly from the parliamentarian about the European Union’s attitude towards Brexit. Both Mr Hayes and we expressed a wish to strengthen the link between Hong Kong and Europe, especially in economic and trade matters, and to enhance liaison between LegCo and the European Parliament.

 

21 January 2019: Joint meeting of Panel on Health Services and Panel on Education
Following up on the provision of facilities subsequent to the increase in the number of medical treatment-related places in three universities

16 January 2019: LegCo Meeting
Lack of convincing reasons for raising the threshold for elderly CSSA (Comprehensive Social Security Assistance) Scheme; CSSA Scheme inadequate to protect the children of grassroots families

14 January 2019: Panel on Welfare Services
Following up on the implementation of On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services Pilot Scheme

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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