LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1462/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1
LegCo Panel on Education
Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 3 May 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Chairman)
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Member Absent :
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Public Officers Attending :
- Items III and V
- Mr Joshua C K LAW
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr T F KWAN
- Deputy Director of Education
- Item III
- Ms Olivia NIP
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr K B WAI
- Principal Education Officer (Planning & Research)
- Item IV
- Dr Iris Budge-Reid
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Nigel French
University Grants Committee
- Item V
- Miss Annette LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr S T KWAN
- Assistant Director (Schools)
Attendance by Invitation :
- Item IV
- The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
- Mr P A Bolton
- Vice-President (Administration & Business)
- Dr Joseph KWAN
- Director of Safety & Environmental Protection
Staff in Attendance :
Miss Polly YEUNG, CAS(1)3
Ms Connie SZE-TO, SAS(1)5
(LegCo Paper Nos. PL1090/95-96 and CB(1)1270/95-96)
The minutes of the Panels special meeting and regular meeting held on 7 March and 15 March 1996 respectively were confirmed.
2. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to hold a special meeting on 31 May 1996 at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the consultancy study on Local Student Finance Scheme.
3. Members also agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting of the Panel scheduled for Friday, 21 June 1996 at 10:45 a.m.:-
- Funding policy on tertiary education
- Support services for students with learning difficulties
- Review on provision of special education (Subject to the availability of the review report by the sub-committee of the Board of Education.)
4. Members noted that an item proposed by Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok on the employment of overseas teaching staff at UGC-funded institutions would be included in the list of outstanding issue of the Panel.
(LegCo Brief Ref : EMB CR5/2041/95)
5. Mr Joshua LAW briefed members on the major improvements in the Kindergarten Subsidy Scheme (KSS) effective from the 1996-97 school year. These included annual adjustment of the rate of subsidy by the inflation rate plus a factor of 5% for teachers annual salary increments and raising the eligibility cut-off point to 1.5 times of the weighted average school fee of non-profit making kindergartens (KGs) for the preceding school year.
6. Members in general welcomed the improvements. However, since the amount of subsidy payable was based on the number of pupils, some members considered that the KSS had not offered enough incentive to encourage kindergarten operators to further improve the quality of education by employing more than the minimum requirement of 40% trained teachers. Besides, the Scheme also failed to encourage serving untrained kindergarten teachers to undertake the necessary training to become qualified teachers as their career advancement would likely be limited once the KGs had reached the minimum requirement of 40% trained teachers. The members urged that a higher level of subsidy should be paid to KGs which employed over 40% of trained teaching staff.
7. Responding to members concerns, Mr T F KWAN and Mr LAW advised as follows :
- The aim of the KSS was to minimise the impact of fee increase on parents resulting from the KGs need to employ the requisite percentage of trained teachers. At the initial stage, it was prudent to direct limited financial resources to KGs most in need of assistance to reach the minimum requirement instead of raising subsidies for those better qualified ones.
- The present minimum requirement of 40% Qualified Assistant Kindergarten Teachers (QAKT) was set with due regard to the need to upgrade pre-primary education and the available supply of trained teachers. Diverting resources to encourage KGs to go beyond the 40% requirement at this stage might result in unfavourable competition among KGs for trained teachers.
- The Administration had adopted a pragmatic and incremental approach in improving the qualification of KG teachers. The percentage of trained teachers would be improved to 40% at Qualified Kindergarten Teacher rank by September 1997.
- Under the existing KSS, subsidies provided to eligible KGs were calculated on a per pupil per annum basis. It would be a fundamental change to the Scheme if subsidies were awarded according to the percentage of trained teachers employed by the KGs and it would take a long time to work out a different system which amounted to a total revamp of the Scheme.
e. The Administration would conduct a comprehensive review on the KSS in the 1998-99 school year to assess the effectiveness of the Scheme and to identify further needs for improvements. Members views would surely be taken into consideration in the review.
8. Members explained that they were not advocating an immediate increase in the percentage of trained teachers but the provision of some form of incentive to KGs which now employed more than 40% of trained teachers. Suggested options included payment of an additional lump sum subsidy, or additional subsidies on a sliding scale according to the percentage of trained teachers employed.
9. In view that resources allocation for 1996-97 had been completed, members considered that the improvement should be introduced in the 1997-98 school year without having to wait for the Administrations review in 1998-99 school year. Since preparation of the 1997-98 Budget would start soon, the Administration was asked to provide the following information to facilitate further consideration by members:
a. Statistics on KGs which were employing more than 40% trained teachers, with a breakdown by the number of KGs and the percentage of trained teachers being employed.
b. The existing methodology and basis for calculating the amount of subsidies.
10. On a members enquiry on the effect of raising the eligibility cut-off point, Mr KWAN said that about 90% of KGs would be eligible for subsidy as a result and estimated that 350 eligible KGs might apply to join the Scheme in 1996-97 school year. As regards the effectiveness of the new salary scales for KG teachers in reducing the turnover rate of teachers, Mr KWAN advised that since the new salary scales had only been introduced in 1995-96 school year, its impact was still to be assessed and the Administration would monitor the manpower situation of KG teachers closely. On the provision of training for KG teachers, Mr KWAN informed that the Hong Kong Institute of Education was offering training programmes for serving KG teachers to upgrade their qualification.
11. Responding to a members enquiry on the reasons for the small number of KG joining the KSS in 1995-96 school year, Mr KWAN said that a questionnaire survey had been conducted among all KGs and it was revealed that the rate of subsidy, lack of direct financial benefit for the KGs, and the relatively short time of implementation were the main reasons given by KG operators for not joining the Scheme.
(Appendices I and II of LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1315/95-96)
12. Arising from the second laboratory accident at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in a years time, members expressed concern about the safety standards of laboratories and the effectiveness of safety procedures in tertiary institutions. They also queried whether proper remedial and improvement measures had been taken by the HKUST in the wake of the previous accident in April 1995 resulting in the death of a postgraduate student.
13. In response to members concerns, Mr Nigel French said that all tertiary institutions had developed safety procedures and manuals ensuring the proper establishment of laboratories, provision of necessary training and evacuation/contingency plans for emergency situations. In respect of the HKUST, Mr P A Bolton informed members that the university had adopted a safety screening and clearance system for researchers involved in laboratory work following the previous accident in April 1995. Under the new system, each researcher had to establish his safety training needs and undertake the identified safety courses, the details of which were carefully documented. The system had been fully implemented in departments where chemicals were used in the research programme and was being extended to other science departments. The recent accident on 7 March 1996 did not occur in the course of an experiment and was only a minor accident resulting from human error in the use of chemicals in the cleaning of used apparatus.
14. Regarding laboratory safety training for staff and students, Mr Bolton advised that besides general training, specific on-the-job training, including refresher courses, was provided at regular intervals. At present, a total of 25 different courses were organized all year round to cater for staff and students. On evacuation plans, Mr Bolton said that in addition to holding annual fire drill involving the whole campus, special drills were run regularly in laboratories in order to test the effectiveness of emergency equipment and to familiarize staff and students with the emergency procedures. Dr Joseph KWAN added that post-drill analysis was conducted to evaluate effectiveness and to identify necessary improvement.
15. To facilitate consideration of issues related to laboratory safety in all tertiary institutions, members requested the following information for reference:-
- Details on safety training courses, including the number and nature of courses organised and number of participants.
- Details of emergency fire drills, including the frequency, procedures involved and reports, if any.
16. Some members expressed grave concern about the lack of a central authority to monitor laboratory safety in tertiary institutions and considered that the University Grants Committee (UGC) should play a more active role instead of relying on assurance from the institutions that adequate safety measures were in place. Concern was also expressed on the absence of legislation targeted at safety for laboratory experiments in academic institutions.
17. In reply, Mr French advised as follows:
- UGC-funded institutions had the primary responsibility to establish laboratory safety facilities and procedures in accordance with legal requirements. It was not the role of UGC to undertake this task, not to mention its lack of the necessary expertise and resources.
- The UGC nevertheless encouraged the institutions to collaborate and share experience in the adoption of safety practices. The Tertiary Institutions Safety Advisory Group was established in 1993 to promote collaboration among institutions and co-operation with regulatory authorities.
- Statutory control on health and safety could be found in various ordinances as listed in Annex A of the information paper provided by the Administration and such control was exercised by the respective Government agency enforcing the ordinance(s). As existing safety legislation was mainly targeted at industrial undertakings, it might not be sufficient to govern the operations unique to laboratory experiments in tertiary institutions. There might be a need to legislate on this area as in some overseas countries but this issue would require further study by the Government.
18. In this connection, Dr KWAN also added that for operations which were not regulated under current legislation, the HKUST had endeavoured to follow relevant rules and regulations for higher education institutions in overseas countries to make sure that international standards were met and the operations were safe. The HKUST had also taken a proactive role in maintaining laboratory safety. Moreover, before application for the first issue or renewal of the permits for certain operations were approved, visits/inspections were made by the government departments concerned to ensure that safety requirements were met.
19. Members remained concerned about the absence of a co-ordinated approach in monitoring laboratory safety in tertiary institutions. At members request, the Administration agreed to seek information from the various institutions on details of enforcement actions, including the number of visits/inspections made by government departments, the performance of universities in meeting the legal requirements and follow-up action, if any, taken by the relevant departments in the past three years.
20. In response to a members enquiry on compensation payable in the event of accident, Mr Bolton advised that under the existing accident insurance policy taken out by the HKUST for its students, the basic compensation payable was $20,000. The university was discussing with the scheme provider to raise the level of compensation. He undertook to find out further details on the compensation, if any, for the visiting scholar and researcher in the two laboratory accidents.
21. A member enquired about the reasons for the large number of laboratories in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) as 450 out of a total of 1,100 laboratories in all tertiary institutions were located in CUHK. In response, Mr French undertook to check and advise members in writing after the meeting.
22. On the criteria for determining the risk level of university laboratories, Dr KWAN explained that well-established international classification system was available where the risk level was determined by the types of substances used and the handling procedures involved. The safety facilities and procedures, as well as the necessary training for staff and students were commensurate with the risk level. Mr Bolton supplemented that 10 out of the 200 laboratories in the HKUST were classified as high-risk laboratories. Upon members request, Mr French undertook to provide after the meeting the number of high-risk laboratories in each of the remaining five UGC-institutions.
(Appendix III of LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1315/95-96)
23. A member expressed disappointment at the Administrations slow progress in implementing the policy of whole-day primary schools as up to the present, only 15% of the primary pupils in Hong Kong were studying in whole-day schools. He also queried the absence of a timetable for full implementation of the policy. His concern was echoed by other members who urged the Administration to take necessary steps to expedite progress on implementing whole-day primary schools and to set a definite timetable for achieving the target.
24. Addressing members concern, Mr Joshua LAW advised that although only 25% of the existing primary schools were operating on a whole-day basis, it remained the Government long-term target to implement whole-day primary schools. In fact, new primary schools completed since 1993 had, wherever possible, operated on a whole-day basis. He explained that the major problem was the shortage of sites for building new schools, particularly in some of the densely populated urban districts, but the Administration would continue to seek available sites for this purpose. Hence, a pragmatic approach had been adopted for steady progress. Members request for a definite timetable for implementation was noted for further consideration.
25. Members reiterated the need for a definite timetable to achieve the target in phases and/or by district. They considered that factors including the increased demand on education from Chinese immigrant children, mobility of population, urban renewal etc. should also be taken into consideration. In this connection, the Administration was asked to draw up a timetable and report back to the Panel in three months.
26. Mr S T KWAN assured members that the Education Department would continue actively to encourage existing bi-sessional schools to convert to whole-day schools wherever circumstances permitted. Nevertheless, due consideration must be given to the availability of accommodation for conversion in the school, the supply and demand for school places in the district, parental wishes and the need to avoid cross-district travel or long travelling distance between home and school.
27. Another member queried the Administrations commitment to implement whole-day primary schools in new towns since the provision of bi-sessional primary school places was already insufficient and the conversion of bi-sessional schools to whole-day schools would aggravate the problem. In response, Mr KWAN confirmed that the standard provision of a new primary school in new towns consisted of 30 classrooms which would cater for the operation of whole-day school.
28. The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.
22 May 1996
Last Updated on 14 Aug, 1998