LegCo Paper No. CB(1)293/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1
LegCo Panel on Education
Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 18 October 1996 at 10:45 a.m. in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Chairman)Member absent :
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Member attending :Item IV
- Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Christine LOH Kung-waiPublic officers attending : Item IV to VII
- Mr Joshua C K LAW, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Miss Annette LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mrs Helen C P Lai YU, JP
- Director of Education
- Mr Anthony K H TONG
- Assistant Director of Education (Schools)
Clerk in attendance :
- Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Herman CHO
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Daniel CHAN
- Deputy Secretary-General
University Grants Committee
Staff in attendance :
- Miss Polly YEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1) 3
- Ms Bernice WONG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 1
- Ms Connie SZE-TO
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1) 5
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)44/96-97)
1.The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 2 October 1996 were confirmed.
2.Regarding the consultancy report on the strategic and organisational review of the Vocational Training Council, the Chairman said that the subject fell within the ambit of the Manpower Panel and its Chairman had tentatively directed that the subject be discussed at the Manpower Panel meeting on 25 November 1996. Members of the Education Panel would be invited to attend the meeting in due course.
II. Date and items for discussion for next meeting
3.Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting scheduled for Friday, 15 November 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
- Follow-up action on the consultancy study on the Local Student Finance Scheme;
- Problems related to floating classes
4.As one more item could be proposed for inclusion into the agenda, the Chairman advised that members who wished to propose discussion items should contact the Panel Clerk.
(Post-meeting note : Members were invited to propose discussion items for the Chairmans consideration vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)156/96-97)
III. Information paper issued since last meeting
5.The Panel noted that no information paper on general subjects had been issued since the last meeting.
IV. Briefing on education-related bills
Education (Amendment) Bill 1996
(LegCo paper No. CB(1)132/96-97(01))
6.Upon invitation by the Chairman, Hon Christine LOH introduced her proposed Members Bill seeking to repeal section 84(1)(m) of the Education Ordinance (Cap. 279) (EO) which empowered the Governor in Council to make regulations for the control of political expression in schools. The Bill would also require the consequential repeal of regulation 98(2) of the Education Regulations (ER) conferring powers on the Director of Education (D of E) to give directions or guidance to schools to ensure that the political information or opinion disseminated in schools was unbiased. Miss LOH summarised her views as follows :
- Section 84(1)(m) of the EO was considered obsolete under the present political climate. It was not desirable to single out the dissemination and expression of political information/opinion as a distinct issue to be addressed. The exposure to and discussion of different political opinions was a natural and necessary part of civic education in schools. Indeed, the Administration had previously proposed to repeal this section in the Education (Amendment) Bill 1990 but it was Members view there and then that it should be preserved and amended to its present form.
- Although the Administration had referred to comparable provisions under the Education (No.2) Act of the UK on "political indoctrination" and "balanced treatment of political issues", there was no practical need to retain section 84(1)(m) of the EO and regulation 98(2) of the ER as the D of E could avail himself of the power under regulation 98(1) of the ER to restrict any school activities that might be "prejudicial to the welfare of the pupils or to their education generally". Preliminary legal advice of the LegCo Secretariat was that the protection of students against biased political expressions might be considered as part of the students "welfare" to be safeguarded under this regulation. She would pursue the issue further with the Legal Service Division.
(Post-meeting note : Relevant information in the UK statute was circulated to members after the meeting vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)176/96-97)
7.Hon SZETO Wah, Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong and Dr Hon YEUNG Sum expressed support for the Amendment Bill and their views were as follows :
- Careful judgement was required in deciding whether certain information was of a politically biased nature. Such judgement, as well as the responsibility to ensure that students were presented with balanced and objective political views, should rest with the school authorities and teachers instead of with the Administration.
- Teachers had the necessary training and a professional duty to ensure that the teaching of political issues was to be conducted objectively and in a balanced manner. The present Council on Professional Conduct in Education and a teachers general council (if one was to be established in future) would form a reliable mechanism to ensure that education professionals would perform this expected duty.
8.Responding to members views, Mr Joshua LAW made the following points :
- The rationale behind the Administrations proposed repeal of section 84(1)(m) of the EO in 1990 was to remove the original provisions which were restrictive and which might inhibit the teaching of civic education.
- To address the concern of the LegCo ad hoc group studying the Education (Amendment) Bill 1990 about the lack of regulatory power to deal with dissemination of political propaganda in schools in the event that section 84(1)(m) was repealed, the Administration had agreed to amend the section to the effect that the Administration still retained the power to make regulations to control disseminations of information, or expression of opinion of a clearly biased political nature in schools.
- On the concern that difficulty might arise in the judgement of whether certain political information or opinion was "biased" or not, the Administration would consult legal advice if necessary. In the event that the school authorities or teachers were aggrieved with the Administrations decision made under regulation 98(2), they could appeal against the decision in accordance with the prescribed procedures.
9.In explaining the position of the Education Department (ED) on the present issue, Mrs Helen YU made the following points :
- While encouraging free discussion of political issues in schools, the ED attached utmost importance to the need for schools to adopt an objective and balanced approach in the teaching of these issues. The ultimate objective was to encourage students to form their own views through independent and critical thinking and to accept and respect different views held by other people.
- Following the enactment of the Education (Amendment) Ordinance and the Education (Amendment) Regulations in 1990, the ED issued a school circular in September 1990 explaining the reasons for the changes and advising schools on the basic principles to be adopted in the teaching of civic education.
(Post-meeting note : A copy of the school circular was tabled at the meeting and circulated after the meeting vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)176/96-97)
|10.On the merit of retaining section 84(1)(m) of the EO and regulation 98(2) of the ER, Mrs YU stressed that these provisions had served useful purposes in promoting the necessary awareness and self-discipline on the part of schools in safeguarding the interest of students in receiving and discussing information of a political nature. She had reservation on Miss LOHs suggestion that the scope of regulation 98(1) of the ER might be embracive of the need to protect students against biased political activities in schools but said that the Administration would consider this point further in consultation with the Legal Department.||EMB/
11.In summing up the discussion, the Chairman concluded that while the proposed bill received support from some members, the Administration had expressed its reservation on the proposed amendments. Members would have an opportunity to consider the Bill in greater detail if a Bills Committee was formed in due course.
Hong Kong Institute of Education (Amendment) Bill 1996
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)132/96-97(02), (03); CB(1)137/96-97(01))
12. At the Chairmans invitation, Mr Matthew CHEUNG briefed members on the captioned bill to amend the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) Ordinance to bring it into line with the ordinances of the seven tertiary institutions funded by the UGC.
13.Whilst welcoming the integration of the HKIEd into the UGC, some members expressed concern that the interest of serving teaching staff would be jeopardised in this upgrading process. Noting that the existing staff to student ratio of the HKIEd, was higher than those of the seven UGC-funded institutions due to historical reasons, members were concerned that some staff might be made redundant as the Institute sought to reduce the ratio to make it comparable to those of other tertiary institutions. They urged the Administration to work out acceptable transitional arrangements such as phasing out non-graduate staff through natural wastage instead of by way of immediate termination of employment. Moreover, the staff side should also be thoroughly consulted.
14.Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong further requested an undertaking from the Administration to avoid redundancy of staff and to ensure that no qualified staff of the HKIEd would be disadvantaged in this integration process. Hon LAW Cheung-kwok also enquired whether there would be any upward revision in the salaries of those serving academic staff whose qualifications would be needed for the upgraded role of the Institute. Members urged that adequate resources should be allocated to the HKIEd to cater for staff costs arising from its higher staff to student ratio and the need to recruit staff with higher academic qualifications.
15.Mr CHEUNG and Mr Daniel CHAN noted members concerns and responded as follows:
- The Administration was committed to ensuring a smooth and successful integration of the HKIEd into the UGC.
- It had been agreed that a gradual approach would be adopted to bring the HKIEd under the aegis of the UGC in order to avoid redundancy and to enhance the quality of education in the Institute. Although matters relating to the recruitment and deployment of staff were within the autonomy of the Institute, the UGC would monitor the development closely and would provide advice where necessary. The Governing Council of the Institute had been discussing with the staff side to work out the transitional arrangements.
- Even after the HKIEd has come under the aegis of the UGC, the HKIEd would continue to offer sub-degree teacher training programmes. The Institute would plan to provide some degree courses in the 1998-2001 triennium.
- As far as resources were concerned, necessary provisions had been secured in the current triennium up to 1998 for the upgrading of the Institute. The UGC would discuss with the Institute on the funding requirements for its academic development plans for the 1998-2001 triennium in due course.
16.Members also noted the information paper on the HKIEds funding requirement for $90 million, to be submitted to the Finance Committee on 1 November 1996, for the purchase and installation of basic teaching equipment in its new campus in Tai Po.
V. Implementation of whole-day primary schools
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)137/96-97(02))
17.At the Chairmans invitation, Mr LAW briefed members on the way forward for implementing whole-day primary schooling and reiterated the Administrations commitment to speeding up the programme subject to the availability of new school sites and other resources. However, he advised that at this stage, it would not be practicable to provide a definite implementation timetable for the period beyond 2001 but the Administration would report further progress in 12 months.
18.Members expressed disappointment at the Administrations progress in implementing whole-day primary schooling and raised the following concerns :
- At present, only 16% of the primary pupils in Hong Kong were studying in whole-day schools. Hence, the proportion of primary pupils who would benefit from whole-day schooling even when the percentage of whole-day primary schools rose from the present 24% to 48% by the year 2001 would still be very small.
- It had been observed that the majority of whole-day primary schools were found in new towns where more suitable school sites were available. The prospect of implementing whole-day primary schooling in built-up urban areas would be even less promising.
19.In this connection, Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung suggested that developers should be required to reserve primary school sites to facilitate conversion of schools in their urban renewal projects. He further requested the Administration to provide information on the current situation of whole-day primary schools on a district basis.
20.Addressing members concerns, Mr LAW advised as follows :
- It was estimated that about 170,000 or 40% of primary pupils, vis-a-vis the existing 65,000 or 16%, would be studying in whole-day primary schools when the overall provision level rose to 48% by 2001.
- Although greater availability of school sites in new towns might help to expedite implementation of the policy, the serious shortfall of school sites in built-up urban areas posed the greatest problem. Despite concerted efforts in site searching, very often, vacant sites were not available in urban districts and there was also competing demand of land for other development purposes.
21.In this connection, Mrs YU undertook to provide information on the provision of whole-day primary schools by district for members reference.
22.Concerning the way forward beyond 2001, members queried the absence of a definite timetable for full implementation and reiterated the need for a time-frame for achieving the target in phases. Dr Hon YEUNG Sum urged the Administration to plan beyond 2001 as soon as possible, taking into consideration the increased demand on education arising from population growth and the arrival of Chinese immigrant children. Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong also requested the Administration to report progress on implementation in six months, instead of 12 months as suggested by the Administration.
23. In reply to members concerns, Mr LAW made the following points :
- The Administration would take note of members suggestion to start planning the programme beyond 2001 as soon as possible. The increased demand for primary school places arising from the expected increase in Chinese immigrant children after 1997 had been taken into account in the School Building Programme. Provision of school places would be kept under review to ensure that adequate places were available to meet the new demand.
- On efforts to resolve site difficulties, the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch had been urged to give high priority to reserve more primary school sites among competing land uses. The Education and Manpower Branch would also appreciate LegCos support for its request for site allocation in future.
- Given the uncertainty over the availability of suitable sites, it was not practicable at present to provide a definite timetable for full implementation of the policy beyond 2001. The Administration had proposed to report progress in 12 months in order to take into account the updated population statistics of the 1996 By-Census, which was expected to be ready by the first quarter of 1997. Nevertheless, the Administration agreed to report progress to the Panel in six months as suggested by members.
24.In this connection, Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong said that he might raise issues related to site allocation for schools at the Panel on Planning, Lands & Works.
25.Responding to a members enquiry on the reasons of resistance from some school principals and teachers towards conversion into whole-day schools, Mrs YU explained that the former were worried that the status of the school and their prospect might be adversely affected. Some teachers were unwilling to transfer to whole-day schools due to fear of redundancy and the need to adapt to new circumstances such as longer working hours.
26.On the EDs efforts to encourage the conversion of existing uni-sessional/bi-sessional schools to whole-day schools, Mr Anthony K H TONG advised that the incentives offered included an improved teacher-to-class ratio and an enhanced senior teacher ratio which could improve the promotion prospect of teachers. As regards surplus teachers, there was a mechanism in place for re-deployment and if justified, for the affected staff to retain a personal salary scale. Mrs YU assured members that the ED had taken note of the concerns of schools in the conversion process and would continue with its pro-active approach to persuade and, if necessary, to instruct schools to change to whole-day operation.
27.Referring to the information paper on this subject which he only received one day before the meeting, a member urged the Administration to provide necessary papers well in advance of the meeting for members timely perusal.
VI. Issues related to the Diaoyu Islands
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)132/96-97(04), (05))
28.Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong highlighted the following points of his position paper :
- The Diaoyu Islands incident should be incorporated into the Chinese History syllabus and relevant textbooks for Secondary One to Three.
- The ED should request the Radio Television Hong Kong to produce an educational television (ETV) programme on the Diaoyu Islands incident for viewing by students at schools.
29.Mr CHEUNG further opined that the Diaoyu Islands incident should be taught as an independent topic in schools instead of being included in the study of the Sino-Japanese Wars and the World War II as suggested in the EDs information paper. He also suggested that pending revision of the existing school curriculum, publishers should be advised to produce supplementary leaflets on the topic to be annexed to relevant textbooks.
30.Responding to Mr CHEUNGs suggestion, Mrs YU made the following points :
- As long as teachers followed the curriculum guidelines and the teaching was conducted objectively and in a balanced manner, they were at liberty to discuss with students current topical issues in the teaching of contemporary Chinese History.
- The development of school curriculum was within the purview of the Curriculum Development Council (CDC). Mr CHEUNG had forwarded his suggestion to the CDC and at the its meeting on 11 October 1996, the CDC decided to refer the issue to its Chinese History Subject Committee (CHSC) (Secondary) for further discussion.
- As regards the production of an ETV programme, the Administration considered that since the CHSC would discuss the issue very shortly, it would be more advisable to await the views of the Committee before taking further action.
VII. Difficulty in the recruitment of language teachers
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)132/96-97(06))
31. While expressing support for the introduction of the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme, members were concerned about the prospect of the Scheme as it had been reported recently that there was considerable difficulty in recruiting qualified language teachers and that 25 out of the 37 participating schools had withdrawn from the Scheme. Some members pointed out that due to practical problems such as the need to provide bilingual versions of school documents to cater for the needs of NETs and the difficulty for the latter to integrate into the school environment, many participating schools were reluctant to stay with the Scheme. To address these problems, Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested that NETs should be pooled under the ED and then assigned to different schools to teach English on a roster basis. This arrangement was similar to the deployment of Putonghua teachers to schools for promoting the learning of Putonghua. This centralised system would facilitate the development of teaching materials and encourage self-support among NETs, as well as minimise the administrative work of individual schools employing NETs. Members concurred that the Scheme should be critically reviewed in the light of experience gained from its operation and the ED should explore better alternatives in implementing the Scheme.
32. In response to members concerns, Mrs YU made the following points :
- Although problems were encountered in the implementation of the Scheme, the ED was optimistic that these difficulties would eventually be overcome and the objective of improving the learning of English in secondary schools would be achieved.
- The ED was undertaking a comprehensive review of the Scheme with a view to identifying areas for improvement and members views and suggestions would be duly considered. The recruitment procedures for NETs would be revised to facilitate early appointment of teachers well before the commencement of the 1997-98 school year. Consideration would also be given to conducting the recruitment interviews overseas.
- Among the ways being examined by ED for maximising the use of NETs was indeed the idea of a central core with ED for deployment to a number of schools. This required careful consideration.
- To reinforce mutual support among the NETs, it might be advisable to encourage schools to employ more than one NET. Moreover, experience-sharing sessions for schools and NETs were organised and hopefully, the successful experience of some participating schools would encourage more schools to join the Scheme.
33.Mr TONG added that while the ED would consider alternative ways to improve support services for NETs, the suggestion of assigning NETs to schools on a roster basis might have the disadvantage of depriving students the opportunity of frequent interaction with their NETs. This might impede the effective learning of English and make it more difficult for NETs to integrate into the school environment.
34.In reply to members enquiry on the timing for completion of the review, Mrs YU assured members that the review would be completed as soon as practicable and hopefully before the end of 1996 so that recruitment of NETs could commence not later than March 1997.
The meeting ended at 12:40 p.m.
Legislative Council Secretariat
8 November 1996
Last Updated on 14 August 1998