Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)804/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/ED

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting

held on Monday, 12 October 1998 at 2:00 pm

in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung (Chairman)
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai (Deputy Chairman)
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members Absent :

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum

Members Attending :

Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Joseph W P WONG
Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)

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

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

Mrs Margaret CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (9)

Mrs Helen YU, JP
Director of Education

Mr Anthony TONG
Deputy Director of Education

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General (2)

Mr Stanley MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)6

I. Briefing by the Administration on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1998
[LC Paper No. CB(2)441/98-99]

The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration and invited Secretary for Education and Manpower (SEM) to brief members on the 1998 Policy Objective on education.

2. With the aid of presentational materials, SEM highlighted the main initiatives and programmes on education as described in the booklet on 'Quality Education'. He stressed that despite the economic downturn, education would continue to be the single biggest item of recurrent expenditure in 1999-2000 and that the total recurrent spending on education would increase to almost $44 billion.

Learning through information technology

3. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed disappointment that only 250 posts of information technology (IT) co-ordinators would be created in the next two years, given that there were some 1200 schools in Hong Kong. This meant that only 250 schools (including the 20 schools which had joined the Pilot Scheme) would be provided with an IT coordinator to assist in the implementation of IT in education. He expressed concern that an uneven distribution of resources would further enlarge the disparity of standards among schools. He was of the view that all schools should be treated equally and that each school should be provided with an IT coordinator.

4. SEM responded that while the policy was to encourage all schools to apply IT in education and to provide them with the necessary computer equipment and support services, some schools were more enthusiastic and hence more advanced in the use of IT. To cater for those schools which were capable of applying IT at a faster pace, a Pilot Scheme was introduced whereby the participating schools (10 primary and 10 secondary schools) would be given more resources and support for developing IT applications, with a view that their experience could be shared with other schools at a later stage. SEM stressed that the Administration definitely did not want to widen the disparity of standards in schools. All schools would be encouraged to apply IT in education as soon as possible. However, it was not expected that all schools could make the same progress at the same time, and resources were phased with regard to responses and progress of these schools. Replying to Mr CHEUNG's further question, Director of Education (D of E) clarified that the Administration would give as much assistance as possible to those schools making good progress in IT application, while technical support was also available to all other schools on a regional basis. Staff of the IT Resource Centre would visit schools regularly and give advice on and assistance in IT applications.

5. Mr SZETO Wah enquired whether the Administration had any objective criteria in the provision of IT coordinators to schools. D of E responded that schools would have to forward a plan on its strategy in using IT and each application would be considered on its merits. SEM added that the 250 IT coordinator posts would not be the maximum number. Depending on the readiness and response of schools in the use of IT, he would be prepared to seek more resources for additional posts for IT coordinators where necessary. In this connection, Mr SZETO Wah stressed that the Administration should not leave it to the schools to forward their plans on implementing IT strategy. He considered that a timeframe should be set for implementation.

Tertiary and continuing education

6. Referring to a recent proposal from the heads of the eight University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded tertiary institutions to extend the duration of degree courses from three to four years, Mr SZETO Wah enquired about the Administration's position on the proposal. SEM replied that it was too early for the Administration to take a view on the proposal at the present stage. The Administration would have an overall comprehensive review of the academic structure including tertiary education in Hong Kong. Proposals relating to different stages of academic structure and their interface were being examined by the Education Commission (EC) with the assistance of its two Working Groups, one on Pre-primary and Universal Basic Education and the other on Post-Secondary Three Education.

7. With regard to the freeze of tuition fees in UGC- funded tertiary institutions for the 1998-99 academic year, Prof NG Ching-fai expressed concern that the reduction in resources would hinder the development of tertiary education in areas such as centres of excellence. SEM responded that the Administration and the tertiary institutions had reached an agreement to work towards achieving an overall 10% saving in student unit costs during the 1998/99 to 2000/21 triennium, and that 50% of the savings would be retained by the institutions for developing centres of excellence. SEM referred to his reply on the same subject at a recent meeting of the Legislative Council. As UGC was now examining proposals from institutions in this respect, the Administration would brief members further on the progress after receiving UGC's recommendations. If necessary, the Administration might consider providing additional resources to the tertiary institutions.Adm

8. On the future policy direction of enhancing continuous education, SEM said that the Administration would continue to encourage tertiary institutions to develop continuous education. In addition to resources allocated to tertiary institutions, the non-means tested student loan scheme had recently been extended to students of the Open University of Hong Kong and part-time students pursuing public-funded programmes at tertiary level. This would enable more students to continue their education after leaving school.

Private school policy

9. On the various measures to facilitate the development of private school sector, Mr TSANG Yok-shing asked the Administration what would be the response of the education sector towards the proposed provision of land at nominal premium for non-profit-making private schools and the allocation of government-built school premises for new private schools joining the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS). On the latter proposal, he asked whether it would be consistent with the objective of having DSS schools if they were to adopt standard government school design.

10. SEM responded that the Administration had informally consulted sponsors of private schools and other educational bodies and the initial response was favourable. Details of implementation were now under discussion and he would consult the Panel at a later stage. While the initial thinking was that two or three pieces of land could, on a pilot basis, be allocated to private schools, the Administration would be prepared to consider allocating more land for this purpose if there was greater demand. As regards the differences between DSS schools and aided schools, SEM pointed out that DSS schools would have a greater degree of management independence including freedom in the design of curriculum, and in determining the level of school fees and entrance requirements, etc.Adm

Primary schools

11. Ms Emily LAU expressed concern that there was no proposal in the Policy Objective of the Education and Manpower Bureau on reducing the class size of primary schools. Considering that the large class size of primary schools would have adverse impact on the quality of education in schools, she urged the Government to set a timetable for early implementation of reduction of class size in primary schools. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong also considered the progress in reduction of class size unsatisfactory. He said that since there was less demand for land during the economic downturn, the Government should provide more land for building new primary schools so that implementation of whole-day primary schooling and reduction of class size could progress simultaneously.

12. SEM responded that the Administration was faced with a difficult policy decision in prioritizing resources for implementing whole-day primary schooling and adjusting the class size in primary schools. On whole-day primary schooling, substantial progress had been made in meeting the target of having 60% of primary school children attending whole-day classes by 2002. As regards the target of having virtually all primary students studying whole-day schools by the academic year 2007/08, Government ability to meet this target would very much depend on availability of suitable school sites in the districts and changes in population growth in the next decade. Despite the economic downturn, the Administration had provided more resources for improving the quality of education. In recognition of the importance of whole-day primary schooling and its overall educational benefits, the Administration had decided to give more priority to whole-day primary schooling by slightly slowing down the progress of reducing the class size in primary schools as a temporary measure. D of E added that due to implementation of whole-day schooling, the Administration had adjusted the target of reducing class size from 40 to 37 instead of from 40 to 35 in primary schools as an interim measure. Nevertheless, if taking into account of schools adopting the activities approach, the average class size in primary schools was about 34.5 rather than 37.

13. SEM stressed that this was a pragmatic approach to balance the various priorities and the Administration would keep the situation under review and re-adjust the class size as soon as possible. In the immediate future, the Administration would endeavour to acquire additional school sites to accelerate the progress of whole-day primary schooling.

Training of teachers

14. The Chairman enquired about the progress and implementation timetable for achieving the policy objective of requiring all new teachers to have a degree in education. SEM replied that the Administration had planned to progressively upgrade the 2 400 sub-degree pre -service teacher training places to degree level or above at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) or other tertiary institutions. As a first step, some 900 sub-degree places would be upgraded to degree level or above from the 1998-2001 triennium, and the reduction would be met by a corresponding increase in training places at degree level or above. In consultation with the HKIEd and UGC, EMB would determine the number of sub-degree places to be upgraded in the next triennium (2001-2004). The Administration would keep the situation under review.


15. Miss CHOY So-yuk expressed concern about the small amount of subsidy to kindergartens and asked if the Administration would increase the subsidy so that more kindergartens could achieve the target of having 60% of teachers to be Qualified Kindergarten Teachers (QKT) by September 2000, without increasing the tuition fees. SEM said that starting from this year, the Administration had increased the subsidy to kindergartens and more than 80% of the kindergartens had exceeded the current standard of having 40% of the teachers being QKT. The Education Commission and the ED would follow up on the remaining 18% of kindergartens and examine what further improvements could be made. The Administration would also consult the Education Panel on the improvement proposals in due course.Adm

Design of schools

16. Some members expressed disappointment at the lack of space and facilities in schools for achieving quality education. Inadequacy of resources had limited the benefits to be derived from whole-day primary schooling, for example, insufficient space would hinder the development of sports and other interests such as music, art and craft. They therefore urged the Administration to make available sufficient space and resources for new schools to facilitate the development of an all-round education.

17. SEM responded that the Administration fully recognized the benefits of whole-day primary schooling and would make the best efforts to provide a quality learning environment conducive to all-round development of students. In this connection, tertiary institutions had introduced a pilot scheme from the 1998-99 academic year to admit a certain number of students who had outstanding achievements in areas other than academic subjects. D of E added that the Board of Education had discussed the issue and supported allocating more time in the normal curriculum and providing more space for extra-curricular activities to facilitate all-round development of students in whole-day primary schools.

18. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration for the briefing.

19. The meeting ended at 3:10 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
4 December 1998