LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1870/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by
the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 23 May 1997, at 10:30 am in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Dr Hon CHEUNG Bing-leung (Chairman)
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP

Public officers attending :

    For Item IV, V and VI

    Mr Raymond YOUNG
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Miss Annette LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

    For Item V and VI

    Mrs Helen C P Lai YU, OBE, JP
    Director of Education

    Mr C K TAM
    Assistant Director (Schools)

    For Item VI

    Mr LI Kok-ming
    Chief Social Security Officer

    Ms Y H WONG
    Deputy Controller

    Student Financial Assistant Agency

    For Item VII

    Ms Michelle LI
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Attendance by Invitation :

    For Item IV

    Sub-committee on Review of School Education

    Mr Isaac TSE Pak-hoi

    Mr PUN Tin-chi

    Mr LEUNG Siu-tong

    Mr LO Kwan-hung
    Senior Education Officer (Compulsory Education Review)

    For Item V

    Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union

    Mr PUN Tin-chi
    Vice-President (Internal Affairs)

    Mr LEUNG Kan-yuen
    Chief Treasurer

    Mr LAM Shu-wing
    Director, Education Research Department

    Miss LI Kwan-yee
    Senior Staff

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance :

    Miss Connie FUNG
    Assistant Legal Adviser 3

    Mr Stephen LAM
    Assistant Legal Adviser 4

    Ms Karen WONG
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)9

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1396/96-97)

The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 21 March 1997 were confirmed.

II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting scheduled for Friday, 20 June 1997, at 10:30 am:

(a) education on information super-highway; and

(b) contagious diseases in schools.

III.Information papers issued since last meeting

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

IV.Review on nine-year compulsory education

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1538/96-97 and CB(1)1658/96-97(01))

4. The Chairman welcomed representatives from the Administration and the Sub-committee on Review of School Education (the Sub-committee) of the Board of Education.

5. At the Chairman's invitation, Mr Isaac TSE Pak-hoi briefed the meeting on salient points of the Report on Review of 9-year Compulsory Education (the Report). In the ensuing meeting, members deliberated on the following issues.

Promotion of aesthetic and cultural values and physical development of pupils

6. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong considered that the report had focused mainly on helping pupils with learning difficulties. He enquired about proposals to help promote pupils' aesthetic and cultural values, as well as the development of their physical well-being, both of which were also the aims of nine-year compulsory education. In reply, Mr Isaac TSE Pak-hoi said that since there was a wide range of aims, schools had to adjust their curriculum with due regard to their resources so as to implement specific aims successfully.

7. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong further pointed out that pupils tended to give up physical trainings or other cultural development activities at senior primary level in preparation for the Academic Aptitude Test (AAT). He doubted that the proposed Academic Ability Assessment (AAA) could solve the problem and suggested that the Sub-committee should consider changing the secondary school places allocation system so that pupils could be allocated to secondary schools direct from primary schools. In this way, pupils could have more time for diversified development. Both Mr PUN Tin-chi and Mr Isaac TSE Pak-hoi agreed that the crux of the problem was the washback effects of the present allocation system and Mr CHEUNG's suggestion could be a long term goal. Mr LEUNG Siu-tong remarked that some recommendations for promoting aesthetic and cultural values had been included under section 4.27 of the report and members were welcomed to give their views on the issue.

Side effects of the proposed Academic Ability Assessment

8. Mr YEUNG Sum was concerned about replacement of the AAT by the AAA which would continue to put pressure on pupils. He cautioned that the AAA might become another form of Secondary School Entrance Examination.

9. In response, Mr Isaac TSE Pak-hoi explained that when the proposed AAA was in place, sample items of the assessment papers would be made public periodically so that teachers would know the latest types and format of the test items in the scaling test. In this way, teachers and pupils could prepare properly for the expected learning goals instead of speculating on the content of the tests. He also clarified that the AAA aimed at assessing pupils' higher-order thinking ability rather than the content of the curriculum.

10. Mr LEUNG Siu-tong supplemented that as research was now being conducted on the assessment of higher-order thinking of pupils, it might be premature to speculate on the side effects of the AAA at this stage.

Proposed amendment to section 74(3)(c)(i) of the Education Ordinance

11. Mr IP Kwok-him was concerned that the proposed amendment, which provided that compulsory schooling was not applicable if a pupil had completed Secondary 3 or had attained the age of 15 whichever was earlier, would restrict the number of times that the pupils could repeat in their schools. In response, Mr TSE explained that the recommendations in the report would in effect allow pupils in primary schools to repeat for more times if considered necessary by the school principal. Mr PUN Tin-chi pointed out that allowing pupils to repeat several times might not help them improve their academic performance because the age difference in the class might bring about adverse social and psychological effects.

12. Mr SZETO Wah and Mr YEUNG Sum agreed that the policy for repeaters must be handled carefully in view of the negative impact which unlimited or limited times of repetition would have on pupils.

13. Summing up, the Chairman re-capitulated the following points:

  1. pupils' aesthetic and cultural values and the development of their physical well-being during nine-year compulsory education should be enhanced;

  2. the proposed AAA might not be the best alternative for the existing AAT; and

  3. the policy on repeaters should be carefully examined.

V.Provident fund schemes for grant schools and subsidized schools

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1658/96-97(02) and (03), CB(1)1673/96-97(01) and LegCo Brief Ref: EMBCR43/2041/75, issued by the Administration on 14 May 1997))

14. The Chairman welcomed representatives from the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU). Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong declared interest as Chairman of the HKPTU.

15. At the Chairman's invitation, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong and Mr PUN Tin-chi highlighted the major points of the HKPTU's submission. The Union was gravely concerned about withdrawal of Government contributions when a teacher was dismissed as a result of conviction of an offence. They considered this a form of double penalty for the teacher. To ensure fairness, the Union urged the Administration to repeal Rule 13(2A)(b) of the Grant Schools Provident Fund Rules (GSPFR) and the Subsidized Schools Provident Fund Rules (SSPFR).

16. Referring to the legal advice given to the Government, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS(EM)) supplemented that the existing arrangement was in line with that under the Civil Service Regulations. As regards the practice in the private sector, the Director of Education (D of E) remarked that it was inappropriate to draw such a comparison as Government contributions to the Provident Fund were in fact taxpayers' money and their uses must be justified and reasonable.

17. In response to members', the Assistant Director (Schools) (AD(S)) clarified that in the past ten years, the Government had withheld contributions in 20 cases which involved conviction of offences or professional misconduct. Members asked whether the seriousness of the conviction would affect the Government's decision on withdrawal of contributions. D of E reiterated that she would examine each case carefully before exercising the discretionary powers of withholding Government contributions. Members suggested that the relevant Rules should be suitably amended so that the criteria for D of E's exercise of discretion would be clearer. The Administration agreed to consider members' suggestion. EMB/ED

18. In reply to members, Assistant Legal Adviser 3 clarified that under the existing rule 13(2A) of the two sets of Rules, Government could withdraw its contributions if a teacher ceased to be employed on the ground of compulsory retirement, dismissal or termination of contract due to professional misconduct or conviction of an offence. She further clarified if a civil servant was required to retire compulsorily, the Government could exercise discretion to release pension to the retired servant. Mr CHEUNG commented that the GSPFR and the SSPFR should be amended to be in line with the Civil Service Regulations.

19. Members nevertheless supported the Administration's recommendation to the Boards of Control of the two Provident Funds to introduce an appeal mechanism in respect of the decision of the D of E on withholding Government contributions.

VI.Safety provisions of school transport

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1658/96-97(04))

20. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong was concerned that under the existing policy, pupils under the age of 12 were not entitled to any travel subsidy apart from half-fare concessions on public transport. In practice, however, most of these young pupils took school buses instead of public transport and could not therefore benefit from the concessions. In response, DS(EM) said that families with financial difficulties could apply for assistance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme which provided a special grant payable in full to cover kindergarten and primary school pupils taking school bus. Besides, as the provision of kindergarten and primary school places in each district was generally adequate, parents could send their children to schools near their home. Members, however, were of the view that the Student Travel Subsidy Scheme available to children above 12 should apply to all children including those below 12, regardless of whether their family was eligible for CSSA. They urged the Administration to seriously re-consider its policy stance. Members requested the Administration to revert to the Panel at the next meeting if possible. EMB

VII.Briefing on the Non-local Higher and Professional Education (Regulation) Rules (the Regulation Rules) and the Non-local Higher and Professional Education (Appeal Board) Rules (the Appeal Board Rules)

(LegCo Brief issued by the Administration on 16 May 1997)

21. At the Chairman's invitation, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS(EM)) highlighted that under the Non-local Higher and Professional Education (Regulation) Ordinance (the Ordinance), any courses conducted in Hong Kong leading to the award of any non-local higher academic or professional qualifications should apply for registration. However, any course conducted in collaboration with a specified local institute of higher education would be exempted from registration if the executive head of the local institute of higher education certified that the course was a collaborative venture and met the standard requirement of a registered course. The Regulation Rules and the Appeal Board Rules were proposed under the Ordinance to regulate certain operational aspects of registered and exempted courses including advertisement, premises in which courses were conducted, refund of fees and appeals. After the briefing by PAS(EM), members focused their deliberations on the Regulation Rules.

22. According to the Administration's proposal, there was a grace period of six months for the courses to register and members were concerned about possible control over the courses during this period. PAS(EM) replied that they would launch large-scale publicity advising consumers to choose those registered or exempted courses.

23. In reply to members, PAS(EM) clarified that purely distance learning courses with examinations held outside Hong Kong were not required to be registered under the Ordinance but the advertisements of these courses would be subject to control.

24. Members were concerned with the difficulty in regulating the advertisements of distance learning courses as the course operators were usually based overseas and persons who issued advertisements in Hong Kong would likely be agents who did not have much knowledge about the courses. PAS(EM) clarified that under the proposed Regulation Rules, any person who published or caused to be published any advertisement with false or misleading information would commit an offence but it would be a defence if the person could prove that he had no reason to believe that publishing the advertisement would contravene the Rules or that he had taken all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid contravention.

25. Members anticipated difficulties in enforcement and prosecution and suggested that there should be a responsible person based in Hong Kong for each distance learning course. Some members also recommended that a message should be included in the advertisements of these courses urging caution on the part of prospective course participants as taking unregistered courses would not be protected by the Regulation Rules. The Administration agreed to consider the suggestion. EMB

26. In reply to members' question on whether the person who published advertisements with false or misleading information would be liable to claims for civil damages, the Assistant Legal Adviser 4 confirmed that there was no provision on civil damages in the Rules. Members nevertheless reiterated the importance of designating a legally responsible person in Hong Kong for distance learning courses to whom civil claims could be directed.

27. The meeting ended at 12:45 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat

17 June 1997

Last Updated on 14 August 1998