Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)2665/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/ED

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting

held on Tuesday, 30 March 1999 at 2:30 pm

in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung (Chairman)
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP

Members Absent :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Member Attending :

Hon LEE Wing-tat

Public Officers Attending :

Item III

Mr Joseph W P WONG
Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Patrick LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Senior Assistant Director of Education (Support)

Senior Education Officer (Private Schools Review)

Item IV

Mr Joseph W P WONG
Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Patrick LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Senior Assistant Director of Education (Support)

Assistant Director of Education (Services)

Item V

Mr Joseph W P WONG
Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Patrick LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Senior Assistant Director of Education (Support)

Senior Education Officer (Building)

Mr HSU King-ping
Deputy Director of Fire Services

Mr LAU Shu-lam
Chief Fire Officer (Fire Protection)

Mr Joseph LEUNG
Assistant Director of Planning (Metro)

Item VI

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Ms Olivia NIP
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Senior Assistant Director of Education (Operations)

Assistant Director of Education (Services)

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 of meeting and matters arising
[LC Paper Nos. CB(2)1577/98-99 and CB(2)1610/98-99]

1. The minutes of meetings held on 11 December 1998 and 1 February 1999 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
[Paper No. CB(2)1582/98-99(01)]

2. Members agreed to discuss the following at the next regular meeting to be held on 19 April 1999 -

  1. Improvements to the Secondary School Places Allocation System;and

  2. Teaching of Putonghua in schools.

3. On items for future discussion, Ms Emily LAU proposed inclusion of the supervision of administration of University Grants Committee-funded tertiary education institutions. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested and members agreed that this could be discussed together with the item concerning staff recruitment and administration of employment contracts in tertiary education institutions in May 1999.

4. On Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung's suggestion to review the progress and effectiveness of the Native-speaking English Teachers Scheme, Secretary for Education and Manpower (SEM) informed members that the scheme had only been implemented for half a year, and that he would prefer deferring the discussion to September 1999. Members agreed with SEM on the timing of discussion.

5. SEM also informed members that the Government would review the subsidy level to kindergartens in the 2000/01 school year. Members agreed that discussion of this item could take place when more information was available.

III. Briefing on the review of private school policy
[LegCo Brief on review of private school policy (File Ref. : EMB(CR)28/ 2041/88 Pt. 15) issued by the Education and Manpower Bureau on 16 March 1999]

6. At the invitation of the Chairman, SEM briefed members on the paper and highlighted the following points -

  1. two Government-built secondary school premises would be allocated for operation as non-profit-making Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools from the 2000/01 school year under a ten-year service agreement. If the response was good and the quality of application was high, the number of schools to be allocated might be increased up to an additional two;

  2. two sites (one in Sha Tin, the other in Diamond Hill) would be granted by private treaty at nominal premium to school operators for the construction of non-profit-making private independent schools, also for a ten-year service agreement, together with a capital grant to facilitate the construction of schools;

  3. various modifications would be made to DSS to provide for an enhanced recurrent subsidy, a non-recurrent capital grant for slope and major repairs, and a one-off cash grant for upgrading school facilities; and

  4. aided primary schools may apply to join DSS from the 1999/2000 school year.

7. SEM informed members that applicants for the two government-built school premises would have to submit detailed proposals setting out the vision, mission, performance targets and the evaluation criteria for target attainments. These would be incorporated into the service agreement to be signed with the Government. Education Department (ED) would conduct a comprehensive review of the performance of the schools five years after their operation. If the review indicated that the school had failed to achieve its performance targets, the Government could terminate the service agreement. Similar requirements would apply to the grant by private treaty of the two school sites for the construction of non-profit-making private independent schools. As regards assistance to needy students, the schools would have to provide a scholarship scheme and/or financial assistance for deserving students. In this connection, SEM said that the Chinese translation of "deserving students" in the LegCo Brief might be misleading, and he clarified that all eligible students who had financial difficulties could apply for financial assistance.

8. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that he did not object to the policy intention of providing more variety to the school system. However, he was concerned that if ED would only vet the education objectives of these private schools and allow them to adjust their school fees freely, these schools would eventually become elitist schools for only the rich. In this connection, he asked whether the level of school fees of private schools would be subject to regulation by ED.

9. SEM acknowledged Mr CHEUNG's concern and assured members that the Government had no intention to create schools for the rich. He said that applicants would be required to provide the budget and the proposed level of school fees for the Vetting Committee to consider. If these schools wished to raise the school fees subsequently, the level of increase would be subject to ED's approval. Nevertheless, SEM said that some flexibility would be allowed for these non-profit-making private schools to make use of the surplus funds for the development and improvement of the school.

10. Senior Assistant Director of Education (Support) (SAD(S)) supplemented that the Vetting Committee would provide detailed guidelines for applications. The Vetting Committee would carefully examine the proposals including the enrolment criteria and fee policy to ensure that entry to these schools would not be confined to students from the rich families. In this respect, applicants would be required to produce statements of accounts to show that the proposed expenses were reasonable and that the surplus funds would be used for the benefits of the students and the school.

11. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong welcomed the change in policy towards school fees in independent private schools. Noting that these schools could reserve surplus funds for future use, he enquired about the arrangement for the disposal of the reserve fund if the service agreement was terminated. SEM responded that Government would need to further examine the issue and inform members of the arrangements in due course.Adm

12. On the capital costs for new private schools, the Chairman asked whether the sponsoring bodies would still need to shoulder certain financial commitments, given that Government already provided land and capital grant for the construction of the new private schools. SEM responded that as described in paragraph 16 of the paper, the school operators would need to bear the costs of furniture and equipment which would amount to $4 million-$9 million. The operators would also have to bear all subsequent capital and recurrent expenditure. The Chairman remarked that the operators could apply for bank loans and recover the costs from school fees. SEM responded that the prospective operators were expected to invest in school facilities to enhance the competitiveness and attraction of these new private schools. He stressed that apart from the one-off capital grant, the new private schools would not receive any further capital and recurrent grant from Government.

13. SAD(S) said that the capital investment of the school operator would be reflected in the school's statement of accounts. If the operators had applied for a bank loan, the monthly repayments including interests could be recovered from the school income such as school fees. The school could also issue non-interest- bearing bonds to parents. According to normal accounting practice, depreciation of capital items such as furniture and equipment would be included in the accounts.

14. Ms Emily LAU expressed support of an education system which could offer variety and choices to parents. She was concerned, however, about the performance targets of the schools and the criteria for evaluating these targets during ED's review. She also enquired whether these new private schools would have full discretion in selecting the medium of instruction (MOI) for different subjects.

15. SEM responded that the injection of more diversity into the education system through quality private schools was based on the concept that these private schools could operate with independence, including maximum freedom in setting the school curriculum, enrolment policies and procedures, level of school fees, and the MOI. Government would maintain a minimum level of control through vetting of applications and periodic reviews of school performance and student attainment. The objective of control was to ensure the standard of education such as teacher qualification and that students would benefit from the learning environment. The evaluation criteria would be based on those proposed by the applicants and subsequently agreed with the Government; these criteria would be set out in the service agreements. SEM pointed out that as DSS schools and private independent schools were basically market-driven, it would be necessary to allow these schools flexibility in the selection of the MOI and enrolment policies.

16. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung expressed reservations about giving complete freedom to independent private schools and queried why public sector schools were not given the same degree of freedom in their curriculum, MOI etc. He was of the view that independent private schools, when competing for quality teachers and students, might offer higher pay to experienced teachers and provide better facilities in their schools. This would have an impact on the level of school fees which might be set beyond the means of average families. In this connection, he expressed concern about the return of elitism and asked whether the Government now adopted the policy that money could raise the standard of education.

17. In response, SEM stressed that there were over 1000 public sector schools which would remain as the mainstream schools, and that the pilot scheme under discussion would only provide up to four DSS and two independent private schools. The scheme only allowed some flexibility for a very small sector of schools to operate as private schools which would be required to provide financial assistance to needy students. He emphasized that the success of a school would depend on a number of factors, not only financial resources. In reply to Mr SZETO Wah, SEM said that ED would evaluate the performance of these schools to ensure that both the teachers and students reached a reasonable standard.

18. Mr SZETO Wah asked whether Government would be prepared to offer financial assistance to needy students in independent private schools, and whether these schools would be required to set aside a percentage of places for students receiving financial assistance. Ms Emily LAU expressed concern that some outstanding students might not be able to enrol in these private schools due to lack of means or limited financial assistance to these students.

19. SEM responded that the private independent schools would be responsible for providing financial assistance to needy students in their schools, and that Government had no plans to offer financial subsidies to these students. In view of members' concerns, he would further discuss with the Vetting Committee the proposal of setting a percentage of places for students receiving financial subsidies in DSS and private independent schools.Adm

IV. Provision of education for newly arrived children
[Paper No. CB(2)1582/98-99(02)]

20. Referring to some reports that about 60% of the 10 000 newly arrived children (NAC) aged between 12 to 15 had not been placed in schools, Mr SZETO Wah inquired about the placement assistance for NAC of this age group.

21. Senior Assistant Director of Education (Support) ((SAD(S)) said that ED would follow up every case of NAC requiring school placement assistance. According to ED's records between July 1997 to December 1998, there were some 14 000 NAC from the Mainland and 5 262 of them were successfully placed in local schools. With regard to the discrepancy between the number of NAC arrived and the number of NAC enrolled in local secondary schools during the period, SAD(S) explained that this could be attributed to the following factors :

  1. newly arrived families would need time to settle in the new environment before seeking school placement for their children;

  2. some NAC of age between 12 to 15 might decide to study in Primary Six rather than Secondary One; and

  3. some 15% of NAC, particularly those not accompanied by their mothers, had chosen to continue their studies in the Mainland.

22. Referring to a survey conducted in 1997, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that it was estimated that some 16.7% and 4% of NAC of suitable age groups were not placed in primary and secondary schools respectively after arriving in Hong Kong for a year. He asked whether the Administration could set a target period for placement of NAC in local schools.

23. SAD(S) replied that the situation had improved considerably since the survey in 1997. Newly arrived families or NAC were now provided with a pre-paid self-addressed reply slip at the Lo Wu control point for them to seek placement assistance from District Education Officers. ED could normally find a school place for a NAC within 21 working days upon request.

24. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong questioned the accuracy of ED's findings. He pointed out that the age distribution of NAC might change after the Court of Final Appeal's (CFA) judgement on 29 January 1999, and there would be more demand for secondary school places from NAC. As the vacancy rate in secondary schools was much lower than that in primary schools, there would be greater difficulties for ED to find suitable placement for NAC of this age group. In this connection, he enquired about the Administration's plans to tackle the problem.

25. In response, SEM said that Government was still evaluating the impact of the CFA judgement on the provision of various services including education. The Census and Statistics Department had started a household survey to estimate the number of persons who would be eligible for right of abode in Hong Kong as a result of the CFA's judgement. The survey result would be available in July 1999. He added that the judgement, if enforced, would create enormous pressure on socio-economic fronts including the job market. SAD(S) said that resources had been set aside for the provision of education services to 66 000 children in the Mainland who were aged below 20 and had the right of abode in Hong Kong under Article 24(3) of the Basic Law, based on the estimation in July 1997. To meet the demand from the 66 000 eligible children, the Government had planned to construct 13 primary and 19 secondary schools from 1997/98 to 2001/02. There were about 4 000 Secondary One places in the current school year, and around 10 000 Secondary One to Five places would be available in the next few years for placement of NAC. He reiterated that NAC who had approached ED for assistance would be placed within 21 working days.

26. Ms Emily LAU inquired whether NAC were discriminated in applying for places in schools. Noting that many village schools had recently admitted more NAC, she asked whether the facilities of these village schools had been brought up to standard to cater for the increase of students.

27. SAD(S) stressed that NAC and local students were given equal treatment in education. However, some NAC might need a period of adjustment in the new school environment. He informed members that a school-based grant of $2000 or $3300 respectively would be made for each NAC admitted to the primary or secondary classes. There was also a full range of support services and education programmes to assist NAC to adjust to the education system in Hong Kong. With these additional resources and support programme, there had not been much problem in finding school places for NAC since last year. Assistant Director of Education (Services) (ADE(S)) supplemented that apart from the resource factor, schools were now more prepared to admit NAC because most NAC did not have behavioural problems especially during the initial period after arrival. Some schools even actively approached ED for allocation of more NAC.

28. Regarding facilities in village schools, SAD(S) said that village schools were provided with the same standard of resources and assistance applicable to public sector schools. Most village schools enrolling NAC had been refurbished. ADE(S) also pointed out that some students of the village schools in the northern parts of the New Territories were born in Hong Kong, but they had chosen to live in the border of the Mainland.

V Allocation of land for school development
[Paper No. CB(2)1582/98-99(03)]

29. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed appreciation that the Government was examining the feasibility of the Democratic Party's proposal of constructing "school estates" in new development areas. He reminded the Government that special attention must be paid to the location of the school estates and the transport problem, given that a large number of students would have to travel to these schools. He said that he also had initial discussion with the Secretary for Planning, Lands and Works about constructing a school estate in new development areas such as the South East Kowloon Development, the proposed reclamation area in Green Island, Tin Shui Wai and North West Kowloon. On the shared use of sports, recreational and other facilities in the school estate, Mr CHEUNG asked whether individual schools would still be provided with the standard facilities and space entitlement under the Year 2000 design. He was concerned that the construction of school estates should not result in a reduction in the space entitlement and facilities of individual schools, or lead to unnecessary administrative work or conflicts among schools for sharing the use of some basic facilities such as basketball courts. He emphasized that the idea was to allow each school to have its own campus together with the standard facilities, while providing some extra non-standard facilities, such as soccer field, central libraries and computer resource centres, for common use by a cluster of eight or 10 schools in the same district.

30. Mr CHEUNG added that, with the relocation of some existing secondary schools to these school estates, the school premises so vacated could be re-developed into primary schools to cater for the increased demand from the NAC. In this connection, he welcomed the proposal to relax the height restriction of new primary and secondary schools subject to their meeting the fire safety requirements. He anticipated that these measures would increase the supply of urban sites for provision of school and community facilities.

31. SEM responded that the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) was now positively examining the proposal of the construction of school estates and had held preliminary discussion with ED, Planning Department (PD) and Architectural Services Department (ASD). The Government would need to agree on some general principles before proceeding to the detailed plans. The Government would need to address a host of problems including the infrastructure support for the school estate, the transport network, community services, catering services, and environmental impacts on surrounding areas and local residents. Some social workers and planning experts had also warned the Government about possible social problems and law and order issues which could arise if a large number of schools were clustered together. The Government would also have to examine the arrangement for cost-effective use of the common school facilities and whether school sponsors would be interested in relocating their schools to school estates.

32. Ms Emily LAU expressed support of the proposal of developing school estates to provide for better facilities for sport and other facilities for shared use by schools. Given that land resources were limited, she asked about the criteria and priority for allocation of sites to schools. She stressed that education was crucial to the future development of Hong Kong, and that better sites with community and supporting facilities in the vicinity should be reserved for education.

33. SEM responded that under the present policy, planning of school sites was based on forecast population growth and distribution. While the provision of primary schools was based on district demands, the planning of secondary schools was made on a territory-wide basis. A standard design was now in place for new schools which would be completed in year 2000 and afterwards. Given the target that 60% of primary school students should be provided whole-day schooling by 2002 and the general shortage of land in urban built-up areas, it might be necessary to increase the provision of land for schools by changing land use or re-zoning. While the initial thinking was that students should not suffer a reduction in standards and facilities in schools in the proposed school estates, individual schools in the estate might have to sacrifice some area in return for other communal facilities, in order to optimize the utilization of land resources.

34. Assistant Director of Planning (Metro) (ADP(M)) supplemented that the criteria for determining the scale, location and site requirements of various land uses and facilities were set out in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. He stressed that given the scarcity of land resources in Hong Kong, PD had to balance the competing demands for housing, education, transport, commerce, welfare, recreation and other community needs. Nevertheless, development plans could always be adjusted in response to new policies and changes in population, etc. For example, PD had recently responded to the policy of achieving full implementation of whole-day primary schooling in the 2007/08 year and made substantial revisions in the provision of school sites. He assured members that PD would continue to co-operate with EMB and ED to meet changes in demand of school sites.

35. Mr LEE Wing-tat informed members that, as Chairman of the Panel on Housing and member of the Housing Authority (HA), he had urged HA to adopt a non-standard design for new schools to facilitate shared use of communal facilities in the same estate. Recently, he had suggested constructing a school estate in Tseung Kwan O Outline Zoning Plan (73A Phase 1 to Phase 4) in which a total of seven standard design primary and secondary schools were being planned at different locations. He opined that these schools could be clustered to form a school estate on such a large site, so that provision of school and community facilities could be shared for economies of scale. However, despite repeated requests by members of HA, the Housing Department (HD) and other concerned departments had not made any progressive steps in this direction. In this connection, he urged the Government to expedite implementation of the concept of school estates, probably to start from the Tseung Kwan O site (73A Phase 1 to 4).

36. SEM responded that he was not aware of the construction project in question and undertook to follow up the matter with the bureaux and departments concerned. He said that ED would be prepared to accept non-standard designs for schools if permissible within the time and space constraints. As regards the space entitlements for schools which would share some common facilities, SEM recalled that in a previous proposal of an interlocking primary school design, the Housing Department had held the view that the total site area of the schools could be reduced by building the assembly hall of one school on top of another. In this connection, Mr LEE Wing-tat stressed that the total site area should not be reduced though some flexibility could be allowed for the school design to maximize site utilization.Adm

37. Given that primary schools could be designed to accommodate 18, 24 or 30 classes, Mr SIN Chung-kai suggested the Government to explore the possibility of expanding the capacity of secondary schools to accommodate up to 48 classes. He said that there were super-secondary schools in Shanghai with more than 30 classes and that Hong Kong could make reference to their experience. SEM responded that the issue of increasing the number of classes in secondary schools would require consultation with the education community.

VI. Training and development programme for school principals
[Paper No. CB(2)1582/98-99(04)]

38. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed support of the arrangements for training and development of school heads. He noted that, since 1992, ED had commissioned local tertiary institutions to run a 30-hour training programme for school supervisors, heads and assistant heads. However, he noted that the present proposal under School Based Management (SBM) only focused on the design of a training programme for school heads. Since school supervisors made most of the decisions in school management and there were reports that some of them did not perform up to expectation, Mr CHEUNG strongly advised that school supervisors should be given similar training.

39. Senior Assistant Director of Education (Operations) (SAD(O)) responded that ED shared the concern that training of school supervisors was equally important. While the discussion paper mainly focused on the training and development programme for school principals, a number of short courses had recently been organized by ED for school supervisors. However, the new training programme for school heads would be a comprehensive course of one-year duration for the implementation of SBM. School supervisors were not covered by this course because of the different nature of their service in schools. Different training courses would be arranged for them separately.

40. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong responded that he had no objection to the one-year training programme for school heads. He pointed out, however, that as executive managers of schools, school supervisors would largely determine the quality of management in schools. He considered that a more structured programme instead of incidental training should be arranged for school supervisors, to ensure successful implementation of school-based management. SAD(O) said that ED was actually working in the same direction as suggested by Mr CHEUNG.

41. The Chairman asked whether ED had any statistics on the training provided to school supervisors in the past. SAD(O) undertook to provide the information in writing.Adm

42. Mr SZETO Wah commented that it would be important to distinguish the functions of school supervisors and school heads. He pointed out that most school supervisors were not working full-time in schools and could not be expected to be familiar with the day-to-day school operations. Since school supervisors only rendered voluntary service, they should not be given responsibilities and powers the exercise of which would require thorough understanding of the curriculum or school operations, such as the selection of textbooks.

43. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS/EM) said that by virtue of section 39 of the Education Ordinance, school supervisors had a list of statutory power and duties and were accountable for the day-to-day management of schools. He added that to ensure smooth implementation of the SBM, ED was now reviewing the functions and division of responsibilities among the key players. SAD(O) supplemented the Advisory Committee on School-based Management was reviewing the responsibilities and duties of ED, sponsoring bodies, school managers, supervisors, principals and teachers in school management. It was also suggested that the powers and duties of the school managers should be specified in the written constitution of the school management committee of each school.

44. Mrs Selina CHOW said that school principals played a very important role in the management of schools and in delivering quality education. Noting that the in-service training course was short in duration, she asked whether there were plans to extend the course and to attract serving school heads to attend the course. She also enquired about the plans to complete training for all school principals, and the purpose of the final assessment.

45. SAD(O) replied that the Task Group in ED would recommend on the details of the training programme, including the timetable for extending the programme to all school principals and the proposed accreditation arrangements. Experienced principals and other experts would be invited as speakers for some modular courses. All participants would be required to undergo a final assessment process for obtaining the qualification. ED would review, two years after operation of the training programme, whether the training programme should be extended to all new and serving school heads. As an initial step, ED had planned to train 150 to 200 serving school heads in the first and second years of operation respectively. Noting that there were about 1 200 serving school principals, the Chairman enquired about the timetable for training these serving school heads. SAD(O) undertook to provide the information in writing.Adm

46. Ms Emily LAU was concerned that the management style of some school heads was rather autocratic. She asked whether the training programme would encourage these school heads to adopt a more democratic leadership style. SAD(O) replied that the training programme would include leadership development for participants to learn and develop competencies required for leaders of the 21st century, in particular, the abilities to cultivate team spirit in the decision making process. He further advised that, in line with the spirit of SBM in year 2000, the school management committees would also comprise representatives of all key-players to enhance transparency of the school administration.

VII Any other business

47. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 4:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
15 July 1999