Panel on Education
FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THE HONG KONG INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION
For Discussion at the Meeting on 21 March 1997
This paper sets out the Administration's response to the points raised in the information paper circulated by the Hon Cheung Man Kwong on the future development of the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd).
2. The paper circulated by the Hon Cheung Man Kwong sets out various concerns and specific recommendations regarding the provision of teacher education by the Institute. These include perceived deficiencies in terms of input (student quality) and process (length of course, staff to student ratio and staff employment and morale). The following paragraphs seek to summarize the main concerns and set out the Administration's response.
GOVERNMENT'S COMMITMENT TO TEACHER EDUCATION
3. The position paper states that the implementation of the recommendations in Education Commission Report (ECR) No. 5 has not met the targets set out in ECR 5 so far because of the delayed introduction of full-time Bachelor of Education (Primary) courses in 1998, with an initial intake of only 30 full-time-equivalent (fte) students. Teacher education remains inadequate because teacher education courses would largely be provided through 2-year Certificate in (Primary) Education CE courses with Form 7 entry. The Government policy to reduce unit costs by 10% over the next triennium would also run counter to the aim laid down in ECR 5 to allow front-end loading for the HKIEd in its initial development stage.
4. The Government is committed to investing heavily in providing quality teacher training which is the foundation for a sound basic education. Steady and good progress has been made in implementing the main recommendations of ECR 5. For instance,
The HKIEd was formally established in April 1994 as an autonomous tertiary institution by merging the former Colleges of Education and the Institute of Language in Education. With effect from 1 July 1996, the Institute has come under the aegis of the University Grants Committee (UGC) and has become an integral part of the academic community at the tertiary level. As a result, the HKIEd is able to benefit from the expertise of the UGC under its well-established monitoring and financial assessment mechanism for tertiary institution. The UGC is in a better position to advise the Government on the future direction of teacher education in the tertiary sector as a whole. We hope that the UGC can nurture the HKIEd and guide it to become a centre of excellence in teacher training. We are spending $2.3 billion in building a new world-class campus for the HKIEd in Tai Po. Our recurrent subvention for teacher education at the Institute this year is around $700 million, covering about 5 000 fte trainee teachers.
5. Following the comprehensive review of higher education in Hong Kong, the UGC suggested, and the Government agreed, that as tertiary education sector enters a consolidation phase, the institutions should be able to focus on measures to improve the efficiency and quality of their existing activities. Having carefully assessed the entire UGC-funded sector, UGC has concluded that institutions can absorb a gross reduction in student unit cost of slightly more than 3% per annum, i.e. a total of 10% reduction in unit cost by the end of the 1998-2001 triennium, without detriment to quality. For instance, institutions could reap benefits of economies of scale and the end of front-end loading to institutions because the tasks associated with expansion no longer have to be performed. There should be opportunities for trimming administration and refining internal procedures. The Government welcomes the UGC's assessment and has accepted in principle the UGC's recommendations that about half of the savings should be retained by the UGC for redistribution to meet new expenditure requirements and encourage special developments, including the further development of areas of excellence, additional quality assurance initiatives, and any necessary institutional restructuring.
6. In the case of the HKIEd, the UGC has recognised the need for front-end loading as the institute is still in its early stage of development. Accordingly, in making recommendations to the Government on the funding requirements of the Institute for the remainder of the current triennium in 1996/97 and 1997/98, the UGC has taken into account the need to allow for front-end loading during HKIEd's developmental stage. The planning parameter of teaching staff to student ratio (SSR) of HKIEd has been allowed to stay at 1:11 in 1996/97 and 1:12 in 1997/98 to allow for front-end loading. The Committee believes that this front-end loading for HKIEd should be sufficient.
ACADEMIC PLANNING FOR THE HKIEd IN NEXT TRIENNIUM
7. It is recommended in the paper that with effect from 1998, the existing Certificate of Education (CE) (F7 entry) courses should be progressively changed to 3-year (F7 entry) Diploma in Education courses to enable students to receive adequate training in academic subjects, language and professional skills. It is also recommended that the existing 3-year (F5 entry) CE courses in technical subjects should be retained or restructured to meet the actual needs. The student number target for Bachelor of Education (BEd) (Primary) courses should be increased from 30 to 150 full-time-equivalent (fte), with subsequent expansion to attract better quality students to join the profession. It is also proposed that there should be expanded provision for Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) (Primary) courses.
8. The UGC is currently reviewing the academic plans of all the UGC-funded institutions, including the HKIEd, for the next triennium 1998 - 2001. The Government has accepted by and large the indicative student number targets recommended by the UGC for all levels for the eight UGC-funded institutions, with the exception of the student number targets at the taught postgraduate level. In the light of the Academic Development Proposals (ADPs) submitted by the HKIEd, the UGC has made adjustments and fine-tuned the recommended student number targets for its various courses. The revised student numbers are subject to the Government's final endorsement in the light of the costed estimates to be submitted in early 1998. The Committee has taken into account the stage of development of the Institute and its academic readiness in offering various courses.
9. The UGC supports in principle the Institute's offering of 30 fte full-time BEd (Primary) places in 1998-99, 90 fte in 1999 - 2000 and 150 fte in 2000 - 2001. The UGC also agrees in principle that the provision of BEd courses by the HKIEd should be progressively increased in the next triennium, at a steady pace to ensure quality. However, the UGC's advice is premised on the successful validation of these BEd courses.
10. Regarding PGDE courses, the UGC has noted that the Institute is currently engaged in wide-ranging reviews covering the course structure and processes of various types of PGDE courses. The Committee therefore considers it appropriate for the Institute to introduce PGDE courses one after another at a steady pace. The general principle that has been agreed with the Institute is that part-time courses should be introduced before the full-time ones because there is a greater perceived demand for part-time courses. The Committee considers it advisable for the Institute to introduce part-time PGDE courses in primary education first, to be followed by those on technical and secondary education. It is necessary to ensure that a new programme is only introduced after an earlier one has proven to be successful. The first full-time PGDE courses should be in primary education which should be introduced in 2000-01. Again, the Committee's advice is premised on the successful validation of the PGDE courses.
11. The UGC has considered the academic merits of the proposal to upgrade the existing 2-year CE (F.7 entry) courses to 3-year (F.7 entry) Diploma in Education courses. The Committee supports in principle the introduction of the Diploma in Education programmes since they primarily aim to improve the academic quality of HKIEd's existing CE programmes. This is in line with the recommendations in ECR 5 that initial teacher training courses in education should be as academically rigorous as sub-degree courses in other disciplines and should provide a good foundation for teachers' subsequent professional development. However, the Committee considers that it is academically better for the HKIEd to offer 4-year Diploma in Education programmes at F5 entry level as the basic design, but an alternative route of entry at F7 level accompanied with advanced standing of one year should be provided. The Committee has also advised the Institute to consider issues such as the viability of the 3-year (F7 entry) Diploma programmes, its attractiveness to students and the impact of the additional level of qualification on the entire teaching profession, in particular the articulation between this Diploma course and other teacher education courses and the salary levels for graduates from the Diploma course. The HKIEd is revising its proposals in the light of UGC's advice and other comments raised by the Administration. The Administration has yet to take a final view on the matter.
TEACHING STAFF TO STUDENT RATIO (SSR)
12. It is recommended in the paper that the need for close supervision over practicum in teacher training should be recognised and accordingly the SSR for pre-service teacher training should be set at 1:11 in order to ensure adequacy both in the quantity and quality of supervision for maintaining professional standards.
13. It can be seen from paragraph 6 above that in assessing the funding requirements for HKIEd, SSR is one of the planning parameters. This parameter, together with other parameters such as the teaching to non-teaching staff ratio and the senior to junior staff ratio, are intended to be parameters for funding assessment, but not necessarily guidelines / standards for the Institute to follow. The SSR will be 1:11 for 1996/97 and 1:12 1997/98. The Institute is expected to achieve the target SSR of 1:14 by the end of the next triennium. It is noted that this ratio has been set by the UGC taking into account the practice in comparable disciplines in other UGC-funded institutions and in comparable overseas institutions, the staffing situation of the UGC-funded institutions, the mix of teaching and non-teaching staff, the "labour-intensive" nature of teacher education and the need for supervision of teaching practice. The various target ratios were derived by the UGC based on a series of discussions and workshop sessions with representatives of the HKIEd during 1996. Whether the SSR for pre-service teacher training courses (as opposed to that for the in-service teacher training courses) should be higher than the overall SSR of 1:14 for the entire Institute would be a matter which the Institute would need to consider.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND PROMOTION PROSPECTS
14. The paper states that the terms and conditions, as well as promotion prospects, of the staff in the HKIEd should not be jeopardised upon the Institute becoming a UGC-funded institution. There should not be unfair dismissal or termination of contract in particular to meet the SSR. The Institute should ensure that contract renewal should be handled in a fair and equitable manner to uphold the sense of belonging and morale of the staff of the Institute.
15. The terms and conditions of service for staff of the UGC-funded institutions are matters for the institutions themselves, provided that they are held close to those in the civil service and are comparable with, and no better than, those of civil service grades of comparable responsibilities. It is important to note that there has not been any wholesale sacking of staff in the Institute since it has come under the aegis of the UGC. The UGC has recently examined a staff establishment restructuring plan put forward by the Institute. The HKIEd intends to achieve the planned SSR progressively in the next triennium by means of natural wastage. The UGC considers the Institute's plan acceptable and has advised the Institute to adhere to it as much as possible.
Education and Manpower Branch
17 February 1997
Last Updated on 14 August 1998