Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)1577/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/ED

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 11 December 1998 at 2:30 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
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members Absent :

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Item II

Mr Raymond YOUNG
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
Director of Education

Item III

Mr Raymond YOUNG
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
Director of Education

Dr Joseph CHOW, OBE, JP
Chairman, Hong Kong Examinations Authority

Secretary, Hong Kong Examinations Authority

Item IV

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Margaret CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
Director of Education

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
[LC Paper No. CB(2)804/98-99]

The minutes of the meeting held on 12 October 1998 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
[Paper No. CB(2)827/98-99(01)]

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting to be held on 18 January 1999 -

  1. Improving the student-teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools;

  2. Progress on the implementation of Target Oriented Curriculum; and

  3. Development of and resources for centres of excellence in local tertiary institutions.

III. School-based assessment in the public examination system of the Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA)
[Paper No. CB(2)827/98-99(02)]

3. Dr YEUNG Sum said that while he supported the spirit of the school-based assessment (SBA), he was concerned about ways to ensure the objectivity, credibility and fairness of the assessment method. As different schools might adopt different assessment methods, he asked how the school assessments could be objectively incorporated into the results of the public examinations.

4. Chairman of Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA) responded that the purpose of introducing SBA was two-fold. Firstly, the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) had placed much pressure on students as their performance in a one-off examination would have much impact on their career opportunities. The SBA could help alleviate the impact of public examinations on students and enhance the reliability and fairness of the public examination system. Secondly, some skills required of students could not be assessed by written examinations. Multiple assessments such as SBA could complement and increase the validity of the public examinations.

5. On measures to ensure the quality and reliability of SBA, Chairman of HKEA said that there would be pre-assessment guidelines for standardisation of process, and post-assessment moderation procedures to adjust teachers' marks to eliminate differences among schools and teachers. Two moderation methods were being examined in the consultancy study on SBA, including a statistical calibration model to bring school assessments to a common scale. HKEA would also consider sending designated persons to schools to conduct sample checks on the school assessments.

6. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung expressed serious concern that the education system of Hong Kong was examination-led, and that the proposed SBA was still basically examination-driven, aggravating the pressure on teachers and students. At present, teachers tended to focus on subjects within the examination syllabuses. To develop students' creativity, he suggested HKEA to explore other assessment methods such as project assignments which could also assess students' judgment and organisational abilities. He quoted his personal experience as a secondary school teacher that students often demonstrated much commitment and creativity in carrying out such projects.

7. Referring to Mr LEUNG's comments on the education system of Hong Kong, Chairman of HKEA said that the issue involved a much wider range of concerns which were outside the scope of the current study of HKEA. However, he agreed with Mr LEUNG that project assignments could be included in SBA. He explained that while the public examination system had the merits of providing an objective, open and fair assessment of students' performance, it had the limitation of not being able to test some of the skills and abilities that students were expected to develop during secondary education. The purpose of SBA was therefore to integrate the school assessments of their students' abilities and skills into the public examination results.

8. Director of Education (D of E) responded to Mr LEUNG's comment and said that the Curriculum Development Council was reviewing the syllabuses to trim down the contents with a view to enhancing the teaching and learning process. She agreed that project assignments could promote creativity and team work among students, and could be considered for inclusion into SBA. She added that some schools also conducted short tests without notice to assess students' progress, which was also a form of continuous assessment.

9. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for EM) supplemented that project assignments were one method to assess abilities such as creativity and analytical power which could not be adequately reflected in open examinations. According to overseas experience, SBA would help alleviate the tension or pressure of public examinations on teachers and students. However, the method to be used for incorporating the school assessments in public examination results would require very careful consideration. One option would be to show the school assessment alongside the public examination results, and the other to adjust the public examination results by incorporating SBA. The Administration would consider the consultancy recommendations with regard to the impact on teachers and students.

10. Mr LEUNG pointed out that the public examinations on certain technical and science subjects already included project assessments and practical tests. The question was to extend the arrangement to other subjects to enable a more balanced assessment of students' abilities. Chairman of HKEA responded that this was exactly the objective of the current study and the school-based assessment. Secretary of HKEA agreed that the existing system was too examination-led, and schools only concentrated their efforts on subjects which would be assessed in HKCEE and HKALE. The proposed SBA was to introduce a more balanced assessment approach which took account of abilities not tested in written examinations.

11. Mr SZETO Wah expressed serious concern about ways to ensure fairness of SBA and to solve the problems indicated in paragraph 8 of the Administration's paper. He remarked that inspection of school assessments did not guarantee a fair assessment system, and that the reliability of statistical moderation would depend much on the method chosen. He was of the opinion that pressure on students was not caused by the one-off examination itself but the fact that the examination results would determine the future of students. It was therefore important to identify a fair assessment system which could adequately reflect the various abilities of students. He also expressed concern about the additional pressure generated by implementation of SBA on teachers and students.

12. Chairman of HKEA said that there was no easy answer to Mr SZETO's concerns as a perfect system did not exist. He acknowledged that the emphasis placed on public examination results by employers and universities would inevitably add pressure to students, but it was extremely difficult to find a system to completely replace public examinations. HKEA was now examining different alternatives of a multiple assessment scheme which was appropriate to the culture and circumstances of Hong Kong. One alternative was to show a composite grading for both school assessment and public examination but the weighting or proportion of the two assessments would have to be considered. Another alternative was to list the SBA results alongside the public examination gradings. HKEA would have to consult the stakeholders when the consultancy recommendations were available. On the measures to ensure fairness and reliability of the SBA, Secretary of HKEA explained that the statistical moderation method was to adjust the SBA results submitted by a school in the light of the school's overall performance in the same subject in the public examination. The pre-assessment guidelines would also provide a standardised procedure for teachers to follow in conducting school assessments. As regards the random inspection of school assignments, it would enable HKEA to ascertain the average deviation of the school assessment from the benchmark of HKEA. Should a great variation be found in the school's SBA results, HKEA would arrange follow-up visits by experienced teachers to examine the assessments made by individual teachers concerned. He emphasized that these methods would help enhance the quality and reliability of the assessments of students' abilities among schools.

13. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed support of the direction of SBA but stressed that a prudent approach in implementation was necessary. He pointed out that the Administration and HKEA should have extensive consultation with stakeholders and be aware of the fact that the silent majority who were affected by the proposal might voice their opposition when the implementation details were known. He was of the view that changes to a long-standing system should only be introduced when the system was commonly recognized as rotten and when the new system had reached a stage of maturity for full implementation. In this connection, he considered a pilot scheme could be carried out in the first instance. He also requested the Administration to carefully consider the assessment criteria, the possible disparity between schools, quality assurance measures, weighting factors, monitoring mechanisms and the manpower implications before a decision was taken on full implementation.

14. The Deputy Chairman said that he supported the direction of SBA and continuous assessment which was commonly adopted by universities. He pointed out, however, that there was less problem of disparity in universities as both the tests and examinations were conducted by the same group of teachers. He was concerned that all secondary schools and teachers should be fully briefed on the assessment method and procedures before implementation.

15. Dr YEUNG Sum reiterated his support of the principle of SBA and recognition of non-academic abilities in the intake of undergraduates. Nevertheless, he warned that HKEA and the Administration must be careful in selecting the assessment method for SBA. He said that when Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) was introduced in 1995-96, the concept was widely accepted by the education community. However, TOC was now subject to much criticism due to problems in implementation.

Referring to paragraph 13 of the Administration's paper, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong and Mr SZETO Wah said that it did not give a clear direction of the way forward. Mr SZETO Wah emphasized the importance of a prudent approach in education reforms. He commented that there had been too many education reforms in recent years, and the results were far from satisfactory. He reminded the Administration that education required long-term efforts and Hong Kong should not blindly follow the footsteps of other countries. As regards SBA, the primary task would be the identification of a fair assessment method. He suggested that for the purpose of reflecting the achievements and abilities of students in other fields, separate certificates or gradings could be considered instead of a single certificate incorporating the gradings of schools and public examinations. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong agreed that it was no easy task to find an equitable assessment method for SBA, and failing that he would prefer two separate sets of marks for SBA and public examination results.

16. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung asked whether HKEA would consult teachers and parents in addition to seeking expert assistance in formulating an assessment method for SBA. In response, Chairman of HKEA re-affirmed that HKEA would proceed prudently after extensive consultation with all parties concerned.

17. The Chairman asked about the implementation timetable of SBA. Chairman of HKEA responded that the final report of the consultancy study would be available by the end of December 1998 and HKEA would need to carefully consider its recommendations prior to public consultation. As the examination system would have a great impact on schools, it would take a few years for schools to prepare for the change. He assured members that HKEA would take account of members' views in planning the way forward.

18. The Chairman thanked representatives of HKEA and the Administration for attending the discussion.

IV. Improvements to practical schools
[Paper Nos. CB(2)778/98-99(01) and CB(2)827/98-99(03)]

19. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong highlighted the salient points in his discussion paper [Paper No. CB(2)778/98-99(01)] which was prepared after the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union had interviewed four practical school principals concerning the assault of a teacher by a practical school student. He asked about the Administration's position on the following improvement proposals for practical schools as detailed in his paper -

  1. reduction of class size from 30 to 25;

  2. provision of one additional teacher for every eight classes;

  3. review of the referral and admission criteria;

  4. improvements to the remuneration package of educational psychologists; and

  5. provision of additional clerical staff.

20. In response, Assistant Director of Education (Services) (AD of E (Ser)) said that pursuant to the recommendations in the 1996 Report of the Board of Education (BoE) on Special Education and its review report on nine-year compulsory education, the BoE Subcommittee on Special Education had been asked to conduct a review on the effectiveness of practical schools and skills opportunity schools which would include such questions as staffing level and class size. The need for additional teaching and clerical staff in these schools would be part of the review and had to be examined in the light of their overall workload and the staff establishment. For example, 4.5 school social workers had been assigned to each practical school. As regards the referral system and admission criteria, AD of E (Ser) explained that there were clear guidelines for teachers and parents. However, some parents might prefer practical schools to skills opportunity schools. In this respect, ED would commission a review in March 1999 on the existing classification and assessment tools for referral to special schools, practical schools and skills opportunity schools.

21. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said he was also concerned about the professional training given to teachers in practical schools. He noted that in one practical school, only one of its teachers had received training on special education. Mr CHEUNG suggested provision of substitute teachers to practical schools to enable release of more serving teachers to attend full time or part time courses in the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIE). AD of E (Ser) replied that ED was discussing with HKIE the possibility of more training opportunities to meet the needs of serving teachers in practical schools. He hoped that he would arrive at some propositions with HKIE in January 1999.

22. Referring to paragraph 6(a) in the Administration's paper, the Chairman asked whether there was a need to commission another consultancy study as it might overlap those areas already covered by the 1996 Report on Special Education, such as the staffing levels in practical schools. AD of E (Ser) explained that the 1996 Report had indicated an increasing number of students suffering from a more severe degree of multiple handicaps in special schools, practical schools and skills opportunity schools. With the increasing trend of multiplicity of handicaps among students in these schools, it would be necessary to commission a consultancy study to examine the needs of these students and the services required, as ED did not have the expertise to conduct such studies.

23. Noting that 46% of Secondary Three graduates of practical schools could continue senior secondary education in mainstream schools in the past three years, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong enquired whether the Administration would consider operating senior secondary classes in practical schools. He was concerned that graduates of practical schools might not be able to adapt to the mainstream education, resulting in a high drop-out rate of these students during senior secondary education.

24. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for EM) acknowledged Mr CHEUNG's concern and said that the question involved the philosophy and principles of integrated education. The effectiveness of the post-Secondary Three arrangement for practical schools and skills opportunity schools would also be examined by the Subcommittee under BoE. ED would collate statistics and information from teachers and students on the adaptability of practical school graduates attending senior secondary classes in mainstream schools. It would formulate a view on the issue afterwards.

25. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung commented that although he had no information on the number of Secondary Three graduates of practical schools who were willing to receive or capable of completing senior secondary education, he considered that these students should be given a choice to continue education in practical schools or mainstream schools. DS for EM responded that ED was now gathering information on the subject and would make recommendations afterwards. D of E supplemented that Mr LEUNG's concern touched upon a wider issue about the provision of senior secondary education for all Secondary Three graduates including those of the practical schools. She considered that pending the review findings of the Subcommittee of BoE, the policy at the moment would be to integrate practical school graduates into mainstream schools as far as possible. She added that the review report would be available in Autumn 1999.

26. With regard to Mr LEUNG's concern about the reduction of class size in practical schools, AD of E (Ser) said that ED would seriously consider the recommendations of the Subcommittee of BoE. The Chairman advised that the issue could be further discussed after the Subcommittee's review.

27. Mr SZETO Wah requested ED to conduct follow-up study on whether the 46% of Secondary Three graduates of practical schools could effectively integrate into the mainstream education. He was concerned that these students might not be able to adapt to the different curriculum of grammar schools and they might feel alienated in the new environment. Mr YEUNG Sum commented that the recent socio-economic changes and the decline in manufacturing industry in Hong Kong had led to a lower demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labour. Being pragmatic, parents of practical school students would also like to equip their children with better education to gain access to universities and more employment opportunities. This being the case, there would be greater demand for senior secondary places in grammar schools from practical school students. He considered that the Administration should conduct an overall review in this respect. The Administration noted members' concerns. Adm

V. Any other business

Subcommittee on facilities in special schools for physically handicapped children

28. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong briefed members on the work of the Subcommittee. He said that following a visit to three special schools, the Subcommittee had proposed some improvement measures and discussed with the Administration, the Hong Kong Special Schools Council (HKSSC) and the Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation Community Rehabilitation Network (HKSRCRN). The Subcommittee would review progress of the improvement measures in three months. Mr CHEUNG expressed appreciation of the efforts made by the Administration, HKSSC, HKSRCRN and the Clerk to the Subcommittee in bringing about the improvements. A further report would be made to the Panel in due course.

29. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 4:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
25 March 1999