PLC Paper No. CB(1)37/97-98
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration and cleared with the Chairman)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 20 June 1997, at 10:30 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Dr Hon CHEUNG Bing-leung (Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Member attending :

    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka

Public officers attending :

    For Items III and IV
    Mr Raymond YOUNG
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Miss Annette LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)
    Mrs Helen C P LAI YU, OBE, JP
    Director of Education

    For Item III

    Mr C K TAM
    Assistant Director of Education (Schools)
    Dr LEUNG Ting-hung
    Assistant Director of Health
    (Personal Health Service)

    For Item IV

    Ms Michelle LI
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower(1)
    Mr K C NG
    Assistant Director of Education (Chief Inspector of Schools)

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3

Staff in attendance :

    Ms Connie SZE-TO
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)5

I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings and matters arising

(LegCo Papers No. CB(1)1706/96-97, 1870/96-97)

The minutes of the Panel meetings held on 25 April 1997 and 23 May 1997 were confirmed.

2. The Chairman informed members that an information paper on "Designation of stops for school buses" had been received from the Administration and issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1877/96-97. As regards members’ proposal of extending the Student Travel Subsidy Scheme to cover students below 12 years of age, the Administration had advised that the proposal was being studied and members would be informed of the result in due course.

II. Information papers issued since last meeting

3. Members noted no information paper on general subjects had been issued.

III. Contagious diseases in schools

(LegCo paper No. CB(1)1869/96-97(01))

4. Arising from the recent outbreak of contagious diseases in schools which had aroused grave public concern, members enquired about the Administration’s measures in the handling and prevention of contagious diseases in schools.

5. In response, the Administration confirmed that schools had been informed of the general procedures for handling infectious diseases and the measures for promotion of health education through circulars. The Education Department (ED) had been working closely with the Department of Health (DH) in implementing these procedures and measures. On being notified of a case of infectious disease by the school management or the attending doctor of the patient concerned, DH would initiate appropriate follow-up actions promptly. Depending on the type of infectious disease and the actual situation, appropriate measures such as medical examinations and/or necessary vaccination for some or all students and staff would be arranged. Briefings and talks for parents, staff and students could also be organized by the Administration to explain the incident and answer enquiries. As regards prevention of infectious diseases, health education was promoted through formal and informal curricula in schools. DH’s inoculation teams also visited schools frequently to provide vaccination for students including new arrival children (NAC). In the wake of the recent outbreak of contagious diseases, the two departments had set up a working group to review and monitor control and preventive measures.

6. Referring to the confusion and panic in a recent incident in which the management of a school in Tsuen Wan was not immediately aware of an infectious disease occurring in the school until the case was widely reported by the media, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong doubted the effectiveness of existing procedures for handling infectious diseases in schools. Mr Michael HO was of the view that clearer guidelines should be drawn up advising schools of the necessary actions for handling different infectious diseases.

7. Refraining from discussing particular incidents, the Director of Education (D of E) stressed that in order to achieve more effective control of contagious diseases in schools, proper procedures were in place and subject to regular reviews and improvements in the light of operational experience.

8. As regards concern about media coverage on cases of infectious diseases, D of E and the Assistant Director of Health (Personal Health Service) (AD of H/PHS) concurred with Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong that it was necessary to strike a reasonable balance between protection of the patient’s privacy and the right of parents and members of public to be informed of the case. They assured members that the Administration would provide as much information as possible to parents and the public at the earliest opportunity. While agreeing that media reports would enhance public awareness of contagious diseases, D of E cautioned against causing unnecessary panic by sensational reports and urged the media to strike a reasonable balance.

9. On the suggestion of issuing clearer guidelines, AD of H/PHS said that it was impracticable to provide specific guidelines for handling each type of infectious disease as many situational factors were involved. Every case must be considered on its own circumstances. In this connection, the Assistant Director of Education (Schools) said that the patient concerned should have received proper treatment and been advised of his/her suitability or otherwise to continue to attend school by the attending doctor. However, it was necessary for schools to comply with DH’s professional advice in handling contagious diseases. The descriptions on various diseases provided in school circulars only served to give general information to alert school principals and staff.

10. Responding to Dr YEUNG Sum’s enquiry about preventive measures, the Administration made the following points:

  1. immunization information was provided to parents of NAC at the immigration check points at the border. DH would follow up every case and advise parents of NAC to complete immunization for their children at maternal and child health centres. Inoculation teams from the regional offices would also be sent to schools to provide vaccinations. The immunization rate of NAC was comparable to that of local children;

  2. noting that non-teaching staff were also in frequent contact with students, the ED had stepped up preventive measures. With effect from 21 May 1997, all new staff were required to undergo medical examination before appointment;

  3. the newly established inter-departmental working group chaired by the Deputy Director of Health had held a number of meetings to review existing arrangements and discuss new control measures. In anticipation of an outbreak of measles next year, DH would launch a special measles vaccination campaign targeted at children and adolescents. The working group would also co-ordinate the work in schools. To enhance awareness and knowledge of tuberculosis, information leaflets on the disease would be distributed to schools for the reference of teachers; and

  4. health education for students and the community at large was promoted through concerted efforts of the ED, DH, Hospital Authority and the municipal councils. Students were encouraged to join the Student Health Service which included free annual medical examinations.

IV. Education on information superhighway

(LegCo Nos. CB(1)1869/96-97(02),1887/96-97(01))

11. Pointing out that existing programmes on information technology (IT) education in schools and the tertiary sector were implemented on a piecemeal basis, members stressed the need for the Administration to consult the public extensively to formulate a comprehensive policy on IT education with phased targets and objective performance indicators. The Chairman remarked that such a policy was already in place in many overseas countries such as Singapore and the U.S.A. He also referred members to recent discussion of the Information Policy Panel which had recommended the establishment of a high-level committee comprising senior Government officials and representatives from the private sector to promote the development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong.

12. In response to members, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for E&M) explained that the Government’s policy on IT education was to equip students with adequate IT knowledge and the ability to apply state-of-the-art technology in order to cope with changes brought by IT to their lives, as well as to the economy and the society. The Government was committed to the development of IT education in the school and tertiary sectors by providing the necessary funding to improve computer facilities, strengthening training for teachers, improving teaching, learning and school administration through IT systems. The Administration would continue to invest in this area in the next few years. The issue of interfacing IT education between the school and tertiary sectors would also be addressed. DS for E & M shared members’ concerns about the need to formulate a comprehensive policy on IT and advised that the Administration had been working in consultation with relevant bodies and various sectors of the community to draw up IT strategies and programmes. The Administration would consider members’ suggestion for extensive consultation before finalising its proposals.

13. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong was of the view that the development of IT education in Hong Kong lagged far behind that of overseas countries. In order for Hong Kong to maintain its competitiveness, he stressed the need for the Administration to reckon with its existing deficiencies and to acquire the determination in catching up with its counterparts. Indicating full support for early formulation of an IT policy in Hong Kong, Dr YEUNG Sum also recalled that the Finance Committee had approved financial proposals for enhancing the teaching and learning of IT in schools.

14. DS for E&M said that the Administration was not complacent with the present provision of IT facilities to schools, and that the level of provision would be stepped up to meet changing needs. However, he stressed that similar to the approach adopted in overseas countries, development must take place progressively. D of E added that the Administration had learned from overseas successful experience in the course of developing local programmes. The Administration was currently reviewing the standard plan for schools to include an intelligent design to accommodate advanced IT systems.

15. Summing up the discussion, the Chairman confirmed members’ general support for the formulation a comprehensive policy on IT education. He also urged the Administration to consider members’ views seriously.

16. The meeting ended at 12:10 p.m.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
14 July 1997

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