LegCo Paper No. CB(1)196/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting held on Tuesday, 8 October 1996 at 9:15 a.m. in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Members absent :
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Members attending Public officers attending:
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Mr Joseph W P WONG, JP
    Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Mr Joshua C K LAW, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Mr T F KWAN, JP
    Acting Director of Education
    Mr TSUI See-ming
    Acting Deputy Director of Education
    Mr Nigel French, JP
    Secretary General University Grants Committee
    Mr Alfred WONG
    Controller, Student Financial Assistance Agency
    Miss Annette LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Clerk in attendance :
    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
Staff in attendance :
    Miss Pauline NG
    Assistant Secretary General 1
    Ms Connie SZE-TO
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)5

I. Briefing by the Administration on the Governor’s Policy Address

(Speaking note by the Secretary for Education and Manpower issued after the meeting vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)90/96-97)

1. Since the Chairman and Deputy Chairman were away from Hong Kong, Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong took the chair of the meeting as agreed at the last Panel meeting held on 2 October 1996.

2. Upon invitation, Mr Joseph W P WONG briefed members on the Government’s policy commitments on the main programme areas of education as outlined in his speaking note.

3. Members raised questions on a number of issues and their deliberations were summarised below.

Special education

4. Referring to the recommendation of the Board of Education’s Sub-committee on Special Education to implement a pilot scheme to integrate children with special educational needs (SEN) into ordinary schools, a member enquired whether necessary resources had been allocated for early implementation of the scheme and what assistance had been provided to ordinary schools which admitted such students. Noting that the unit cost for students in special schools was considerably higher than that for students in ordinary schools, the Chairman was concerned that if additional resources were not provided to ordinary schools admitting students with special needs, the latter might be disadvantaged as a result of inadequate resources and services to cater for their needs.

5. Responding to members’ enquiries and concerns, the Administration explained as follows :

  1. The Administration shared the views of parents and education experts that more resources should be allocated to improve the quality of special education and achieving the goal of integrating SEN students into ordinary schools. The Administration was actively considering the various recommendations of the Sub-committee’s report and the Education & Manpower Branch would accord high priority to this programme area in its bid for resources for 1997-98.
  2. It should be noted that children with special needs admitted into ordinary schools were not suffering from severe disability. If they were, they would have been admitted into special schools. Hence, it would not be fair to argue that SEN students in ordinary schools should be provided with the same level of per capita subsidy as that for special schools.
  3. At present, various kinds of school-based and off-site support services, such as Resource Classes, were provided to needy students. Without affecting the existing allocation of resources for various educational services, the Administration would explore ways to strengthen support services to SEN students in ordinary schools. EMB/

Education for Chinese immigrant children

6. A member enquired about school placement assistance provided by the Education Department (ED) to Chinese immigrant children (CIC). He was particularly concerned that some schools had persistently refused to admit CIC and urged that suitable sanction should be imposed on these schools.

7. Responding to the member’s concern, Mr T F KWAN made the following points :

  1. Besides distributing information leaflets on available educational services to parents of CIC at various entry points and offering placement assistance through District Education Offices (DEOs), a Central Placement Unit (CPU) had been set up to handle difficult cases of school placement.
  2. Although the Code of Aid for aided schools provided that the Director of Education could order the direct placement of students in schools, so far, the placement of CIC had been achieved through advice and persuasion by the respective DEOs and assistance of the CPU had not yet been resorted to. Moreover, the ED was able to meet its performance pledge of assisting CIC to find school places within 21 working days.

Putonghua education in primary schools

8. A member was concerned that the current Putonghua curriculum for primary schools was too difficult and asked if the newly set up Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) would address the problem. He also enquired about assistance available for parents to help their children in learning the language. The Chairman shared the member’s view and recalled some public feedback that the curriculum was impractical.

9. On the role of SCOLAR in promoting Putonghua, Mr WONG explained that one of its main tasks was to study the relationship between Putonghua and the Chinese Language subject in the school syllabus and to develop research on appropriate curricula and textbooks. Mr KWAN added that the Putonghua curriculum for primary schools was appropriate and students had benefited from it. Concerning assistance for parents, Mr KWAN said that they could avail themselves of Putonghua courses for adults organised by public and private bodies but that the teaching of Putonghua would require systematic professional training. In this connection, he advised that at present, the training programme for Putonghua teachers offered by the Hong Kong Institute of Education consisted of 66 hours in enhancement of proficiency on Putonghua and 24 hours on teaching skills.

Tertiary Education

Cost-effectiveness of UGC funded-institutions

10. Pointing out that the existing unit cost per student of UGC funded-institutions was relatively high as compared to those of overseas universities, a member enquired on measures to reduce unit costs and to improve cost-effectiveness of UGC funded-institutions.

11. Responding to the member’s concern, Mr WONG explained that the tertiary education system in Hong Kong would enter into a period of consolidation in the 1998-2001 triennium after the rapid expansion since 1989 to meet the target of providing first-year first-degree places for 18% of the students in the age group of 17 to 20 by 1994-95. It was expected that more attention would be given to upgrading the quality of education and improving cost-effectiveness. The Administration would be receiving from the UGC shortly the review report on the development of higher education and it was envisaged that issues including measures to reduce unit costs would be addressed.

12. On the prospect of reduction in unit costs and improvement in cost effectiveness of institutions, Mr Nigel French made the following points:

  1. It was a misconception that the unit costs of tertiary education in Hong Kong were unusually or excessively high as compared with those elsewhere. The UGC had recently undertaken a study of unit costs in 41 universities in the USA which represented a similar profile to the UGC-funded institutions in Hong Kong. The average unit cost per student in the US institutions in 1991-92 was considerably higher than that of the UGC-funded institutions in that year.
  2. Unit costs had increased significantly in Hong Kong in the past few years as a result of increases in research funding, increases in student numbers, particularly at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, and in science and engineering disciplines, upgrading of institutions and front-end loading of new and expanding institutions. The fact that Hong Kong was a high cost environment, for business and government as well as for higher education institutions, had also contributed to the increase in unit costs. Now that the system had entered a period of consolidation, the growth rate in expenditure was expected to slow down and the UGC was optimistic that the institutions would be able to achieve a real reduction in unit costs in the 1998-2001 triennium.
  3. It would not be advisable for the UGC or the Government to dictate how institutions should seek to reduce costs. Nevertheless, the UGC had already initiated discussions with the institutions about possible measures such as restructuring and re-engineering institutional processes, promoting greater intra- and inter-institutional collaboration in sharing facilities and resources, as well as reviewing staff to student ratios and space utilization.

Teaching staff at UGC-funded institutions engaging in outside work

13. A member enquired about the current situation of teaching staff at UGC-funded institutions engaging in outside work and the UGC’s role in monitoring these activities.

14. In response, Mr French made the following points and said that he was not aware of any increasing trend in staff engaging in outside practice :

  1. In order to maintain their professional skills and keep abreast of latest developments, academic staff in professional disciplines like medicine and law needed to be actively engaged in professional practice alongside their teaching and research duties. Similarly academic staff in such subjects as law and business might be expected to undertake consultancy work to provide material for teaching case studies.
  2. All institutions had established policies and guidelines governing the extent to which academic staff were permitted under their terms of contract to engage in outside practice and how the income derived from such activities should be shared between the institution, the department/faculty and the individual concerned. Normally the institution would take a large share of income earned from contract research or consultancy for commercial organisations.
  3. All institutions took a serious view of breaches of their rules governing outside practice and would take disciplinary measures against staff who breached the rules. The UGC considered it inappropriate to require institutions to report on these matters in details, but was satisfied that effective rules and procedures were in place to govern outside practice. Information about income arising from outside practice and consultancy work was reported by the institutions to the UGC in the context of their annual accounts and other financial and statistical returns and reports.

The meeting ending at 10:15 a.m.
Legislative Council Secretariat
26 October 1996

Last Updated on 14 August 1998