LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1920/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 18 April 1997, at 10:30 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 CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members attending :

    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong

Members absent :

    Hon SZETO Wah
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Public officers attending :

    Items III to V

    Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Mrs Helen C P LAI YU, OBE, JP
    Director of Education
    Mr H F LEE
    Assistant Director (Planning and Research)

    Item III

    Mr K K CHONG
    Assistant Director (Services)

    Items III & IV

    Miss Annette LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for
    Education and Manpower(2)

    Item V

    >Ms Olivia NIP

    Principal Assistant Secretary for
    Education and Manpower(6)

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance :

    Mr Kenneth KWOK
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2 (Atg)

I Date of next meeting and items for discussion

The Chairman reminded members that a special meeting of the Panel had been scheduled for 25 April 1997 at 12:30 p.m.

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting of the Panel to be held on Friday, 23 May 1997, at 10:30 am:

  1. Review on nine-year compulsory education; and

  2. Provident fund schemes for grant schools and subsidized schools.

3. The Chairman also asked the Administration to confirm its readiness to report at the next meeting the progress on implementation of whole-day primary schools and the review on safety provisions of school transport.

(Post-meeting note : The Administration confirmed that it would report on the progress of safety provisions of school transport at the next meeting.)

II Information papers issued since last meeting

4. The Panel noted that no information paper had been issued for members’ general information.

III Education for new arrival children

(LegCo Papers No. CB(1)1299/96-97(01) & 1313/96-97(01))

Provision of school places

5. Members expressed grave concern about provision of school places for the anticipated large number of new arrival children (NAC) after the handover in July 1997. Referring to estimates that at present, there were about 70,000 mainland children who would have the right of abode in Hong Kong after 1 July 1997, Mr Henry TANG enquired about specific measures to meet the huge demand on education arising from the influx of these children within a short period of time. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong had reservations on the Education Department (ED)’s resources capacity to cope with the imminent demand on educational services and suggested that the Department should work out the number of NAC it could afford to take in with a view to drawing up a realistic phased programme for orderly arrival of mainland children. Mr IP Kwok-him was concerned that the quality of educational services might be compromised.

6. Responding to members’ concerns, the Director of Education (D of E), Assistant Director (Planning and Research) (AD/P&R) and Assistant Director (Services) (AD/Ser) explained the Administration’s strategy in dealing with the issue as follows:

  1. an inter-departmental task force had been set up under the Education and Manpower Branch to expedite the provision of school places. The task force had considered measures to increase the availability of land for construction of new schools and to revise the standard design of schools to use land more effectively;

  2. a total of five and two primary schools would be completed in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years respectively. Nine secondary schools had been included in the School Building Programme (SBP) for completion by 1999-2000 and another seven secondary schools were scheduled for completion by 2001-02. In addition to the estimated 10,000 vacant primary school places, there would be sufficient school places to cater for the estimated 38,532 primary and 5,808 secondary school entrants in the coming three years. The ED would keep the SBP under constant review in the light of the estimated intake of NAC; and

  3. the ED would, as far as possible, not compromise the quality of education or existing improvement programmes, such as reduction in class size and implementation of whole-day primary schooling.

7. Members were of the view that the ED had under-estimated the number of NAC in the next three years and doubted the adequacy of the planned provision of about 40,000 school places for NAC. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong referred to reports that over 80,000 NAC would arrive in the next few years while Mr LAW Chi-kwong said that the number was in the region of 100,000.

8. On the estimated number of mainland children who had the right of abode in Hong Kong, D of E said that it would not be advisable to speculate on the number of arrivals but the ED would monitor future developments and seek verification with the relevant authorities before finalizing proposals to tackle the problem. As regards the provision of school places for NAC in the next few years, D of E referred members to the information provided in reply to question No.540 raised by Mr Henry TANG at the recent Special Finance Committee meetings.

Placement assistance

9. Responding to Mr LAW Chi-kwong’s concern about placement assistance to NAC, AD/Ser said that the ED had adopted a proactive approach in offering placement assistance. The staff of District Education Offices would explain to parents of NAC the available services, follow up placement referrals, and offer further assistance if necessary. So far, NAC aged from 6 to 15 who had requested assistance had been placed within 21 days from receipt of the request. A list of schools in their district would be provided to parents to facilitate them in applying for school places for their children according to their own choice. D of E stressed the importance for schools to adopt a positive attitude towards NAC, particularly in their admission policy.

Induction/Extension Programmes for NAC

10. Noting that only 11,550 NAC would benefit from the Induction Programme in 1997-98 vis-à-vis a total of about 20,000 arrivals in Hong Kong during the first nine months of 1996, Mr LAW Chi-kwong urged that more resources should be provided to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for organizing Induction and Extension Programmes.

11. Responding to Mr LAW’s concern, AD/Ser advised that the ED would consider applications from NGOs on the basis of the needs of NAC and the quality of the proposed programmes. A total of 689 classes were approved in 1996-97. The average class size for Induction and Extension Programmes was 12.8 students and 12.6 students respectively which was below the maximum class size of 15. The ED considered that there were adequate classes to cater for NAC. In this connection, D of E added that according to the findings of the review on supportive services for NAC provided by NGOs, it was more effective for the ED to integrate NAC and support programmes for them into the local schools as early as possible. It would be better for other departments, e.g. Social Welfare Department to provide adjustment services.

Educational opportunities for NAC above 15 years of age

12. While welcoming the proposal of relaxing the requirement for NAC to sit for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) as private candidates, Mr LAW Chi-kwong was still concerned about the educational opportunities for NAC above 15 years of age. He pointed out that since the ED had only planned to provide tests to facilitate the admission of NAC from Primary 1 up to Secondary 3(S3) levels, NAC over 15 years of age who had not completed secondary education in China would have great difficulty in pursuing their studies in Hong Kong.

(Post-meeting note: The Administration advised that NAC who were over 15 years of age could apply for admission to evening adult education courses offered by the Education Department.)

13. In response to Mr LAW’s concern, AD/Ser advised that the Panel’s suggestion of allowing NAC below 19 years of age with S5 standard in China to sit for the HKCEE as private candidates had been conveyed to the Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA) which would consider the proposal at its meeting on 25 April 1997.

(Post-meeting note : At its meeting on 25 April 1997, the HKEA decided that new arrivals from China, even if they had not reached the age of 19, might enter for the HKCEE provided that they had attained the standard of Senior Secondary 2 in the school system in China.)

IV Mother-tongue teaching

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1299/96-97(03))

14. Members present at the meeting supported using the mother-tongue as the medium of instruction (MOI) for secondary schools as many educational researches had shown that this was a more effective mode of teaching and learning.

Firm guidance on the MOI

15. Members generally supported the ED’s proposal to issue firm guidance to secondary schools on mother-tongue teaching. On members’ concerns about the rationale of issuing the guidance and the detailed proposals, D of E explained as follows:

  1. it had been the declared Government policy since 1986 to encourage and persuade secondary schools to adopt Chinese as their MOI. The policy of mother-tongue teaching was also the key subject in the Education Commission Reports (ECR) No.4 and 6 for public consultation;

  2. despite the ED’s efforts to advise schools on the language proficiency of their S1 intake with a view to assisting them to choose an appropriate teaching medium, many schools had not adopted the medium advised by the Department and teaching in mixed-code was common. The firm guidance would address these problems; and

  3. under the firm guidance to be issued in late 1997, Chinese would be the basic MOI for local public sector secondary schools. Unless approved by the ED to use English as their MOI, schools should use Chinese as the MOI for all subjects except English Language and other approved subjects for their S1 intake progressively from 1998-99 onwards. The Secondary School List for the Secondary School Places Allocation system would indicate the appropriate MOI for individual schools as assessed or approved by the ED.

16. On the implementation and monitoring of the firm guidance, Mr IP Kwok-him was concerned about the objective assessment on the ability of schools applying to use English as the MOI. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong also urged the ED to step up school inspections to ensure that schools adopted the appropriate MOI and that schools using English as the MOI could actually meet the criteria.

17. On the concern about the ability of schools in using English as the MOI, D of E and AD(P & R) stressed that the requisite standards on the ability of students and teachers must be met before the ED could give its approval. It was proposed that the average percentage of Medium of Instruction Grouping Assessment Groups I and III students in S1 intake for the past three years should be at least 85%, and school principals should ensure that their teachers were well qualified and competent in teaching effectively in the English medium. When considering applications for using English as the MOI, the ED would refer to the results of schools inspections conducted for this purpose and the observations during regular school visits. As regards the monitoring of compliance by schools, the ED would strengthen inspections to schools and take necessary actions in response to complaints.

Incentives for adopting mother-tongue teaching and sanctions for non-compliance

18. Mrs Selina CHOW held the view that severe sanctions including warnings and public censure should be imposed on schools not adopting the prescribed MOI. D of E nevertheless cautioned about the legal implications of disclosing the names of non-complying schools. Nevertheless, she undertook to consider Mrs CHOW’s suggestion and if necessary, seek legal advice again.ED

(Post-meeting note: Legal advice was sought. It was noted that legislative amendment would be required if sanctions not stipulated in the Education Ordinance, e.g. to publicise the name of the school for public censure, were to follow where there was contravention of the firm guidance on secondary schools’ medium of instruction.)

19. Dr YEUNG Sum opined that besides imposing sanctions on schools, the ED should introduce incentives to encourage schools to adopt mother-tongue teaching and publicise its merits to parents. In response, D of E informed members that the ED had over the years provided a series of measures to support schools using Chinese as the MOI. These included positive discrimination measures under the Code of Aid for secondary schools, training for teachers to teach in Chinese and an incentive scheme to encourage publishers to produce quality Chinese textbooks. The Administration would consider strengthening these measures and public education programmes on the merits of mother-tongue teaching so as to achieve an attitude change on the part of parents and schools.

20. On Mr IP Kwok-him’s suggestion that Government schools should take the lead in using Chinese as the MOI, D of E confirmed that many Government schools had already adopted mother-tongue teaching. The firm guidance would apply to all local public sector schools.ED

Other concerns

21. Indicating full support for early implementation of mother-tongue teaching, Mrs Selina CHOW nevertheless stressed the importance of enhancing the teaching and learning of English language by providing schools with sufficient resources. In reply, D of E assured members that the learning of English in schools remained a Government priority. The ECR No.6 had recommended a comprehensive strategy for enhancing students’ language proficiency. The ED and relevant bodies would seek to implement the recommendations.

22. Responding to Mr IP Kwok-him’s concern about the possibility of schools using English as their MOI becoming "elite" schools, D of E remarked that there was no positive relationship between the academic performance of students and schools using English as the MOI. Indeed, there was evidence that students of schools using Chinese as the MOI had achieved good academic results. She further clarified that the ED had not made an estimate on the number of schools that would get approval to use English as the MOI.

V. Language benchmarking for teachers

(LegCo Papers No. CB(1)1299/96-97(02) & (04) and 1323/96-97(01))

Implementation of language benchmarks on serving teachers

23. While there was general support for the establishment of language benchmarks for teachers, members expressed concern about the implementation of benchmarks on serving teachers. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong pointed out that it would be unfair to require serving teachers to sit for the proposed examination as this had not been a requisite qualification for teachers registration. In order to minimize the possible pressure of the examination on serving teachers, Mr CHEUNG suggested that the Administration should provide courses for all serving teachers to attend and through regular assessments, enhance their language proficiency to reach the benchmark levels. His view was shared by the Deputy Chairman. Mr IP Kwok-him also remarked that since the standards and performance of serving teachers were regularly monitored and evaluated by school principals, there might not be a need for serving teachers to sit for the benchmark examination.

24. In response to members’ concerns, the Administration explained that the objectives of setting language benchmarks for teachers were to ensure the quality of education and to enhance the professionalism of teachers. The benchmarks would serve as useful reference in the setting of entry and exit standards for teacher training courses and in determining the qualifications of a registered teacher, especially for purposes of appointment. As regards development of the benchmarks, D of E stressed that they would be pitched at the appropriate level to ensure a reasonable and attainable standard.

25. Addressing concerns about the requirements of the benchmark examination on serving teachers, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower(6) (PAS/E&M(6)) clarified that the proposed benchmark assessments, which would include written and oral language proficiency tests and classroom observations, aimed at enabling teachers to understand their language standards and identify areas for improvement. The examination was not intended to be an assessment tool for selection purposes. It was proposed that a long period of, say, 10 years would be allowed for serving teachers to reach the benchmarks. Based on the experience of the Pilot Benchmarking Exercise, the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications (ACTEQ) would advise on the qualifications of teachers for exemption from the assessment. The syllabuses and specimen tasks for the future benchmark examination would also be published well in advance.

26. Regarding the provision of training courses for serving teachers, PAS/E&M(6) cautioned that the proposal would have great cost implications. Nevertheless, the Administration would consider giving teachers the option of taking the training course before undergoing the assessment.EMB

27. Addressing the Chairman’s concern about the status of a serving teacher who failed to reach the benchmark standard during and after the 10-year period, PAS/E&M(6) advised that during the period, it would be up to the school concerned to decide whether the teacher should continue to teach language, having regard to overall benchmark performance of its teachers. She added that the pilot exercise would further address the issue of the status of teachers who failed to reach the required benchmark after the prescribed period.

Other concerns

28. On Mr IP Kwok-him’s view that incentives, such as salary increments and promotion, should be introduced to encourage serving teachers to improve their language standards, PAS/E&M(6) said that the ECR No.6 and the ACTEQ had considered the issue but no firm conclusion had been reached. Apart from resources implications, the Committee was mindful that the proposed language benchmarks were the minimum acceptable language proficiency standards that should be possessed by all qualified teachers. Nevertheless, the Committee would further consider the issue of providing incentives for those teachers who had remarkably excelled.

29. As regards a member’s enquiry about the qualifications for registered teachers, AD/P&R informed the meeting that the teacher must meet both educational and professional requirements specified in the Education Regulations made under the Education Ordinance. As regards the choice of subject(s) and the level at which a registered teacher would teach, this would be determined by the school principal. Nevertheless, the ED’s approval would be required for the subject(s) and level to be taught by permitted teachers.

30. Summing up the discussion, the Chairman said that in general, members supported language benchmarking for teachers. However, he urged the Administration to consider members’ concerns in the implementation of the proposal.

31. The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
25 June 1997

Last Updated on 14 August 1998