LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1396/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 21 March 1997, 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 CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Member attending :

    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Members absent :

    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP

Public officers attending :

    Item IV & V

    Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)
    Mr Nigel French, JP
    Secretary General University Grants Committee

    Item IV

    Mr Benjamin YUNG
    Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Dr K C PANG
    Acting Director Hong Kong Institute of Education

    Item V

    Ms Michelle LI
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Item VI

    Mr Joshua C K LAW, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)
    Miss Annette LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Mr LEE Hing-fai
    Assistant Director (Allocation and Support) Education Department
    Mr KWOK Wai-kwong
    Principal Education Officer (Allocation & Support)
Attendance by invitation :
Item VI

Mr. LAU Ming-ki
Convenor of Education Policy Committee Subsidized Primary Schools Council
Mr FUNG Man-ching
Vice Chairman Education Convergence
Mrs SUN PONG Tak-ling
Ass. Hon. Secretary Hong Kong Subsidized Secondary Schools Council
Mr WU Siu-wai
Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers
Mr LEE See-yuen
Secretary General Hong Kong Teachers’ Association
Miss TANG Mei-sin
Co-opted Member

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance :

    Ms Connie SZETO
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)5

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)745/96-97 and 933/96-97)

The minutes of the Panel meetings held on 20 December 1996 and 17 January 1997 were confirmed.

2. The Chairman reminded members that due to unforseeable clashes with other meetings and the absence of the members proposing the relevant agenda items, the Panel meeting scheduled for February 1997 had been cancelled twice.

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, 18 April 1997, at 10:30 a.m.-

  1. Education for Chinese immigrant children;

  2. Mother-tongue teaching;

  3. Proficiency tests for language teachers; and

  4. Implementation of "Guidelines on Civic Education in Schools"

4. The Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1) (DS/E&M(1)) informed members that the Administration might also wish to brief the Panel on the Open Learning Institute (Amendment) Bill 1997 (OLI Bill) and the progress of the review on safety provisions of school transport at the next Panel meeting.

5. In view of the lengthy agenda, members agreed to hold a special meeting during the lunch time slot immediately following the regular Panel meeting.

(Post-meeting note: At the request of the Administration and with the concurrence of the Chairman, a special meeting would be held on 25 April 1997 at 12:30 p.m. to discuss the OLI Bill and the implementation of "Guidelines on Civic Education in Schools". The subject on safety provisions of school transport would be deferred to the meeting in May 1997.)

III Information papers issued since last meeting

(LegCo Papers No. CB(1) 771, 820, 948 and 986/96-97)

6. The Panel noted that a total of four papers had been issued for members’ general information.

IV Future development of the Hong Kong Institute of Education

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1106/96-97 (01), (02))

7. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong briefly presented the salient points in his position paper and in the ensuing meeting, members deliberated on the following issues.

Quality of students and academic plans

8. Referring to the internal report of the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) that about 75% of entrants to the two-year Certificate of Education (CE) programme in 1996 had only obtained Grade D or E in their Advanced Level subjects, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed grave concern about the quality of students of the Institute. He stressed the need to raise the entry qualifications and strongly supported the Institute’s proposal of upgrading the CE programme to a three-year programme leading to a Diploma in Education (DE). He also urged the Administration and UGC to provide a timetable for achieving the target.

9. On Mr CHEUNG’s suggestion to upgrade the entry qualifications of students, DS/E&M(1) clarified that the HKIEd currently admitted both Form 5 and Form 7 school leavers for pre-service courses. Despite the academic merits of raising the entry requirement to Form 7, there was a body of opinion that Form 5 entrants had demonstrated higher commitment in their studies and to the teaching profession. Taking into account the Institute’s distinct role as a centre of excellence in teacher education with its initial focus on training teachers for primary schools, kindergartens and technical subjects, there was a case to continue to admit Form 5 applicants. Nevertheless, the Administration had yet to take a final decision on the matter; the comments from the UGC and the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications would be considered.

10. In explaining the UGC’s position on the issue, the Secretary General, University Grants Committee (SG/UGC) said that the Committee considered it more appropriate for the HKIEd to offer four-year DE courses at Form 5 entry level as the basic design, and to provide an alternative route of entry at Form 7 level accompanied by advanced standing of one year. The UGC had also advised the Institute to consider issues such as the viability of such courses, their attractiveness to students and the impact of the additional level of qualification on the entire teaching profession, in particular the articulation between the Diploma course and other teacher education courses, as well as the salary levels for graduates of the Diploma course. It was expected that the UGC would submit its recommendation to the Administration in August/September 1997 in the context of its funding request for the eight institutions for the 1998-2001 triennium.

11. Dr K C PANG thanked Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong for his support for the upgrading of the CE to DE, and explained that the Institute’s original proposal was a basic model of three-year DE for Form 7 graduates, with flexibility of an additional year for Form 5 graduates. He said, however the Institute was taking an open stance on the issue of whether a three-year programme post Form 7 or a four-year programme post Form 5 should be the basic model. The Institute would further consult widely and deliberate before coming up with a final decision best for the purpose."

(Post-meeting note: The UGC considers the proposed DE course an improvement to the existing CE course as the duration will be extended and the curriculum strengthened. The Committee considers it very important that only good quality students should be admitted to the course. The Committee therefore considers that an integrated course which admits good quality Form 7 graduates for three years’ study or good quality Form 5 graduates for four years’ study should be an appropriate design. Depending on the quality of the Form 7 graduates admitted, the duration of the course might also be four years to ensure that all Form 7 graduates who graduate from the DE course are well prepared to enter the teaching profession.)

12. In this connection, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong reiterated his concerns for upgrading the entry qualifications for pre-service teacher training programmes. Since the decision on the academic plans would have far-reaching implications on the development of the HKIEd and the quality of prospective teachers, he strongly urged the Institute, UGC and the Administration to consider the matter seriously.

Ability of the HKIEd to recruit quality students

13. On Mr TSE Wing-ling’s concern about competition from other tertiary institutions for quality students and the attractiveness of the HKIEd for matriculants, DS/E&M(1) highlighted the Administration’s commitment to improving teacher education and the abundant resources invested into the Institute. He further said that the Institute would start to offer a full-time Bachelor of Education (Primary) programme in 1998-99 and the student number was expected to increase progressively from 30 to over 150 full-time equivalent in the 2001-2004 triennium. Dr PANG added that so far, about 12,000 applicants had applied for the CE programme in the 1997-98 academic year as compared with 10,000 last year. On the prospect of graduates, he advised that they were able to find employment in the teaching profession or bridge over to degree studies. SG/UGC informed the meeting that the HKIEd had been asked to look into possible ways to boost its competitiveness and to report to the UGC in due course.

14. As regards Mr TSE’s suggestion to expedite the provision of degree places in the HKIEd and to make it the sole provider of teacher education, SG/UGC said that the move towards an all-graduate teaching profession was inexorable and must take place progressively. The agglomeration of teacher education courses into a single "teacher training university" was not in line with the world-wide trend to encourage healthy competition among course providers for better quality in training programmes.

Teaching staff to student ratio (SSR)

15. Regarding Mr CHEUNG’s recommendation to set the SSR for pre-service teacher training at 1:11 in order to provide adequate supervision over practicum in teacher training, SU/UGC explained that the Institute’s target SSR of 1:14 had been set taking into account the practice in comparable disciplines in other UGC-funded institutions and in comparable overseas institutions. The ratio was indeed above the international standard in teacher education programmes. The UGC was confident that the target of 1:14 would be achieved by the end of the next triennium through growth in student number and natural attrition without causing undue disruption to serving teaching staff.

V Four-year university curriculum

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1106/96-97 (03))

16. The Chairman and Dr John TSE declared interest as academic staff of UGC-funded institutions.

Views of the UGC and heads of UGC-funded institutions

17. Dr LAW Cheung-kwok remarked that the UGC and the Heads of the eight institutions (HoIs) seemed to hold different views on the normative length of full-time undergraduate courses. He asked whether the Administration was contemplating a change to the duration of the university curriculum to facilitate an interface between the local and Chinese tertiary educational systems upon the change of sovereignty in 1997.

18. On the apparent difference in views between the UGC and HoIs as suggested by Dr LAW, SG/UGC clarified that this might be a misconception. The UGC considered that as the present structure of tertiary education had just completed its transition to a normative three-year undergraduate curriculum as recommended in the Education Commission Report No. 3 in 1989, it might be too early to consider further changes to the duration of undergraduate studies. Full-time undergraduate programmes would continue to last for three-years in the foreseeable future. However, where justified on grounds of academic and community needs, the UGC would be prepared to consider proposals for a longer period of study for specific programmes. The HoIs had put forward their argument for a four-year duration from an educational point of view but they also stressed that any change must be implemented progressively. SG/UGC stressed that in fact, there was no conflict of views between the HoIs and UGC over this issue. Both parties recognised that this was a complex issue which must be dealt with prudently in the context of a comprehensive review of the entire educational system since the proposed change would have far-reaching implications on other sectors, notably the curriculum for secondary schools.

19. Concerning the need for a four-year undergraduate system to tie in with the tertiary education system of China, SG/UGC remarked that under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government would continue to enjoy full autonomy after 1997 in determining a higher education system most appropriate for Hong Kong. He confirmed that there had not been any political pressure on local institutions to vary the length of full-time undergraduate programmes.

20. As far as a comprehensive review on the entire educational system was concerned, DS/E&M(1) said that it would be more appropriate for the Education Commission (EC) to undertake such a review through extensive public consultation. SG/UGC added that as the necessary expertise was available in the EC, UGC and other educational advisory bodies, it might not be necessary to commission a consultancy study.

Length of undergraduate courses

21. While supporting a normative four-year structure, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong cautioned that the structure of the tertiary sector would have an important bearing on the school sector and the future manpower provision in Hong Kong. He referred to a wide range of important issues for consideration such as the length of secondary education, the interface between the secondary and tertiary sectors, articulation of courses offered by different institutions, as well as the need for continuing education. Mr CHEUNG suggested that pending a decision on the way forward, the Administration/UGC should consider introducing interim measures such as setting the period of study with regards to the specific needs of the disciplines, organising credit unit courses and conducting courses during the summer holidays. He urged the Administration to provide the necessary resources for implementing the proposals which would provide greater flexibility to students and bring about better utilization of facilities at the institutions. Dr John TSE echoed Mr CHEUNG’s view and remarked that the credit unit system had proved to be effective in countries like Canada and Australia. In reply, SG/UGC reiterated the UGC’s preparedness to consider exceptions to the three-year norm for specific academic programmes on a case by case basis.

22. SG/UGC took the opportunity to advise that the major argument put forward by academics was that a longer period of study would better satisfy the "general" and "specific" needs of undergraduate education. There had not been any suggestion that a longer course of study would necessarily improve the quality of graduates. On some public remarks that the present generation of university graduates were of a lower quality than their predecessors, he pointed out that due to differences in the past and present tertiary education systems, it would be inappropriate and unfair to make such a comparison. The top echelon of the present graduates were of comparable quality as their predecessors in an elitist educational system.

23. Summing up, the Chairman agreed that the issue in question was highly complex. He urged that the proposed review on the entire educational system be conducted as soon as possible.

VI Secondary School Places Allocation system

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1106/96-97 (04), (05); CB(1) 1121/96-97 (01))

24. At the Chairman’s invitation, Mr FUNG Man-ching briefed members on the major recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Review of the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) system.

Release of Academic Aptitude Test (AAT) items

25. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong supported the Joint Committee’s proposal that the Education Department (ED) should release past AAT items for practice by pupils. The recommendation would alleviate the present problem of excessive drilling for AAT at the expense of other teaching activities. Miss TANG Mei-sin of the Joint Committee suggested that the learning targets of the AAT questions should also be disclosed to facilitate analysis and review of the questions.

26. In response to the views of Mr CHEUNG and the Joint Committee, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2) (DS/E&M (2)) and the Assistant Director (Allocation & Support) (AD/A&S) advised as follows :

  1. The SSPA system was introduced in 1978 to replace the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE). Allocation of school places was based on the pupil’s results of internal assessments at Primary Five and Six.

  2. The AAT was a test designed to scale the internal assessments of schools to facilitate comparison. To minimise the need for drilling, the Test was not curriculum-oriented.

  3. The AAT papers were compiled with care. A series of pre-tests were conducted before the Test was held with a view to fine-tuning the questions.

  4. Although the ED had no plan to release past AAT papers, pupils were provided with practice AAT items before the Test. Guidelines were also issued to schools to explain the purpose of the Test and to discourage drilling.

27. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong questioned the Administration’s grounds for not releasing the AAT papers. Regarding the issue on excessive drilling, he urged the ED to strengthen its monitoring on schools and impose appropriate sanction on non-complying schools. DS/E&M(2) and AD/A&S nevertheless cast doubt on the suggestion that the release of AAT papers would eliminate excessive drilling. They also expressed difficulty in monitoring and sanctioning schools on such grounds.

Content of the AAT

28. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed reservation on the need to test pupils’ English language ability in the AAT. He said that since the majority of secondary schools would use the mother-tongue as the medium of instruction in 1998, there was little justification to require all pupils to sit for an English paper in the Test.

29. In response, Mr FUNG Man-ching clarified that the Joint Committee had only recommended the assessment of pupils’ ability in English in the AAT because English was one of the core subjects in primary curriculum and was assessed in the schools’ internal assessment. Mr WU Siu-wai supplemented that the majority of teacher and parent respondents of the survey conducted by the Joint Committee had expressed the same view.

30. On the way forward, the Deputy Chairman suggested that the Administration should conduct a comprehensive review of the SSPA system and abolish the AAT. In reply, DS/E&M (2) informed members that regular reviews had been undertaken on the SSPA system since its implementation. The latest one was being conducted by the relevant Sub-committee of the Board of Education as part of an overall review of the nine-year compulsory education. The concerns and suggestions of the Joint Committee had been forwarded to the Sub-committee for consideration and the public would be consulted on the recommendations of the review in due course.

31. On the suggestion to abolish the AAT, DS/E&M(2) stressed that the Test should be retained as it had functioned as a scaling tool to adjust internal assessments made by schools. Messrs FUNG Man-ching and WU Siu-wai stressed that the Joint Committee was not urging for reinstatement of the SSEE but for improvements to the content and examination questions of the Test.

32. Addressing Dr LAW Cheung-kwok’s concern about the fairness of the SSPA system, AD/A&S assured members that the system was fair as allocation of school places was based on 18 school nets (each with the fair mix of different types of schools), the scaled results of internal assessments in schools, parental choice and a computer generated random number.

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

Legislative Council Secretariat
6 May 1997

Last Updated on 14 August 1998