Educational Exchanges Between Hong Kong and the Mainland
This paper outlines the exchanges on education between Hong Kong and the Mainland in recent years and the role played by the Education Department.
2.Educational exchanges between Hong Kong and the Mainland have been on the increase in recent years. Through the exchange activities, the education community in both regions can exchange information and experiences as well as understand the practices and characteristics of each other's education system. Such exchanges enable both parties to learn from each other and strengthen cooperation to develop education. These activities also promote communications among educational institutions in the two regions and help lay a solid foundation for future exchanges.
3.International exchanges always play an important role in tertiary education. In recent years, these exchange activities include visits, tours, student exchange programmes, co-operation plans, training courses, seminars, conferences and exhibitions. Details are listed in Annex I.
4.With regard to basic education, the exchange activities include visits, tour, discussion meetings, seminars, training courses for teachers and student competitions. Details are described in the ensuing paragraphs.
Role of the Education Department
5.Besides conducting direct exchanges with institutions in the Mainland, the Education Department (ED) also encourages and supports schools to participate in various educational exchange activities. Details are as follows :
Exchanges with Mainland conducted by educational and other organizations
- Exchanges with educational institutions in the Mainland
Bilateral visits are conducted between various sections of ED and the educational institutions in the Mainland from time to time. The scope for exchanges are multifarious, ranging from curriculum development, teacher training to supportive services for students. With particular interest in the development of Hong Kong's information systems in schools and the school places allocation systems, delegates from various provincial and municipal education authorities have paid visits to ED to discuss these areas of work. Representatives from ED attended an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Education Forum held in Guilin in April 1997. At the invitation of the State Education Commission, the Board of Education visited a number of education authorities and schools in Beijing and Shanghai in May 1997, with the Director of Education among the delegates. Bilateral visits between ED and the Mainland in the 1995/96 and 1996/97 school years are detailed in Annex II.
- Co-operation with Mainland educational institutions in organising exchange activities
Students' participation in educational exchanges in the Mainland not only enriches their knowledge of the culture, geography and history of China, but also enhances civic education and their proficiency in Putonghua. Conversely, by participating in exchanges in Hong Kong, students from the Mainland can know more about the territory. In the past few years, ED has organised student activities with Mainland institutions, such as visits to Beijing for the Community Youth Club members; schools interport sports competitions and nation-wide computer software competitions for the youth. Besides planning and co-ordination work, ED also contributes part of the funding for the activities.
Apart from student activities, ED also assists teachers and Mainland institutions to organise experience-sharing sessions, exhibitions and workshops through the Hong Kong Teachers' Centre. In addition to the provision of venues, equipment and manpower, ED shares part of costs.
During July and August 1996, ED and the State Language Commission's Centre for Testing Putonghua Teachers and Speakers organised an Advanced Putonghua Course for Hong Kong Teachers. The Course, sponsored by the Language Fund, was the first teacher training course jointly organised by ED and a Mainland authority.
A list of the exchange activities jointly organised by ED and educational institutions in the Mainland in the 1995/96 and 1996/97 school years are at Annex III.
- Support to teachers and students who join the exchanges
When joining exchange activities, school heads and teachers of aided schools may apply to ED for paid leave according to the provisions under the Codes of Aid. ED has also arranged for all aided and caput schools a Block Insurance Policy covering public liability, personal accidents to students and employees' compensation risks. The Policy covers all school activities and activities approved by ED. Teachers and students who take part in exchanges organised by their schools are in general covered under the Policy. Besides, schools can apply to ED for subsidies to cover the necessary expenses. Such subsidies will depend on the nature of activities and the representativeness of the teachers and students concerned.
6.Many educational bodies such as the Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, Subsidised Primary Schools Council, the Committee on Respect Our Teachers Campaign and the Soong Ching Ling Children's Foundation Limited have organised exchanges for school heads, teachers, students and parents of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong. In addition, individual educational bodies, social organisations and schools also co-organize activities with institutions in the Mainland. One of the examples is the " Education and Relief Fund " . Initiated by the Sing Tao Daily, Union of Heads of Aided Primary Schools of Hong Kong and Government Educational Staff Union, the Fund gives assistance to provision of basic education in the remote areas of Guangdong. Another recent exchange activity is the 'Chinese Gardener Scheme' which is jointly organised by the China Education Association for International Exchanges and various educational bodies in Hong Kong every year. It attracts active participation of education professionals from Hong Kong and the Mainland. Exchanges between some educational bodies in Hong Kong and the Mainland since the 1995/96 school year are at Annex IV.
Difficulties in organising educational exchanges and measures to tackle them
7.As the education system and structure in the Mainland and Hong Kong are different and that there are a large number of educational authorities in the Mainland, educational institutions in Hong Kong may find it difficult sometimes to identify the appropriate counterpart and establish the right channel for communication when they organise joint activities with Mainland institutions or arrange visits and exchanges to the Mainland/Hong Kong. ED will seek assistance or referral from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council where necessary.
8.Educational organisations in the Mainland, particularly those outside Guangdong Province, invariably adopt Putonghua as the language for communication. Sometimes, language may pose a barrier to communication during educational exchanges. However, with more frequent exchanges and more people learning Putonghua, the problem has been alleviated. Putonghua is being promoted in local primary and secondary schools and will become one of the core subjects in Primary 1, Secondary 1 and Secondary 4 curriculum in the 1998/99 school year.
9.We recommend schools and educational bodies in Hong Kong to maintain close contact with host organisations in the Mainland and take appropriate safety measures when they arrange visits to the Mainland.