LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1706/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/ED/1

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Special Meeting held on Friday, 25 April 1997, at 12:30 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Chairman)
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP

Public officers attending :

    Items I & II

    Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Item I

    Ms Michelle LI
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)

    Item II
    Miss Annette LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower(2)
    Mrs Helen C P LAI YU, OBE, JP
    Director of Education
    Dr Y M LEUNG
    Assistant Director (Curriculum Development Institute)

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1) 3

Staff in attendance :

    Ms Connie SZETO
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)5
    Miss Connie FUNG
    Assistant Legal Adviser 3

I Briefing on the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong (Amendment) Bill 1997

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1385/96-97(01), LegCo Brief ref: EMB CR/11/2041/89 IV & VI)

Members present at the meeting supported the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong (OLI) (Amendment) Bill 1997 in general and deliberated on the following issues.

Internal governance structure

2. Members expressed concern about the internal governance structure of the future Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). Pointing out that there were student representatives and LegCo Members on the Councils of local universities, Dr YEUNG Sum enquired about the proposed composition of the Council of the future OUHK. He urged that the governance structure of the University should be representative and highly transparent so as to allow proper monitoring of its operation.

3. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS/E&M) advised that the present Council of the OLI already comprised representatives from students, staff and the Government, as well as members appointed from outside the Institute. He undertook to convey to the Council members’ views on the need to enhance the openness of the Council of the future OUHK, including the possibility of having LegCo Members as its members.EMB

Self-accrediting status and quality assurance for degree courses

4. Dr YEUNG Sum raised concern about the capability of the OLI for self-accreditation of its own courses. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong enquired about the mechanism for assuring the quality of future degree courses. He remarked that since the future OUHK would continue to be self-financing, there would be pressure on it to run a large number of courses so as to generate sufficient income to meet its expenses. In the absence of monitoring by the UGC, he was concerned about the proliferation of degree courses at the expense of their quality. In the long term, this would jeopardise the future development of the University. Mr CHEUNG therefore suggested that in the initial years of development of the University, appropriate target student numbers should be set for various disciplines with due regard to the academic capability of the University and the manpower needs of Hong Kong.

5. In reply, DS/E&M and the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (1) (PAS/E&M(1)) made the following points :

  1. the OLI had already accumulated eight years of experience in conferring academic awards, including degrees;

  2. the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation (HKCAA) had conducted an institutional review of the Institute and concluded that it had matured sufficiently for the award of self-accrediting status. The HKCAA was satisfied with the Institute’s internal programme review and validation process which was enriched by the extensive use of external, expert, academic advisers; and

  3. In line with HKCAA’s recommendations, the Institute had since 1996 been awarded for self-accreditation status. The HKCAA would closely monitor its performance and conduct periodic external institutional reviews within the next five years.

6. On the academic plans and quality assurance system of the future OUHK, DS/E&M and PAS/E&M(1) stressed that the future development of the University would continue to focus on the four existing broad disciplines, namely Arts and Social Sciences, Business and Administration, Education, and Science and Technology. The Council and the Senate of the University would be heavily involved in the development of courses and in the quality assurance mechanisms. Academics of UGC-funded institutions and responsible government officials would continue to serve as members of the Council of the future OUHK. Other advisory groups of the University would also provide the necessary inputs. There would be proper monitoring of the provision of courses and the assurance of their quality.

7. Referring to the role of the future OUHK as the major provider of distance learning courses in Hong Kong, Mr IP Kwok-him questioned the appropriateness of expanding its scope of service to cover people residing outside Hong Kong and raised concern about the resources implications of such a proposal. In response, DS/E&M said that OLI’s programme of activities in China was financed out of its China Link Fund, a privately donated Fund. The OLI was seeking to establish co-operative relationship with a number of renowned academic institutions in China. These collaborative efforts would help accelerate and reduce the cost of the development of Chinese-medium courses. He reckoned that the future OUHK had good potentials to develop into a centre of excellence in the provision of bilingual distance learning courses to China and overseas Chinese communities. Moreover, the opening up of the Chinese market would enable the University to enjoy an economy of scale resulting in lower tuition fees for Hong Kong students and making courses with low demand financially viable. DS/E&M added that the development of Chinese-medium courses would also provide more opportunities for Chinese new immigrants to pursue higher studies.

Tuition fee policy and financial assistance for needy students

8. Some members pointed out that upgrading the OLI to university status would have financial implications as resources would be required to pay higher salaries for university staff. They were concerned about the possible impact on tuition fees when the Institute sought to recover the costs.

9. In reply, DS/E&M advised that the Government had provided the OLI with setting up grant, capital grants and recurrent subvention from 1989 to 1993. Since 1993-94, the OLI had been able to meet its recurrent expenses by tuition fees and private donations. The financial position of the Institute was healthy. The Administration did not envisage a substantial increase in future tuition fees arising from the upgrading of the Institute.

10. On Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong’s proposal to provide financial assistance to enable needy students to pay tuition fees, PAS/E&M(1) informed the meeting that the OLI was operating a loan scheme for needy students. There were elaborate procedures to ensure the cost-effective disbursement of loans to needy students.

Other concerns

11. Responding to Dr LAW Cheung-kwok’s enquiry about the proportion of OLI students withdrawing from their studies and the reasons involved, DS/E&M informed members that about 12% of the students had dropped out due to unsatisfactory academic results and about 28% were absent from examinations. It was believed that commitment in jobs and personal reasons were the main causes for students discontinuing their studies. DS/E&M stressed that in looking at the figures, one had to bear in mind the unique and flexible nature of distance learning and the fact that students pursued the courses at their own pace. It would be misleading to treat the "drop-out" rate on the same basis with that for other tertiary institutions. The Administration would liaise with the Institute to provide members with more information on the matter.EMB

12. On Dr LAW’s enquiry about appointment of OLI graduates as Administrative Officers (AO) in the civil service, DS/E&M indicated that as far as he knew, no OLI graduates had been appointed as AOs so far. However, he reminded members that the first batch of Honours Degree graduates would only be expected in the summer of 1997 and it would take more time to monitor developments.

13. In order to facilitate LegCo Members in considering the Bill at the House Committee meeting to be held on 2 May 1997, members requested the Administration to address their concerns on the internal governance structure of the future OUHK and its quality assurance system promptly. To facilitate early passage of the Bill, members shared the view that subject to satisfactory replies by the Administration, it might not be necessary to form a Bills committee to study the Bill. DS/E&M undertook to provide written responses as early as practicable.EMB

(Post-meeting note: The Administration’s responses were circulated vide LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1463/96-97 and 1471/96-97.)

II. Implementation of "Guidelines on Civic Education in Schools"

� (LegCo Paper No. CB

(1)1372/96-97 (01) & (02))

14. On the Chairman’s enquiry about amendments made to the draft "Guidelines on Civic Education in Schools" (the Guidelines) after the public consultation exercise in early 1997, the Assistant Director (Curriculum Development Institute) (AD/CDI) confirmed that there were only some technical amendments, such as proof read amendments and switching of topics to be covered in different school levels. The draft Guidelines had been endorsed by the Curriculum Development Council (CDC) and put into implementation in 1996-97 school year.

Different approaches for implementation of civic education

15. Notwithstanding the three different approaches recommended in the Guidelines for teaching civic education, namely, by permeation, as a specific subject or an integrated subject, Dr YEUNG Sum remarked that during public consultation, there was a body of opinion expressing strong support for the specific-subject approach. He enquired about the Education Department (ED)’s position on the issue and suggested that the proposed study on the integrated-subject approach should also look into the appropriateness of the other two approaches with a view to comparing their cost-effectiveness. Mr IP Kwok-him considered it advisable to develop a formal curriculum for civic education for adoption by schools which had selected the specific-subject approach.

16. In response to Dr YEUNG’s concern about the three different approaches for teaching civic education, AD/CDI said that the working group formed to review the Guidelines had observed that the majority of schools were adopting the permeation approach and each approach had its own merits and effectiveness. The new Guidelines had proposed a framework for the curriculum at various school levels so that schools would be able to develop their own civic education programmes. Nevertheless, the CDC was preparing a civic education syllabus for Secondary One to Secondary Three (S1 to S3) to facilitate schools which would prefer the specific-subject approach. The proposed syllabus was expected to be ready for consultation by the end of 1997. The Administration would consider Dr YEUNG’s suggestion for studying the cost-effectiveness of the three approaches in implementing civic education.ED

17. Concerning the policy on implementation of civic education, the Director of Education (D of E) said that the objective of civic education was to prepare young people to be rational and responsible citizens. She stressed the need to adopt a multi-faceted approach to instil civic values in young people through concerted efforts of schools, families and the community. While recognizing the importance of developing a formal curriculum for teaching civic education, the ED had advised schools to consider their specific needs and choose one or a combination of the recommended approaches to achieve the best result in implementing civic education. In addition, schools were encouraged to enhance the teaching and learning of civic education through organising a variety of school activities.

18. In this connection, Mr SZETO Wah urged the ED to provide schools with guidelines and the necessary resources for the setting up of class associations and student unions so as to enhance students’ civic awareness by means of participation and practice. His views were noted by the Administration.

Support measures for the implementation of civic education

19. Responding to Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong’s suggestion to extend the civic education grant to schools teaching the subject by permeation and through other school activities, AD/CDI advised that although the grant was only available to schools adopting either the specific-subject or the integrated-subject approach, financial assistance was also available from other organizations promoting civic education such as the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education. D of E added that the ED would improve co-ordination among the responsible departments with a view to providing schools with the necessary resources for launching civic educational activities.ED

20. Addressing Dr LAW’s concern about monitoring textbooks on civic education, D of E said that publishers who wished to have their publications included in the ED’s Recommended List of Textbooks were required to forward the draft texts of textbooks for review by the Textbook Review Panel. Comments and advice from the Panel were for publishers’ consideration only and schools were free to use other textbooks outside the List.

Present progress and the way forward

21. Addressing Mr IP Kwok-him’s concern about the need to set up civic education coordinating committees in schools, AD/CDI said that the ED had been encouraging schools to set up these committees to oversee the implementation of civic education and to strengthen links among schools in organizing civic educational activities. While the subject panels on "General Studies" and "Moral Education" had in practice assumed the role of a civic education coordinating committee in primary schools, about 80% of secondary schools had set up coordinating committees.

22. In reply to Mr IP’s enquiry on the way forward, AD/CDI said that major problems faced by schools in implementing civic education included the difficulties in allocating sufficient school time for it, training of teachers and provision of resources materials. He assured members that the ED would monitor the progress of implementation of the new Guidelines and strengthen the provision of support services.

23. On the Chairman’s enquiry about the input from teachers, AD/CDI said that besides soliciting teachers’ assistance in the production of resources materials and sharing their successful teaching experiences in civic education publications, experienced teachers were invited as members of the Civic Education Subject Committee (Secondary) to develop the civic education syllabus for S1 to S3.

24. The meeting ended at 2:00 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
4 June 1997

Last Updated on 14 August 1998