LegCo Paper No. CB(1)2061/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 12 July 1996 at 8:30 a.m.
in Conference Room B 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
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Member Attending :

    Hon LAW Chi-kwong

Public Officers Attending :

For Item II to IV
Mrs Helen C P YU LAI, JP
Director of Education
Miss Annette LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

For Item II
Mr Joshua C K LAW, JP
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
Senior Education Officer (Schools)
Assistant Secretary (Works Policy)2
Works Branch
Mr Philip LAU Yiu-wah
Assistant Director/Specialist
Building Department
Acting Government Geotechnical Engineer/Island
Civil Engineering Department
Mr J Farquhar, JP
Assistant Director (Property Services)
Architectural Services Department

For Item III and IV
Mrs Ruth LAU
Principal Education Officer (Services)

For Item IV
Assistant Director of Education
(Curriculum Development Institute)

Staff in Attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG, CAS(1)3
    Ms Connie SZE-TO, SAS(1)5

I. Confirmation of minutes of previous meeting and matters arising

1. Members noted that no regular Panel meeting had been scheduled for the month of August and September 1996. The first meeting of the Panel in the 1996-97 LegCo session for the election of Chairman would be held in October 1996. Prospective members would be informed of the date of meeting in due course.

(Post-meeting note: The first meeting has been scheduled to be held on 2 October 1996 at 9:30 a.m.)

II. Dangerous slopes in the vicinity of schools

(Appendix B of LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1657/95-96; Appendix B of LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1816/95-96)

2. Members were concerned about the failure of some schools to carry out repair and maintenance of slopes situated within or in the vicinity of their boundaries. They pointed out that such responsibility should be clearly conveyed to the school authorities and the Administration should also render sufficient assistance to the affected schools.

3. In response, Mrs Helen YU and Mr S H MAK made the following points :

  1. The school authorities played an important role in slope repair and maintenance works. Private schools and aided schools under private ownership issued with a Dangerous Hillside Order (DHO) were required to appoint an Authorised Person and/or a consultant to carry out investigation and the necessary preventive works, as well as to consult the latter in drawing up appropriate precautionary measures. The schools were also responsible for routine maintenance inspections and Engineer Inspections of the slopes at regular intervals. The repair and maintenance costs incurred by government and aided schools were borne by the Government while private schools would have to meet their own costs.
  2. Publicity had been stepped up to enhance the awareness of school authorities of their responsibility for slope repair and maintenance. A pamphlet entitled "Keep Your Slopes Safe" (tabled at the meeting), the Advisory Note on "Inspection and Maintenance of Buried Drainage and Water Services Affecting Slopes" and the "Layman’s Guide to Slope Maintenance" had also been issued to all schools. Two seminars had been organised for school principals and their assistants on slope maintenance.
  3. The ED had already completed reviewing all guidelines and advice on slope repair and maintenance so far issued and after consolidating the views received, would issue a comprehensive circular to schools in due course.

    (Post-meeting note : The Administration Circular was issued to schools on 7 August 1996 and a copy was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1946/95-96.)

4. Some members queried whether there was sufficient monitoring over schools’ compliance with DHOs and whether the Administration had adequate manpower to deal with the problem of slope safety.

5. In response, Mr Philip LAU assured members that the Administration would follow up on DHOs served on schools. Where necessary, written warnings would also be issued to urge schools to effect appropriate slope repair works. The DHOs would be in force until the necessary repair works had been satisfactorily completed. Mr S H MAK supplemented that staff of the Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) would check progress of compliance with DHOs for these slopes during their regular district visits. Besides, under the five-year plan to expedite preventive measures on slope safety implemented since 1995, an additional 133 and 27 staff had been provided in the GEO and Buildings Department respectively. The Administration would also increase the number of consultants from six to ten.

6. Noting that about 400 schools had been identified to be in the vicinity of slopes and that the Administration would aim at completing the exercise of selecting those slopes which affected schools by the end of 1996, a member urged the Administration to expedite its study and to draw up a reasonable timetable for completing the necessary repairs or upgrading works, preferably before the onset of the rainy season in 1998.

7. Addressing the member’s concern, Mr S H MAK advised that slope selection work in respect of more than 200 schools had been completed, under which 46 private slopes and 11 Government slopes affecting 48 schools had been identified and included in the Landslip Preventive Measures Programme for detailed study. It was envisaged that studies on all selected slopes to determine the necessary follow-up actions would be finalised within 1997. Mrs YU and Mr K W MAK further pointed out that as some 75% of the 400 schools were either private schools or aided schools under private ownership, the school authorities concerned had the responsibility for repairing and maintaining their slopes. It was imperative for them to initiate action on maintenance/repair works early and not to wait until the slopes were identified by the GEO to be hazardous and being issued with a DHO by the Building Authority.

8. As regards possible safety measures, a member suggested that an alarm system be set up for schools with potential slope hazards. The system would be activated to effect the evacuation procedures immediately when the Landslip Warning Signal was hoisted or/and when the recorded rainfall of the district reached a threshold level. Another member echoed the view and considered that such an alarm system should also be installed in schools with sizeable slopes.

9. Responding to the members’ suggestion, Mr S H MAK explained that there were practical difficulties in devising a reliable alarm system for schools as the stability of slopes could be affected by a variety of other factors apart from the level of rainfall. As far as contingency plans were concerned, Mrs YU emphasised that schools should develop their own plans in the light of their own circumstances. Apart from weather conditions and geotechnical factors, the prime concern in deciding evacuation of students and/or school closure should be the safety of students and staff. She further assured members that these salient points would be highlighted in the comprehensive circular to be issued to schools.

III. Education for Chinese immigrant children

(Appendices C and D of LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1816/95-96)

10. At the Chairman’s invitation, Hon LAW Chi-kwong highlighted the following points of his position paper and urged the Administration to formulate a comprehensive policy on education for Chinese immigrant children (CIC):

  1. A central school placement scheme should be set up to provide more effective service to newly arrived CIC.
  2. An assessment scheme should be devised for assessing the academic standard of CIC in order to facilitate their placement into the appropriate school levels.
  3. The Administration should promote greater integration between CIC and local students with a view to assisting the former to adapt to the local education system as speedily as possible.

11. Some members expressed support for the establishment of a central school placement scheme for CIC as under the existing arrangements, CIC and their parents experienced a lot of frustration when they were repeatedly turned away by schools even if suitable places were available. They also urged that suitable sanctions, such as a reduction in school subsidies, be put on schools with bad records of admitting CIC so as to deter this malpractice. Members also put forward the following suggestions:

  1. Apart from being given a list of schools in their district, parents of CIC should be provided with information on the number of vacancies available at each level in the schools.
  2. The ED should collect information on schools which had persistently rejected CIC’s application for admission and follow up these cases.
  3. To facilitate follow-up action by the ED, the school authorities should be presented with a form for confirming whether or not the CIC concerned had been admitted.

12. In explaining the work of the ED in providing school placement service for newly arrived CIC and possible areas of improvement, Mrs YU made the following points :

  1. A Central Placement Unit (CPU) had been set up in February 1996 to handle difficult cases of placement of CIC. The Unit was administered by three Principal Education Officers and where necessary, the Assistant Director (Schools) would also be involved. So far, the placement of CIC had been successfully achieved through advice and persuasion by the respective DEOs and the assistance of the CPU had not yet been resorted to.
  2. Besides providing placement service to CIC aged 15 or below in line with the requirement of nine-year compulsory education, the DEOs would also assist children above the age of 15 to find suitable places in ordinary schools. If the CIC were interested in receiving prevocational or vocational training, assistance would be offered accordingly.
  3. The ED was aware of the importance of a proactive approach in offering school placement assistance to CIC. Staff would also keep frequent contact with parents to follow up the result of placement referrals and offer further help if necessary. Members’ suggestions for service improvement would be seriously considered.

13. On the question of sanctioning unco-operative schools, Mrs YU and Mrs Ruth LAU advised as follows:

  1. The ED had been adopting a persuasive approach to facilitate the placement of CIC rather than resorting to compulsory allocation which might result in undue pressure on the CIC and the schools concerned. On the other hand, there had been cases where students with emotional problems or special educational needs had been directly placed in certain schools by the ED according to needs.
  2. Possible bias against CIC could only be removed through better communication between CIC and local students, peer support and greater awareness on the part of school principals of their responsibility to admit CIC.
  3. Experience sharing sessions were organised for school principals with a view to bringing about positive attitudinal change. The issue of written warning and the possible curtailment of aid in the form of reduction in class number were examples of sanctions on unco-operative schools.

14. As regards the assessment of the academic standard of CIC, Mrs YU considered that it was not necessary to institute an assessment system as the placement of CIC could be made with reference to their past academic records and according to their age. The majority of CIC had no problem in catching up with the local standard after attending remedial classes organised by the schools or the ED.

15. Regarding further development of educational and support services for CIC, Mrs YU advised that the ED was reviewing its existing services with a view to identifying areas for improvement. It was considered that general support services to help CIC adapt to the local environment should better be provided by other government departments while it would be more cost-effective for the ED to focus its resources on providing educational services. In order to strengthen the standard of English for CIC, for example, the ED was developing a self-learning package on English for self-study at home. The package would include a course kit with a textbook and exercises catering for junior primary school students.

IV. Support services for students with learning difficulties

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1597/95-96, Appendix E of LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1816/95-96)

16. In view of the vast amount of resources put into Resource Classes (RCs) operated in primary schools to help students with learning difficulties, some members expressed concern about their cost-effectiveness as only 10% of the students of RCs were able to catch up with the formal curriculum. A member pointed out that there was a general lack of commitment on the part of the schools operating RCs and that systematic training was not provided to teachers of RCs. Noting from the Administration’s information paper that there was a plan to increase annually the number of RCs by 50 classes, the member further queried the ED’s monitoring work in ensuring the cost-effective development of RCs.

17. Responding to members’ concerns, Mrs YU and Mrs LAU made the following points :

  1. Students taking part in RCs were usually those slow learners of average to borderline intelligence who were behind in two or more basic subjects of Chinese, English and Mathematics by two or more years. A wide range of remedial services including small group teaching in the three basic subjects by special education teachers or additional lessons arranged outside school hours were provided to these students.
  2. Regular assessment and evaluation of the students’ academic performance revealed improvement in the students’ academic attainment, thus demonstrating that they had benefited from the remedial services. However, since mildly mentally handicapped students might develop other problems such as emotional problems when they were promoted to senior primary levels, they might not be able to attain the desired academic results within a short period of time.
  3. The Administration shared members’ view on the need for greater commitment from schools operating RCs. On the training for RC teachers, besides pre-service and in-service training, other supportive services including advisory visits to schools, teaching guidelines, resource materials, training workshops and experience-sharing seminars for teachers were provided to enhance teachers’ knowledge and skill in curriculum adaptation and remedial strategies. Additional increments were offered to teachers of RCs and those undergoing the required training to encourage them to improve their skills and qualifications.

18. Addressing a member’s concern about placing mildly mentally handicapped students in RCs to study together with students of lower academic ability, Mrs LAU explained that it was desirable to place borderline mildly mentally handicapped students in mainstream schools to maximise their integration with other students.

19. A member raised concern about inadequate assessment on primary pupils to identify those who had learning difficulties. He pointed out that at present, assessment was only conducted at Primary One level. Pupils who experienced learning difficulties when they were promoted to senior primary levels could not therefore be identified and hence, no remedial services were provided to them. He urged the Administration to consider his views.

The meeting ended at 10:45 a.m.

LegCo Secretariat
12 September 1996

Last Updated on 14 Aug, 1998