Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)274
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/ED

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 15 August 1997, at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung (Chairman)
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Public officers attending :

    For Items IV to VI

    Mr Raymond YOUNG
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Ms Ellen CHOY
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Mrs Helen C P LAI YU
    Director of Education

    Mr M Y CHENG
    Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support)

    Mr K K CHONG
    Assistant Director of Education (Services)

    Mr K B Wai
    Acting Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research)

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
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)95)

The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 22 July 1997 were confirmed.

II.Date and items for discussion for next meeting

2.Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting to be held on Friday, 19 August 1997, at 10:45 a.m. :

  1. Security measures of the Hong Kong Examinations Authority; and

  2. Moral education in schools.

3.Dr Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin suggested and members agreed to include the subject of admission of students to Form Six in the list of outstanding issues of the Panel for deliberation when the Administration's review on the admission exercise for the 1997-98 school year had been completed.

III.Information papers issued since last meeting

4.Members noted that no information paper had been issued for general information.

IV. Education for new arrival children
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)132(01))

Placement assistance

5.Responding to a member's concern about the inconvenience caused to new arrival children (NAC) as a result of cross-district school placement, the Assistant Director of Education (Services) (AD/Ser) advised that subject to availability of suitable school places, NAC would be referred to schools in their own district. However, due to insufficient places in some districts, NAC might be referred to schools in their neighbouring districts, notably old districts such as Hong Kong East, Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan, where there were vacant places.

6.On the member's suggestion of subsidizing the travelling expenses incurred by NAC, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS/E&M) advised that at present, all children under the age of 12 were entitled to half-fare concessions when travelling on public transport. Parents of NAC with financial difficulties could apply for assistance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme which took into account expenses incurred by their children taking a school bus. Nevertheless, in view of a possible widening of the school net, he said that the Administration was actively considering a proposal to provide a travel subsidy to students below 12 years of age.

Induction and English Extension Programmes

7.Members in general supported the provision of Induction and English Extension Programmes for NAC. On the resources provided to non-governmental organizations for organizing these programmes, AD/Ser confirmed that a block grant of $15,000 was provided for each class which on average comprised 13 students. Financial support for these programmes was considered adequate. As regards the duration of the English Extension Programme, AD/Ser said that the 60-hour programme was considered appropriate as its main purpose was to teach NAC basic skills in learning English. A wide range of supportive and remedial services were available in schools to cater for the special needs of NAC and those with severe learning difficulties. Concerning the effectiveness of the Programme, the Director of Education (D of E) advised that NAC were admitted to different levels of classes according to their standards. The small class size also enabled NAC to receive adequate attention from tutors. Nevertheless, the Administration believed that it would be more effective and beneficial to integrate NAC into local main-stream schools as early as possible.

Education for new arrival children over the age of 15

8.A member expressed concern about the difficulties encountered by NAC over 15 years of age in continuing their studies in local subsidized schools. He pointed out that due to insufficient provision of Secondary 4 (S4) places, NAC who had completed S3 in the Mainland but who had not participated in the Junior Secondary Education Assessment Examination in Hong Kong could not be assessed for the purpose of allocating subsidized S4 places.

9.In response, AD/Ser explained that NAC above 15 years of age could apply for direct admission to S4, or approach the District Education Offices for information and placement assistance. To facilitate consistent assessment of the standard of NAC for admission to S4, the Education Department (ED) would develop standard tests on Chinese and English Languages and Mathematics for use by schools. On other educational services available to NAC aged above 15, D of E said that the ED would assist them in enrolling for prevocational and vocational training courses, as well as adult education courses. Eligible NAC could also apply to sit for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination as private candidates.

School-based Support Programme

10.Some members cast doubt on the cost-effectiveness of providing only a modest block grant under the School-based Support Programme to public-sector schools for organizing support services for NAC. In response, AD/Ser explained that the block grant was provided as an incentive to encourage schools to provide support services to NAC. Schools were given flexibility in the disbursement of the grant, such as for organizing tutorial classes, extra-curricular activities, developing and acquiring special teaching and resource materials. To enhance the cost-effectiveness of school-based services, schools could consider pooling their grants together for the purpose of organizing joint-school services for NAC. Although the grant was only available to public sector schools, the ED would consider extending it to all types of schools at a later stage. In this connection, D of E assured members that the Administration would keep the Programme under review and if justified, consider increasing the amount of block grant.

Measures to meet additional demand for education services

11.Responding to a member's enquiry on the estimated number of NAC from the Mainland in the next two years, D of E clarified that although the estimated number was 66,000 according to the latest confirmation by relevant authorities, only 60% of these children, i.e. about 40,000, would be school entrants. The ED had planned to build at least 16 more schools by the year 2001 to cater for the cumulative demand on school places.

12.The Administration took note of the Chairman's view that apart from press releases, radio announcements and school circulars, educational services available for NAC should also be publicized through TV coverage and other electronic media.

V.Implementation of whole-day primary schooling
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)141)

13.In response to members' enquiries, DS/E&M re-affirmed the Administration's commitment to implementing the policy of whole-day primary schooling and the announced target of increasing the percentage of whole-day primary schools to 48% and the percentage of pupils studying in these schools to 40% by year 2001. The Administration had been making preparations to achieve the target and exploring the feasibility of enhancing it having regard to factors such as the availability of new school sites, the latest population projections based on the 1996 bi-census results and the possible increase in the number of NAC in the next few years. He added that the Administration was considering drawing up a definite implementation timetable for achieving the target. However, due to the aforesaid uncertainties, it would not be practicable now to provide a timetable for the period beyond 2001.

Distribution of whole-day schools by districts

14.On the provision of whole-day primary schools by districts, some members expressed disappointment over the lack of improvement in six districts over the past school year. They pointed out that as districts like Tuen Mun and Sai Kung were in the New Territories, availability of land should not pose a serious problem.

15.In response, the Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support) (AD/A&S) explained as follows :

  1. where circumstances permitted, all new primary schools had been operating on a whole-day basis since 1993. Successful conversion of existing uni-sessional/bi-sessional schools to whole-day operation would have to depend on the demand and supply situation of school places in the district concerned. The need to provide adequate school places to meet the demand of NAC might affect the progress of the conversion programme in certain districts; and

  2. conversion of schools where there was insufficient accommodation would require the building of new schools which took time to complete. Despite the greater availability of land in the New Territories, necessary infrastructural facilities had to be provided and there was also competing demand for land for other development purposes. While more school sites were available in developing new towns such as Ma On Shan, Tseung Kwan O, Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung, there was still a shortfall in other developed areas in the New Territories.

    Possible enhancement of the announced target

16.Some members cautioned that the quality of education and existing improvement programmes, such as the reduction in class size and improvement of teacher to student ratio, should not be compromised as a result of the need to expedite implementation of the policy.

17.In reply, D of E assured members that the Administration would make the best endeavour to avoid causing any adverse effect on other educational improvements. The Administration also briefed members on measures for enhancing the announced target on provision of whole-day primary schooling as follows :

  1. a special working group had been set up under the Education and Manpower Bureau to collaborate with other relevant bureaux and departments in identifying suitable school sites and finding ways to better utilise the existing land resource for schools; and

  2. options being considered included restructuring the school zones so as to re-distribute vacant school places to neighbouring districts with a shortfall; making school designs more land-efficient such as accommodating school facilities less frequently used by students at the upper levels of school premises; developing smaller schools; as well as requiring public and private housing developers to build schools in their housing projects.

In this connection, a member stressed the importance of co-operation among relevant bureaux and departments in resolving the competing demand for land in the next few years for building schools and residential units.

18.Commenting on a member's suggestion of providing incentives to schools and teachers to encourage the conversion of schools to whole-day operation, AD/A&S advised that incentives such as school and class grants, and enhanced provision of teaching staff were provided to converted schools. In this connection, D of E reiterated that it would be more appropriate to effect conversion by encouragement and persuasion and that teachers and schools should recognize the merits of whole-day primary schooling notably a less tight timetable, as well as more time for teacher-student interaction and activities after schools.

VI.Mother-tongue teaching
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)132(02))

19.Referring to resistance from schools and parents to the use of mother-tongue teaching in secondary schools for fear of affecting the reputation of schools and lowering the English standard of students, a member enquired about the Administration's proposed measures to bring about an attitudinal change on the part of schools and parents. In response, D of E made the following points :

  1. it had been the declared Government policy since 1986 to encourage and persuade secondary schools to adopt Chinese as their medium of instruction (MOI). The ED had over the years adopted a series of measures to support schools using Chinese as the MOI. These included providing training for teachers to teach in Chinese and an incentive scheme to encourage publishers to produce quality Chinese textbooks;

  2. the ED would strengthen support measures to schools and continue to re-affirm the merits of mother-tongue teaching as a more effective mode of teaching and learning;

  3. the learning of English in schools remained a Government priority. The ED and relevant bodies would seek to implement the recommendations of the Education Commission Report No. 6 on enhancing students' language proficiency. One of the recommendations was to extend the Native-speaking English Teacher Scheme under which secondary schools were encouraged to employ more qualified native-speaking English teachers to teach English.

(Post-meeting note : Further information on the Scheme was circulated to members after the meeting vide PLC Paper No. CB(1)237.)

20.In outlining educational researches in support of mother-tongue teaching, the Acting Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research) informed members that many research studies world-wide had confirmed the effectiveness of mother-tongue teaching. Local studies also indicated that junior secondary students could learn more effectively through Chinese instead of mixed-code teaching. Research on the performance of candidates of the 1994 Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination showed that those who studied in Chinese-medium schools had achieved better academic results than their counterparts in other schools. The findings of the initial two years of the three-year "Evaluation Study on the Implementation of Medium of Instruction Grouping in Secondary Schools' also revealed that students of Chinese-medium schools performed better in the language-loaded subjects of Geography, History and Science. The findings of various studies were conveyed to schools and teachers through pamphlets.

21.Responding to members' enquiries about the underlying principles and operational arrangements for the issue of the MOI guidance for secondary schools, D of E advised as follows:

  1. starting with the S1 intake of the 1998-99 school year, Chinese would be the basic MOI for all local public sector secondary schools. Unless there was approval from the ED for using English as their MOI, schools should use Chinese as the MOI for all subjects except English Language and other approved subjects in the junior secondary levels. The ED would publish each secondary school's appropriate MOI in the Secondary School Places Allocation School List;

  2. at senior secondary and S6 levels, the MOI policy might be applied with some flexibility. Schools meeting specified requirements might adopt the MOI which best met the needs of their students;

  3. the ED would establish a vetting committee to consider applications from schools to use English as the MOI. The committee would be chaired by a non-official, probably a member of the Board of Education, and consist of two other members, one from the ED and another non-official member. The ED would ensure that operation of the committee was fair and transparent; and

  4. on the criteria for assessing applications, the vetting committee must ensure that the requisite standards on the ability of students and teachers were met before approval was given. Details on the factors for consideration would be prescribed in the MOI guidance. The ED had refrained from estimating the number of schools that would be approved to use English as the MOI.

22.To uphold the Government's language education policy, the Deputy Chairman suggested that proficiency in Chinese Language should be a requisite requirement for civil service appointments. In response, D of E remarked that a qualification in Chinese Language was an entry requirement for the administrative grade and for civil service posts where there was an operational need for proficiency in Chinese.

23.The meeting ended at 12:40 p.m.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
25 September 1997