LegCo Paper No. CB(1)745/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/2

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 20 December 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
Member absent :
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Member attending :
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Public officers attending :
    Item IV

    Mr Joshua LAW, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)
    Mrs Agnes Allcock
    Secretary, Education Commission
    Mrs Helen YU, JP
    Director of Education

    Item V

    Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)
    Dr Iris Budge-Reid
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (SD)
    Ms Michelle LI
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)
    Mr Nigel French, JP
    Secretary General
    University Grants Committee
Attendance by invitation :
    Item IV

    Professor Rosie YOUNG, CBE, JP
    Chairman, Education Commission
    Professor K M CHENG, JP
    Member, Education Commission
Clerk in attendance :
    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1) 3
Staff in attendance :
    Ms Connie SZE-TO
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1) 5

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)480/96-97)

1. The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 15 November 1996 were confirmed.

II Date and items for discussion for next meeting

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting scheduled for Friday, 17 January 1997 at 10:45 a.m.-

  1. Suicide by students;
  2. Education for Chinese immigrant children.

III Information paper issued since last meeting

3. The Panel noted that no information paper on general subjects had been issued since the last meeting.

IV Consultation document on the Education Commission Report No. 7 - Quality School Education

(LegCo Brief ref. EMB CR 20/2041/84 XII and ECR No. 7)

4. Professor Rosie YOUNG briefed members on the major recommendations in the Education Commission (EC) Report No. 7 (the Report) with the aid of transparencies. She said that the EC was inviting public comments on the proposals until 15 January 1997 and would take into account views received before submitting the final report to the Administration.

5. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong declared an interest as a member of the EC. Members deliberated on the following key issues.

Role of key players in enhancing quality school education

6. Mr SZETO Wah opined that school principals played a major role in enhancing the quality of school education and remarked that the existing system in which principals were recommended by school sponsoring bodies (SSB)/school management committees (SMC) for appointment by the Education Department (ED) was not satisfactory and that the SMC had very limited supervision on school principals. He urged that clear qualification requirements of principals, which already existed in many overseas countries, should be established to ensure that appointed principals would meet the required standard in taking up the role.

7. In response to Mr SZETO’s concern, Professor YOUNG and the Director of E (D of E) advised as follows-

  1. The Report sought to define the respective roles of key players in the school system including principals, teachers, SSB, SMC and the proposed School Executive Committee (SEC) which were essential to the enhancement of quality education.

  2. On the qualification requirements of the principal, it had to be noted that apart from professional qualifications and experience, leadership and integrity were important considerations. The Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications would be requested to advise on the qualification requirements and requisite training for principals. An effective appraisal system to assess the performance of school principals would be developed and the ED would also strengthen its monitoring on the appointment of principals.

  3. As the SMC was responsible for the administration of the school, the Report recommended that there should be a set of open and fair criteria for the registration of SMC members. Besides representatives of SSB, SMC members should also comprise the principal, teachers, parents and educational experts.

8. While fully sharing Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong’s view on encouraging a pluralistic school education system by allowing more categories of SSBs to run aided schools in order to enhance healthy competition for higher quality education, D of E said that the ED had already commenced a review on the procedures for allocation of schools to SSBs.

Incentives to encourage quality school education

9. Members generally supported the recommendation to provide incentives to schools as a recognition and encouragement for their initiatives and continuous improvement in quality. As regards the proposal of cash awards, Mr Henry TANG opined that the proposal to award the top 20 schools and the award amount of $2 million per year were too low. Mr IP Kwok-him considered the proposed amount appropriate for a pilot scheme but should be increased progressively after the scheme was formally introduced.

10. In response, Professor YOUNG explained that the cash awards scheme was only one of the incentive proposals, the details of which would be worked out with due regard to available resources and the need to provide meaningful award to schools. Other proposals including the Quality Development Grant to fund worthwhile innovative projects and non-monetary awards such as certificates of appreciation would also be considered.

11. Responding to Mr IP Kwok-him’s concern that the basic level of funding to under-performing schools should not be curtailed so as to avoid further decline in the quality in these schools, Professor YOUNG and Professor K M CHENG clarified that the thrust of the recommendation was not on imposing sanctions but on providing appropriate assistance to under-performing schools. Areas requiring improvement would be identified and the schools’ performance would be monitored closely.

12. On Mr Henry TANG’s concern that schools might use the awards/recognition received to publicise themselves, D of E and the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2) (DS for E&M (2)) did not consider this a demerit since the awards/recognition was for good performance and as long as the system of award was fair. Apart from boosting the morale of staff, the successful experience of the concerned schools might induce other schools to strive for higher performance.

Performance indicators and assessment of school performance

13. Members expressed concern about the development of objective quality indicators for measuring school performance. Some members were particularly concerned about the proposed output indicator on "students’ self-esteem" and the performance assessment of special schools. Concerns were also expressed on possible malpractice of schools understating their existing performance with a view to presenting substantial increase in value-added achievement.

14. In response to members’ concerns, Professor YOUNG, Professor CHENG and D of E made the following points-

  1. Quality indicators were commonly used in overseas education systems for measuring quality of school education and school performance. The EC recognised that output indicators covering other domains such as students’ self-esteem should be developed in phases. The Board of Education had been studying the development of quality indicators and the proposed Quality Development Committee would also advise on the framework for the development and monitoring of quality school education.

  2. As regard assessment of school performance, the value-added achievement rather than the absolute school performance should be considered. The assessment should progress from the school’s self-evaluation to external assessment of the school’s performance in different domains and finally to the overall performance of the school. Relative positions of schools should be made known. Comprehensive external assessment should be conducted periodically by the proposed reorganised Quality Assurance Inspectorate of the ED.

  3. On the quality assessment of special schools and other sectors such as kindergartens, the Report recommended that schools/educational institutions of similar background should form quality circles to develop indicators according to their own characteristics. Special schools had not been singled out for discussion in the Report but it was believed that the general principles underlying the Report could be applied to special schools.

  4. One of the most effective means to safeguard against malpractice was to maintain a fair and open assessment system in which all performance indicators and assessment processes were fully transparent and made known to the public.

School-based management

15. Mr IP Kwok-him expressed reservation on the proposal to require all schools to fully implement school-based management by the year 2000 as at present, less than 25% of all schools were implementing the School Management Initiative (SMI). Professor YOUNG and Professor CHENG clarified that the Report had only recommended that all schools should practise school-based management in the spirit of SMI by 2000. Experience from SMI schools suggested that such management was more flexible and conducive to achieving school goals and formulating long-term plans to meet student needs.

V Review of the development of higher education in Hong Kong

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)555/96-97(01), LegCo Briefs ref. EMB CR3/21/2041/89V and EMB 17/2041/95 II T/C13/96)

16. The DS for E&M (1) briefed members on the Administration’s responses to the major recommendations of the University and Grants Committee (UGC)’s review report on the development of higher education in Hong Kong (the Report). He stressed that majority of the recommendations had been accepted and the Administration would consider public views in taking the decisions forward in the 1998-2001 triennium.

17. In the ensuing meeting, members deliberated on the key recommendations of the review.

Student numbers

18. While agreeing that tertiary education should enter a consolidation phase, Mr Henry TANG urged that the policy to provide 18% of the 17-20 age group with first-year first-degree (FYFD) places should be reviewed in the light of economic and social changes.

19. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed dissatisfaction on the low provision of FYFD places for the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) in the light of the overall objective to achieve containment of undergraduate places. He opined that the Report had failed to take into consideration the fact that the Institute had just been integrated into the UGC and its development would be hampered when the other institutions entered into a consolidation period. Pointing out that there would be savings arising from reduction in unit cost, he urged the Administration to consider allocating more resources to the HKIEd.

20. In reply, DS for E&M (1) and the Secretary General, UGC (SG/UGC) made the following points-

  1. It was a misconception that the review had failed to address the needs of the HKIEd. It was a comprehensive review addressing all key issues on the future development of higher education in Hong Kong. The situation of HKIEd and its needs for development were fully recognized by the UGC and would be taken into account in planning for the next triennium.

  2. Apart from the projected decrease in the number of qualified students for undergraduate places in the next triennium thus justifying the annual target number of FYFD to remain constant at 14,500 full-time-equivalent, there would also be inter- and intra-institutional re-allocation of student numbers and the UGC would work out the respective student number with the various institutions on the same basis and having regard to their academic plans.

  3. On the provision of taught post-graduate (Tpg) student numbers, DS for E&M (1) explained that the Administration had proposed a lower level of increase to cater only for the planned increase of Post-Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programmes to be introduced at the HKIEd. This indicated the needs of the Institute had been fully taken into account.

  4. SG/UGC said that the UGC would be responding to the Government’s decisions and proposals regarding student numbers and other matters raised in the UGC’s Review shortly.

Non-local student numbers

21. Dr John TSE commented that the admission of a further 2% of non-local students proposed by the UGC was too low as compared to some 10% to 20% non-local students generally admitted by overseas universities. In response, SG/UGC clarified that the Administration had accepted the UGC’s proposal of allowing a further 2% of non-local students paying standard fees within the undergraduate and Tpg target numbers in addition to the existing 2% outside the student number targets. Notwithstanding that the percentage of non-local students was modest, the recommendation was indeed a step forward in Hong Kong’s development as a regional centre for higher education.

22. On the proportion of non-local research postgraduate (Rpg) students, Dr LAW Cheung-kwok considered that the proposed increase from 20% to 33% within the Rpg target number was too high and enquired about relevant information in overseas tertiary institutions.

23. In response, DS for E&M (1) and SG/UGC advised as follows-

  1. Besides the shortfall of local graduates in taking up research work, the recommendation to increase the proportion of non-local Rpg students was made on the grounds that this would inject a healthy element of competition among students and improve the quality of education environment and research culture in Hong Kong. Enhanced communication between local and non-local students would broaden their horizons and bring about mutual benefits.

  2. Although the majority of non-local Rpg students would go back to their home countries after graduation, it was generally true that students from other countries tended to develop an affinity with their place of higher education. This could result in cultural, commercial or diplomatic benefits to Hong Kong in the long run.

Student hostels

24. Members noted that a LegCo Brief on the review of the provision of student hostals in the UGC-funded institutions had been issued (ref. EMB 17/2041/95II T/C 13/96). Addressing Mr IP Kwok-him’s concern about the substantial financial implications, DS for E&M (1) stressed that to facilitate the achievement of the objective of university education, the recommendation justified support and the Administration was committed to meeting 75% of the required capital cost and this would amount to about $1,636 million. He assured members that the proposal would not be implemented at the expense of other education programmes.

Differential fees

25. In explaining the UGC’s views on differential tuition fees, SG/UGC clarified that the UGC had not yet put forward any recommendation on differential tuition fees. The UGC considered that the issue should be further studied and that differential fees could be introduced, provided that the system was simple and the differences should not reflect the full costs of provision. DS for E&M (1) added that the Administration recommended that the UGC should ascertain detailed views from the institutions and make recommendations to the Government for further consideration.

26. Concerning cost recovery through fees for Tpg and Rpg programmes, Dr LAW Cheung-kwok remarked that there should be a higher level of cost recovery for postgraduate courses such as Master in Business Administration (MBA) which mainly facilitated personal advancement.

27. In response, SG/UGC made the following points-

  1. The UGC suggested that there was more scope for a higher level of cost recovery for Tpg courses. However, it was necessary to differentiate between courses like MBA programmes, which mainly contributed to personal or employment enhancement and should therefore be self-financing, and courses like PGDE and Master’s programmes in Clinical Psychology, which would bring about some benefit to the community and which should be subsidised.

  2. As regard Rpg courses, UGC suggested that students should pay fees at the lowest undergraduate level and fees for courses should take into account the respective costs of provision.

Reduction in the cost of tertiary education

28. Whilst supporting the view that institutions should improve their cost-effectiveness and that half of the cost savings would be retained by the UGC for new development programmes, some members strongly urged that the rest of the savings should be re-channelled to other education programmes, especially basic education.

29. Addressing members’ concerns, DS for E&M (1) advised that the remaining savings would be retained by the Government. He fully noted members’ concerns and stressed that the Education and Manpower Branch would seek to impress the Star Chamber on ploughing back the savings to the education sector.EMB

Language proficiency

30. Members considered that it was necessary to improve and monitor language proficiency of students to ensure that graduates would attain reasonable language standards. Dr LAW Cheung-kwok suggested that there should be an uniform language examination for all students upon their graduation. On the Administration’s proposal to withhold funding of places filled by students who failed the Use of English and Chinese Advanced Supplementary Level examinations, the Deputy Chairman expressed support while Mr IP Kwok-him had reservation on the grounds that it was incompatible with the principle of equal opportunity for access to education.

31. Addressing members’ concerns on the above proposal, DS for E&M (1) reiterated the following points-

  1. The proposal would complement the Administration’s efforts in implementing the various recommendations of ECR No.6 in enhancing language proficiency.

  2. The Administration would continue to fund places taken up by those students who failed the language examinations but who excelled in relevant subjects.

  3. The Administration would fully respect the autonomy of tertiary institutions in admitting students and hence would accept, without question, their judgement as to what constituted students’ "exceptional" abilities in other areas. The institutions would of course be held accountable for their decision.

32. Responding to other concerns about language proficiency of students, SG/ UGC made the following points-

  1. The UGC attached utmost importance to ensuring that students and graduates would attain a reasonable standard in both English and Chinese languages.

  2. Apart from urging institutions to be more rigorous in enforcing their entry requirements in language standards and supporting various language remedial and enhancement programmes, the UGC also proposed that institutions should test students’ language competence at intervals and seriously consider whether under-performance would be a bar to progression in their studies.

  3. For the benefit of potential employers, it was also suggested that students’ language competence should be recorded on their certificate of subject qualifications.

33. On the Deputy Chairman’s enquiry about proficiency requirement of non-local students, DS for E&M (1) advised that the UGC would be asked to discuss with institutions the possibility of setting appropriate tests or examinations according to specific needs of the disciplines to identify the most qualified and meritorious applicants to ensure that the latter’s language standard was comparable to that of local students.

Other concerns

34. Responding to Dr John TSE’s concern about computer literacy of students, SG/UGC advised that all institutions recognized its importance and would continue their efforts to provide students with sufficient computer facilities. As regard whether computer knowledge should become an entry requirement, SG/UGC advised that it would be a matter for the institutions to decide with regards to the specific needs of various disciplines.

35. In summing up the discussion, the Chairman concluded that members in general supported the recommendations of the Report, in particular those related to provision of student hostels and reduction in the cost of tertiary education. However, he asked the Administration to consider members’ concerns expressed on areas of language proficiency and the use of savings resulting from reduction in unit costs.

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

Legislative Council Secretariat
21 January 1997

Last Updated on 14 August 1998