Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)464
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/ED

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 17 October 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 David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam

Public officers attending :
For Items IV to VI

Mr Raymond YOUNG
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)

Mr Joseph LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (3)

Ms Ellen CHOY
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Helen C P LAI YU
Director of Education

For Item IV

Mr Anthony K H TONG
Senior Assistant Director of Education

For Item V

Assistant Director of Education (Schools)

For Item VI

Chief Executive Curriculum Development Institute

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance :

Ms Sarah YUEN
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4

I.Confirmation of minutes of meetings and matters arising
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(1)274 and 315)

The minutes of the Panel meetings held on 15 August and 19 September 1997 were confirmed.

II.Date and items for discussion for next meeting

2.Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting to be held on Friday, 21 November 1997, at 10:45 a.m. -

  1. Admission procedures for Secondary 6 students; and

  2. Educational exchanges between Hong Kong and the Mainland.

3.The Chairman urged the Administration to provide information papers well in advance of the meeting for members' timely perusal. The Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2) (DS/E&M2) assured members that the Administration would make the best endeavour to submit papers early.

III.Information papers issued since last meeting
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)294)

4.Members noted that an information paper and the Education Commission Report No. 7 (ECR 7) on Quality School Education had been issued for their information.

IV.Education on information superhighway
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)324(01) and information paper from the Administration tabled at the meeting and circulated to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(1)357)

5.DS/E&M2 informed members that the Administration was formulating a strategy for the application of information technology (IT) in education for the coming five to ten years. The Administration would also introduce new initiatives in the following year. Such new moves included plans to increase the number of computers in each primary school from 15 to an average of 40 and in each secondary school, from 20 to an average of 82; the provision of IT training to over 30,000 teachers; as well as the use of IT as teaching tools in at least 25% of the curriculum within five years.

6.Members in general supported the enhanced application of IT in education. They however doubted if the Education Department (ED), schools and teachers were well-equipped to proceed with the implementation of the plans highlighted by the Administration. They cautioned against a hasty and rigid approach and emphasised the importance of quality over rapid pace and the need to exercise flexibility where necessary. In response, the Administration stressed that it had adopted a relatively aggressive approach so as to catch up with international standards and developments.

Installation and maintenance of computers

7.Addressing members' concern about the availability of space in schools to accommodate the sharply increased provision of computers, the Administration reported that the Administration was working closely with relevant departments to expedite the School Improvement Programme to provide a computer-assisted learning room to every school as soon as practicable. Schools also had the flexibility to install computers in classrooms or special rooms, or to purchase notebook computers to suit their individual needs. Members noted that a computer-assisted learning room would be a standard provision in some of the new schools completed in 1999, and in all those completed in 2000 or beyond. They also noted that to expedite the purchasing procedure, the Administration would consider allowing schools the option to purchase computers on their own or through the Administration. Notwithstanding, the Administration pointed out that they would continue to play a pivotal role in the purchase of computers and would work to ensure compatibility of equipment to facilitate the connection of schools to the Internet and the Intranet.

8.As for maintenance of computers, the Administration advised that tenders would be invited from contractors to undertake such work.

Training for teachers

9.As regards training in IT for teachers, the Administration explained that a variety of approaches would be adopted in consultation with schools. The ED might arrange for computer vendors to provide basic computer training for teachers, allow schools to conduct their own training programmes, or enlist the assistance of tertiary institutions and other non-profit-making organisations such as the Hong Kong Productivity Council and technical institutes in organising IT training courses. Members noted the Administration's plan to tie in training programmes with the schedule of computer installation with a view to completing training for teachers within six months after the installation of computers in their schools. To meet future needs, the Administration was asking teacher training institutions to make IT training an integral part of their pre-service training programmes.

10.Commenting on a member's proposal to schedule teacher training in the summer holidays so as to minimise the disruption to teaching, representatives of ED emphasised that training in IT for teachers should be regarded as part of the effort to continually develop teachers to bring about value-added performance in future. While schools were at liberty to schedule their teacher training programmes, the Administration also pointed out that with the assistance of supply teachers and other relief measures such as the provision of additional clerical support and one additional teacher in primary schools to handle library-related duties, normal teaching and teachers' workload should not be unduly affected.

Supporting resources for application of IT in education

11.As for support services for schools and teachers, members noted that an IT Education Resource Centre would be set up to provide professional and technical support to all schools, including a 24-hour hotline enquiry service, development of teaching packages and library services. They further learnt that the Centre would also serve as a venue for teachers to meet and exchange experience in the application of IT in education, and that regional support teams would be set up to provide technical assistance to schools.

12.As regards the availability of educational software to support teaching through IT, the Administration was confident that more local educational software packages would be developed and made available on the market as the demand for these products grew. It would also conduct research and recruit staff to develop educational software.

13.In conclusion, the Administration reiterated that as computer technology had already become a part of modern life, IT would be an integral part of quality education in the next century. They assured members that the ED was examining the most appropriate mode of implementation of its proposed strategy, having due regard to local needs and overseas experience. Members also noted that to ensure effectiveness, the Administration would introduce a pilot scheme involving some 20 schools to establish the best practices for IT applications in teaching and learning and would take into account views collected during the public consultation exercise on the proposed long-term strategy before finalising the way forward.

V.Native-speaking English Teachers Scheme

14.The Chairman explained that this item had been urgently included into the agenda in view of the grave concerns expressed by some members and the community at large.

15.At the Chairman's invitation, DS/E&M2 briefed members on the new Native-speaking English Teachers (NETs) Scheme to provide more than 700 additional NETs for secondary schools. He stressed the need for the new Scheme to supplement the supply of well-qualified local English teachers.

General views

16.Members had divided views on the Scheme. Mr IP Kwok-him opined that there was no need to recruit overseas as local supply could meet the demand for qualified English teachers. Moreover, apart from language proficiency, a sound understanding of local students' language learning needs and problems was also very important and local teachers would be in a better position to handle these problems.

17.Mr CHU Yu-lin, Mrs Peggy LAM and Mr MA Fung-kwok, on the other hand, welcomed the Scheme and felt that the recruitment of native-speaking teachers could help enhance local students' English standard and alleviate resistance from schools and parents to the use of mother-tongue teaching. In this regard, they stressed the importance of ensuring that all schools could benefit from the Scheme at the same time. Dr LAW Cheung-kwok supported the scheme in principle but urged the Administration to exercise caution when implementing the Scheme.

18.In response, the Assistant Director of Education (Schools) (AD of E(S)) advised members that every secondary school would be provided with one NET on top of their present establishment and those adopting Chinese as the medium of instruction would be encouraged to use one of their additional posts to recruit one more NET. With a world-wide recruitment exercise to be launched with the assistance of recruitment experts, the target was for some 700 NETs to be recruited before the following school year. Schools or their sponsors would be free to recruit their own NETs on the basis of similar requirements and standards.

Effectiveness of the Scheme

19.To ensure that the Scheme would succeed, some members urged the Administration to adopt stringent recruitment criteria to ensure that only the best teachers would be recruited. They also opined that NETs should be assisted to adapt to the local environment so that they could perform their role well and complete their contract. While NETs' expertise should be fully utilized, care should be taken so as not to cause resentment from local teachers. In the long run, a member suggested that overseas training should be provided to local teachers to boost local supply of English teachers and reduce reliance on the Scheme.

20.As regards NETs' qualifications, the Administration assured members that the criteria would be stringent, and that all NETs recruited under the Scheme were required to have native-speaking competence with relevant teaching qualifications and experience, including those in teaching English as a second language.

21.On NETs' adaptation to the local environment, AD of E(S) pointed out that there were plans to organise induction programmes for them. He added that the employment of NETs on two-year contracts with an end-of-contract gratuity amounting to 25% of total wages paid would also help to retain NETs on the job.

22.In response to some members' proposal to require NETs to help in developing school-based curriculum and even in training local teachers, the Administration advised that it was also their plan to deploy NETs as resource teachers to help develop curriculum and solve problems in English teaching. However, they had reservations on asking NETs to train local teachers as local teachers might not welcome the idea. Since schools had full autonomy in deploying NETs according to their needs, the Administration undertook to relay members' suggestions to them.

23.Agreeing with members that care should be taken not to cause resentment from local teachers so as to facilitate NETs' integration into their schools, AD of E(S) also pointed out that as the existing establishment of schools would not be affected as it would be an additional NET with an extra post and that the NETs were on contract terms. They would not jeopardise the promotion prospects of local teachers or cause undue competition and resentment. The D of E also cited examples that some local teachers in fact supported the Scheme and welcomed NETs' contribution to the school.

24.Referring to a member's proposal to provide overseas training to local teachers, representatives of the Administration reported that overseas immersion course in the UK was part of a retraining course already available for serving teachers. They also assured members that the Administration had exhausted local resources before deciding to recruit NETs overseas and that the Scheme would be reviewed in five years' time.

Terms and conditions of employment of NETs

25.Representatives of the Administration explained that in view of NETs' need to relocate to Hong Kong, the Administration had proposed to provide NETs with a housing allowance of about $20,000 a month in addition to their basic salary. The Administration believed that the housing allowance, which would pay for their accommodation while working in Hong Kong, should help to attract more high calibre candidates.

26.Members had divided views on the proposal to provide NETs with housing allowance. Mr CHU Yu-lin, Mrs Peggy LAM and Mr MA Fung-kwok supported the provision of housing allowance to attract more talent. Mrs Peggy LAM opined that while $20,000 per month would suffice for unmarried teachers, a higher amount of allowance should be payable to NETs relocating to Hong Kong with their families. Messrs Andrew WONG and IP Kwok-him did not support the proposed housing allowance and expressed concern about the discrepancies in the employment conditions between local and expatriate teachers. They cautioned about possible discontent among local English teachers and argued that the different remuneration package was incompatible with the Government's localisation policy which had apparently abolished the practice of offering expatriate civil servants better terms of service. In their view, the Government should assign special contracts for the NETs instead of reinstating the old practice of offering more favourable terms.

27.In response, the Administration clarified that NETs were employed on fixed-term contracts and even if they taught in Government schools, they were not civil servants. The Administration had no plan to engage them on special contracts because the Scheme itself was subject to review. They also highlighted the difficulties the Administration had encountered in recruiting NETs on local terms and without the proposed housing allowance. Members noted that in the Scheme's recruitment exercise in 1996, only 12 NETs, which fell far short of the target of 100, had been recruited.

28.While commenting on the terms and conditions of employment of NETs, Professor NG Ching-fai, also questioned the appropriateness of setting the gratuity for NETs at 25% of the total wages paid when that for university staff was only 15%. DS/E&M2 emphasised that details on the NETs' terms and conditions of employment were still under consideration and had not yet been finalised.

VI.Issues related to the Curriculum Development Institute
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)324(03)

29.A member opined that the present school curriculum was too diverse and overloaded. In his view, the objective of education should be the implementation of a balanced and updated curriculum to enable students to learn pleasurably and effectively. Outdated materials should therefore be scrapped so as to keep the curriculum lean.

30.In response, the Chief Executive, Curriculum Development Institute (CE/CDI) advised that the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) was constantly reviewing the curriculum to ensure that it was balanced and could best meet the needs of schools and the society. He also informed members that in accordance with the recommendations of ECR 7, the CDI was providing various forms of assistance to enable schools to develop a school-based curriculum with a view to enhancing teaching and learning effectiveness. D of E supplemented that the Administration had always been vigilant over the creation of new subjects. For example, instead of creating a new subject of 'moral education', an integrated approach in implementing civic education was advocated. D of E and CE/CDI confirmed that by comparison with neighbouring regions, the local curriculum was already balanced and not particularly substantial.

31.D of E reaffirmed the Administration's commitment to the implementation of whole-person education. She attributed students' heavy workload to over-emphasis on the part of schools and parents on achievements in public examinations. To relieve students' burden, she pointed out that there was a need to bring about an attitudinal change in the community at large and to persuade employers and tertiary institutions to adjust their recruitment and admission criteria.

32.In reply to enquiries on the CDI's work in relation to textbook review, representatives of the Administration advised that only textbooks that could meet the requirements of the syllabuses would be included in ED's recommended book-lists. Members noted that although the lists were not binding on schools, schools tended to choose the textbooks listed therein. CE/CDI further confirmed that the CDI also developed and reviewed syllabuses for different subjects from time to time.

33.Concerning the future role of CDI, D of E reported that as recommended in ECR 7, the Administration was presently conducting a review of the role of the CDI and the Curriculum Development Council, and their relationship with the Hong Kong Examinations Authority and other education-related advisory bodies.

34.The meeting ended at 12:45 p.m.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
13 November 1997