Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)1003/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/ED

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 26 October 1998 at 4:30 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 LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Member Absent :

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP

Member Attending :

Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Item III

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
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

Assistant Director of Education (Information Systems)

Item IV

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
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

Assistant Director of Education (Planning & Research)

Item V

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Margaret CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Helen C P LAI YU
Director of Education

Mr Albert K W WONG
Senior Inspector (Special Schools Planning)

Attendance by Invitation :

Item V

Hong Kong Special Schools Council

Mrs Laura LING

Mr Andrew TSE
Honorary Secretary

The Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network

Ms HO Shuk-yi
Registered Social Worker

Ms NG Yuk-mun
Community Physiotherapist

Mr MAK Yan-wing
Mr TANG Tim-wing
Mrs CHAU CHAN Hung-mui
Mr YEUNG Ka-wai

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Stanley MA
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I. Confirmation of minutes
[LC Paper No. CB(2)461/98-99]

The minutes of meeting held on 11 September 1998 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
[Paper No. CB(2)473/98-99(01)]

2. The Chairman informed members that, at the request of the Administration, a special meeting had been scheduled for 2 November 1998 to discuss a financial proposal on the flexibility for schools in acquisition of IT facilities and services.

3. Members also agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting scheduled for 16 November 1998 -

  1. Incorporation of school-based assessment into the Hong Kong Certificate of Education and the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations;

  2. Furniture and Equipment Grants for aided schools; and

  3. Teaching of English language in schools.

Mr Andrew WONG suggested that discussion of (b) should include the various grants for furniture and equipment in aided schools under the Code of Aid. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that he was concerned about the reasons behind the under-utilisation of provisions for procurement of furniture and equipment in aided schools in recent years.

(Post-meeting note : The special meeting was subsequently cancelled at the request of the Administration, with the concurrence of the Chairman. Discussion of the financial proposal in paragraph 2 took place at the regular meeting on 16 November 1998, while the item at paragraph 3(a) was deferred to the regular meeting in December 1998.)

III. Procedures for works to be carried out in schools to enable introduction of information technology classes
[Paper No. CB(2)473/98-99(02)]

4. Mr Howard YOUNG expressed concern about the slow progress of site preparation works in the implementation of information technology (IT) strategies in schools. He asked whether it would be more appropriate and more effective for the Government to issue guidelines for schools to follow so that schools could use the services of the private sector to speed up site preparation works. Assistant Director of Education (Information Systems) (AD of E) responded that, depending on the design and requirements of the schools, the degree of complexity of site preparation works might vary among schools. In general, the works would include upgrading of electrical installations, converting classrooms/special rooms into computer room, establishing server rooms and trunking for computer network. So far, the 17 aided schools selected for the Pilot Scheme had appointed their own authorized persons to carry out the site preparation works. The Architectural Services Department (ASD) and Information Technology Services Department (ITSD) provided professional advice on the plans submitted by these schools.

5. Referring to the late completion of site preparation works in two schools as featured in a television programme, Mr Howard YOUNG asked whether the suitability and availability of school accommodation for introducing IT classes was a consideration when selecting schools for the Pilot Scheme. AD of E explained that the delay was due to unforeseen technical difficulties. For example, one of the schools concerned was a historical building under the Antiquities and Monument Ordinance and there were special requirements for the conversion works required. The school had appointed the City University of Hong Kong to provide professional advice on the project which was now in good progress. On the selection of schools under the Pilot Scheme, AD of E said that the objective of the Pilot Scheme was to let the more IT-ready schools to advance at a faster pace, and to promote the best practices for using IT in teaching and learning. Schools applying to join the Pilot Scheme should have considered their accommodation and the necessary works required before submitting their proposals on IT applications.

6. In response to the Deputy Chairman, AD of E said that the conversion of classrooms mainly involved a change of use of the rooms in schools, therefore no additional classrooms would be provided to the schools concerned.

7. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed reservation about the arrangement whereby the site preparation works of all schools (other than those under the Pilot Scheme) had to be co-ordinated by the Government. He was worried that given the large number of schools involved, ASD and Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) would have to stagger the works, hence they might not be able to complete all necessary works until mid-2000. The time gap for completion of site preparation works in schools would place some schools in a disadvantageous position in requesting for IT Co-ordinator posts, since they might not be able to introduce IT in time to justify for the IT Co-ordinator posts given that only 250 such posts were provided for in 1999/2000 and 2000/2001. To expedite site preparation works, he considered that schools should be given the option of appointing authorized persons to perform such works in accordance with the standards and specifications as drawn up by ASD/EMSD and ITSD. Mr CHEUNG's views were shared by Ms Emily LAU and Mr SZETO Wah.     

8. AD of E said that the major site preparation works involved in schools was to link up by a local area network the computers in the computer rooms to the teachers' rooms and the library. To enhance efficiency of the vetting/co-ordination work, 500 schools which required simple networking were assigned to EMSD and the other 500 schools with more complicated requirements were assigned to ASD. The actual construction and fitting-out works were tendered out to authorized contractors. The arrangement could ensure the standard of work and maintenance services afterwards. Director of Education (D of E) added that in line with school-based management, Government was actively considering giving more flexibility to schools to enable them to carry out school improvement projects and to engage private companies for provision of the computer services. To ensure compatibility of computers procured by schools, Government would consider providing guidelines to schools concerned. She undertook to relay to ASD and EMSD Mr CHEUNG's suggestion of allowing schools to appoint their own authorized persons to carry out the works. Appropriate guidelines would need to be drawn up to assist schools in selecting their contractors. D of E

9. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS/EM) pointed out that, given the manpower constraints, it would be extremely difficult for over 1000 existing schools to start using IT at the same time, even if schools were allowed to appoint their own authorized persons to carry out the site preparation works. Depending on the existing building structure and circumstances of individual schools, some schools would still need longer time to complete the necessary works.

10. As regards the provision of IT Co-ordinators to schools, D of E stressed that in addition to IT Co-ordinators, Government would give as much assistance to schools as possible to use IT in schools. Staff of the IT Education Resource Centre would provide technical support and advice to schools on a regional basis.

11. Ms Emily LAU asked about the basis for arriving at different numbers of computers to be provided for primary (40) and secondary schools (82). She asked whether the numbers were based on overseas experience. D of E replied that there had been an increase in provisions for procurement of computers for schools in 1997, and the difference in provisions for primary and secondary schools was based on the need and capabilities of the teachers and students in using IT at different levels of education. In reply to Ms Emily LAU, AD of E said that secondary schools in overseas countries also had more computers than primary schools. DS/EM added that the secondary school curriculum offered a wider range of subjects which could be taught with the aid of IT. Moreover, secondary schools were also equipped with more special rooms which could be used for this purpose.

12. Mr SIN Chung-kai questioned the effectiveness of launching a pilot scheme for promoting the use of IT in education. He considered that all schools should be ready to use IT (and the Internet) as soon as possible. In this connection, he queried whether it was appropriate to create a bottleneck at ASD and EMSD in vetting the proposals for site preparation works in schools for using IT. D of E replied that Government was also concerned about the bottleneck and had been examining ways, including the possibility of contracting out the services, to streamline the process. DS/EM added that the issue would require further consideration, because some schools might not be able or willing to take on additional responsibility of supervising the contractors.

With regard to Mr SIN Chung-kai's suggestion of setting objective yardsticks for implementing the five-year strategy on the use of IT in education, D of E responded that the Government was now collating views obtained during the public consultation exercise, and would announce the findings and recommendations as soon as possible.

IV. The future of government bought place in private schools
[Paper No. CB(2)473/98-99(03)]

13. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed much concern about the future of private schools currently under the Bought Place Scheme (BPS) when Government abolished the BPS in September 2001. He noted that these private schools could apply for admission to the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS), but one of the DSS requirements was that the school must have self-owned premises. In this connection, Mr CHEUNG asked about Government's proposals to assist those private schools which did not have their own premises. DS/EM responded that Government would gradually phase out the BPS as recommended in Education Commission Report No.3. There would be two options for the existing private schools under BPS: they could either apply to join the DSS or operate as independent private schools. The Government was reviewing the criteria for admission to the DSS to see if some fine-tuning would be required. The review findings would be announced in a few months' time. DS/EM said that while Government and aided schools would continue to be the mainstream, enhanced assistance would be given to encourage more quality private schools so as to provide parents with greater choices. These measures would include allocating government-built premises on a pilot basis to sponsoring bodies to enable them to operate new DSS schools, and the implementation details were now under consideration.

14. Regarding Mr CHEUNG's suggestion of leasing vacant Government school premises to private schools so that they could qualify to join DSS, D of E advised that all vacant school premises had already been converted or earmarked for the purpose of implementing whole-day primary schooling.

15. Mr YEUNG Sum expressed concern that, under the current education subvention policy, a certain percentage of students who had completed the free universal education at Secondary three level might not be able to continue schooling if they could not afford the high school fees charged by private schools. In view of the economic downturn, these students might not even be able to find employment. He therefore suggested Government to increase the number of school places at Secondary four and above to enable these students to continue schooling. In response, D of E assured members that Government had taken into account the abolition of BPS in the planning of secondary school places, and that there would be sufficient secondary school places to compensate for the phasing out of bought places. As regards the suggestion of increasing the number of subsidized senior secondary school places, DS/EM said that while he appreciated Mr YEUNG's concern, the suggestion would have significant policy and resource implications.

16. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung and Ms Emily LAU further enquired about Government 's plans to make up for the shortfall of school places in government and aided schools after the abolition of BPS, particularly if some private schools did not qualify to join DSS. In this connection, the Chairman asked if Government could provide statistics on the provision of school places. Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research) responded that since the 1980's, Government had been constructing more schools, and the School Building Programme had taken into account the phasing out of BPS. Moreover, assistance including capital loans was offered to private schools to enhance their standard to a level comparable to aided secondary schools. On meeting the demand for school places after the phasing out of BPS, D of E re-assured members that the School Building Programme could provide sufficient school places to meet the demand after abolition of BPS. She undertook to provide relevant statistics after the meeting. D of E

17. Mr SZETO Wah asked whether there would be a surplus of secondary school places in Government and aided schools with the availability of more quality private schools. DS/EM said that Government had kept the supply and demand of secondary school places under regular review to ensure provision of sufficient places for eligible students. The Government would adjust its strategies and School Building Programme to ensure effective deployment of resources.

Responding to Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, D of E said that the abolition of BPS had no impact on the progress of adjusting the class size in schools. She said that the progress on reducing the class size was affected by other priorities such as the implementation of whole-day primary schooling. With the provision of more new schools, the Government hoped to abolish floating classes in Secondary 1 to 5 by 2000/2001 school year and introduce whole-day classes in all primary schools as soon as possible. DS/EM said that Government would review and re-adjust the number of students in each class in primary and secondary schools after full implementation of the whole-day primary schooling.

V. Learning environment and facilities in special schools for physically handicapped children
[Paper No. CB(2)473/98-99(04)]

18. The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Hong Kong Special Schools Council (HKSSC) and Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network (HKSR) to the meeting. Discussion with members and representatives of the Administration was summarized in paragraphs 24-36.

Hong Kong Special Schools Council (HKSSC)

19. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mrs Laura LING of HKSSC highlighted the improvement proposals in her written submission. She stressed that improvements at (a) - (g) below were urgently required and should be included as standard items for special schools for physically handicapped children -

  1. air-conditioning for the whole school to cover all classrooms, facility rooms and activity rooms, school hall and the boarding section;

  2. an allocation to special schools for purchase of suitable furniture and equipment for use by the physically handicapped children;

  3. sensory integration rooms and toy library to facilitate sensory training of physically handicapped students under the guidance of physiotherapists and occupational therapists;

  4. inter-communication and two-way public address system for communication during emergency;

  5. hydrotherapy pool for special schools with one-fifth of students suffering from muscular dystrophy (MD);

  6. multi-purpose rooms for physical training of handicapped students; and

  7. kitchens and cooks for preparation of meals for students who had chewing or swallowing difficulties.

20. Mrs LING of HKSSC also recommended the following long-term improvements to special schools for physically handicapped -

  1. provision of an observation room to enable educational psychologists to observe emotionally disturbed students;

  2. provision (including recurrent expenses) of school bus(es) tailor-made for transport of physically handicapped children; and

  3. provision of tailor-made toilets near junior classes to facilitate toilet-training.

Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network (HKSR)

21. At the invitation of the Chairman, Ms HO Shuk-yi briefed members on the views of HKSR. She referred members to HKSR's written submission and said that they shared similar views with HKSSC. She stressed that both education and rehabilitative care should be offered by special schools.


22. Several members expressed disappointment that Government had failed to meet the requirements of special schools. Members noted that HKSSC had been pressing for improvements in the past ten years, but progress had been slow. Members also noted that since 1997, lifts had been installed in all new special schools which admitted wheelchair-bound students, but other facilities such as air-conditioning and special furniture/equipment were not provided by Government.


23. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong agreed with the deputations that air-conditioning was necessary in special schools for physically handicapped children who had mobility problems and required braces in their movements. He was disappointed that in the 1998 Policy Address, Government had only undertaken to provide air-conditioning to the classrooms but not other parts of special schools. He also noted that some special schools had already acquired air-conditioners, through donations, for the boarding section and other facility rooms. Since there were only seven special schools for physically handicapped children and only two of them offered boarding places, he urged Government to extend the provision of air-conditioning to all facility rooms, school hall and the boarding section of these special schools. His view was shared by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung and Ms Emily LAU.

24. DS/EM and D of E acknowledged the concern of members and deputations. They explained that due to resource constraints, priority had been given to providing air-conditioning to all classrooms and special rooms because these were places where students spent most of their time. Government would examine other requirements such as air-conditioning in the boarding section at a later stage, subject to justifications and availability of resources.


25. Mr TSE of HKSSC considered that physiotherapy should be accorded high priority as it was part of the integrated training provided by special schools. Mr MAK of HKSR said that the current staffing ratio of one physiotherapist to 30 physically handicapped students was inadequate for the physical training of these students.

26. Mr TSE of HKSSC said that he could not comment on the adequacy of the staffing ratio as the special schools had experienced great difficulties in filling vacant posts until very recently as far as physiotherapists were concerned. He was more concerned about the wastage of physiotherapists rather than the adequacy of staffing ratio.

27. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung said he was particularly concerned about the shortage of physiotherapists and occupational therapists in special schools. He expressed concern about the current staffing ratios and the recruitment/retention problems of physiotherapists. He pointed out that physically handicapped students in those special schools which had their own physiotherapists could no longer use the physiotherapy service in public hospitals. Mr LEUNG and Mr Andrew WONG therefore requested Government to conduct a comprehensive review of the terms of appointment and establishment of physiotherapists in special schools. Mr Andrew WONG also suggested secondment of physiotherapists from the Hospital Authority (HA) to solve the problem.

28. In response, D of E said that Education Department (ED) was aware of the physiotherapists' concern about their terms of appointment and career prospects in special schools. The recruitment and retention of physiotherapists in special schools and welfare institutions had been a long-standing problem. ED had been discussing with HA on the possibility of procuring physiotherapy service or secondment of HA physiotherapists as a long-term solution. D of E informed members that the present shortage rate of physiotherapists in special schools was only 9.8% which compared favourably with the 57.1% recorded in 1996/97 school year. ED would continue to work towards a satisfactory solution agreeable to all parties concerned.

Standard facilities and items for special schools

29. Acknowledging that the Administration might need to carefully examine the recurrent expenditure items requested by special schools, members generally considered that Government should at least provide for the capital expenditure of the necessary facilities, furniture and equipment for these special schools. These should include lifts and school buses for handicapped students.

30. Responding to Ms Emily LAU's enquiry on the need for kitchens in some special schools which had a capacity of only 60-80 students, Mr TSE of HKSSC said that apart from meal preparation for children with chewing problems, the provision of a kitchen could also facilitate training of handicapped students in the handling of kitchen facilities and leading an independent life. For special schools which had less students (60-80), a small kitchen of about 30m2 would be adequate.

31. Mr YEUNG Sum noted that five of the seven special schools for physically handicapped students were already included in the School Improvement Programme, one school was undergoing extension works and reprovisioning was being planned for the remaining school. In this connection, Mr YEUNG Sum considered that Government should take the opportunity of school re-provisioning or School Improvement Programmes to provide the necessary facilities to special schools.

32. In response to members, Senior Inspector (Special Schools Planning) (SI/SSP) informed members that ED had appointed Hong Kong Polytechnic University to conduct a consultancy study on the facilities in special schools including the provision of physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The initial report had been seen by ED and the final report would be available within a few months for further consultation with concerned parties. DS/EM added that many demands from special schools were not unreasonable and Government would constantly review the case to further improve the facilities in these special schools. However, in view of resource constraints, Government often had to make difficult decisions in prioritizing the various demands in allocating resources. In this connection, he drew members' attention to the relatively higher unit costs for special schools than normal schools.

33. Ms Emily LAU and Mr SZETO Wah questioned the need for consultancy studies as many requirements such as lifts and school buses were obvious even from the laymen point of view. SI(SSP) clarified that the consultants had been asked to provide more justifications (including para-medical professional opinion) and supporting statistics on the proposed requirements. At the request of Ms Emily LAU, he undertook to provide the costs of the consultancy study and a copy of the report when available. D of E

34. D of E emphasized that ED was actively considering various measures to improve the facilities to special schools. She agreed with members and deputations that some of proposals should be included in the list of standard items for special schools. She reminded members, however, that not all items could be funded by Government because of the resource implications.

Subcommittee on facilities in special schools for physically handicapped children

35. At the suggestion of Messrs CHEUNG Man-kwong and YEUNG Sum, members agreed to set up a subcommittee to follow up with the Administration the improvements to facilities in special schools for physically handicapped children. The subcommittee would also visit the special schools to obtain first-hand information on the conditions and facilities of these schools. Representatives of the Administration and deputations would be invited to attend discussions and the visit of the subcommittee. Messrs YEUNG Sum, CHEUNG Man-kwong and LEUNG Yiu-chung indicated interest to join the subcommittee.

36. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration and deputations for attending the meeting.

37. On behalf of the Panel, the Chairman thanked Mrs Helen YU, outgoing Director of Education, for her contribution to the meetings of the LegCo Panel on Education in the past years. Mrs YU also expressed her appreciation of members' support and advice to the work of ED.

There being no other business, the meeting ended at 6:50 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
11 January 1999