Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)1973/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/ED

LegCo Panel on Education

Minutes of Meeting
held on Monday, 18 January 1999 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 Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
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

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 Fanny LAW, JP
Director of Education

Assistant Director of Education (Planning & Research)

Item IV

Mr Joseph Y T LAI
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Ms Ellen CHOY
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
Director of Education

Chief Executive, Curriculum Development Institute

Item V

Mr Philip K F CHOK
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)

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

Mrs Brenda FUNG
Deputy Secretary-General
University Grants Committee

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)1003/98-99]

The minutes of the meeting held on 26 October 1998 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
[Paper No. CB(2)1063/98-99(01)]

2. In response to Ms Emily LAU and Mrs Selina CHOW, the Chairman advised and members agreed that the Panel would determine the priority of discussion items based on the following considerations -

  1. urgency and importance of the issue;

  2. availability of information and the Administration's readiness to discuss the issue; and

  3. members' views.

3. Members agreed to include the following new items in the list of outstanding issues for future discussion -

  1. Services for children suffering from specific reading and writing difficulties;

  2. Provision of libraries for primary schools;

  3. Teaching of Putonghua in schools;

  4. Integrated Education; and

  5. Implementation of benchmark tests for English teachers in schools.

4. Members also agreed to discuss the following issues at the next regular meeting on 22 February 1999 -

  1. Facilities for physical development and sports education in primary and secondary schools;

  2. Training and development programmes for school principals; and

  3. Education Commission's consultation documents on Aims of Education (to be published on 22 January 1999).

(Post-meeting note : Due to clashes of meetings, the Administration requested to advance discussion of item (c) to a special meeting on 1 February 1999. At the request of Mrs Selina CHOW, item (b) was deferred to the Panel meeting on 15 March 1999. The Chairman subsequently agreed, at members' request, to re-schedule the February meeting of the Panel to 12 February 1999 and two new items were included in the agenda.)

III. Improving the student-teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools
[Paper No. CB(2)1063/98-99(02)]

5. Mr Andrew WONG said that the Administration's discussion paper did not provide comprehensive information for discussion by the Panel, as there was no comparison on the average class sizes in primary and secondary schools between Hong Kong and overseas countries.

6. Director of Education (D of E) explained that there was no available information on the class size in overseas countries. The Education Department (ED) had only been able to obtain the ranges of student-teacher ratios for comparision with Hong Kong. She added that as the class sizes of schools in western countries varied substantially from class to class, it would be more appropriate and meaningful to make a comparision based on the overall student-teacher ratios.

7. Ms Emily LAU expressed concern that the existing class sizes in public sector schools were too large for effective teaching and learning. While acknowledging there was always the problem of limited resources, she urged the Administration to review the class sizes of public sector schools and expedite the process of reducing the class size in schools. She noted that teachers were still subject to heavy workload despite the provision of additional teaching posts in public sector schools. She pointed out that a reduced class size would be the long-term solution to reduce teacher workload and to enhance the teaching and learning process in schools. In this connection, Ms LAU asked whether the Administration had in mind an ideal class size for schools in Hong Kong and the implementation plan for achieving the target.

8. D of E responded that she was fully aware of the heavy workload of teachers and the difficulties of achieving effective teaching and learning in classrooms. She explained that ED had been concentrating efforts to implement whole-day schooling in public sector primary schools, and this had slightly slowed down the progress in reducing class sizes in schools. Nevertheless, ED had taken the following improvement initiatives to reduce teacher workload in addition to the provision of some 490 and 670 additional school teachers respectively in primary and secondary schools -

  1. to streamline procedures which were outdated or superfluous;

  2. to allow schools to employ part-time staff within their resources in order to share teachers' workload;

  3. to encourage mutual help and sharing of experience among teachers by making use of the Internet; and

  4. to utilise community resources such as the youth and community services of Social Welfare Department to assist in student counselling and organisation of extra-curriculur activities for students.

9. In response to Ms Emily LAU, D of E said that there was no ideal model as far as class size was concerned. According to research findings in western countries, no definite conclusion had been reached with regard to the most appropriate class size for schools, as educationalists held different views on the issue. Generally, schools in Asian countries had larger class sizes than those in western countries, but students in some Asian countries still demonstrated overall satisfactory academic achievements. Nevertheless, it was commonly accepted that a smaller class size for primary education would be beneficial to younger children as they required more assistance and guidance in learning. As regards secondary education, a substantial reduction in class size, for example from 40 to 20, would enhance students' academic achievements but a marginal adjustment in class size would not make much difference.

10. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed the view that a smaller class size would definitely help improve the quality of teaching especially for students with learning difficulties. In a class of a lesser number of students such as the remedial class, teachers would definitely have more time to understand the students' problems and help them progress faster. He was of the view that the existing class sizes of 37 and 40 for primary and secondary schools respectively were too large, as compared to that of the English-speaking international schools. Mr CHEUNG added that in a recent opinion survey on the most disappointing issues in education, large class size in primary schools was ranked second on the list. In this connection, he urged the Administration to formulate targets for reducing class sizes in primary and secondary schools.

11. In response, D of E explained that the Administration had given priority to the provision of full-day schooling in all primary schools by the year 2007/08. In view of the need to concentrate resources for implementation of full-day primary schooling, the class size for primary schools had been slightly adjusted, as a temporary measure, from 40 to 37 instead of 35.

12. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said he was concerned that the class size of secondary schools would remain at 40 for some years as a result of implementing full-day primary schooling. He pointed out that for schools which admitted more Band Five students, teachers could not devote more time to those students with learning difficulties or behavioural problems. He therefore urged the Administration to consider reducing the class size in secondary schools before the year 2007. Ms Emily LAU shared the view of Mr CHEUNG and said that those schools with more intake of Band Five students should be given priority in the reduction of class size.

13. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for EM) responded that the Administration had to strike a balance in allocating resources between implementing whole-day primary schooling and adjusting the class size in schools. He said that the policy decision was made having regard to the expectation of the education community. Government had already announced that whole-day primary schooling would be achieved by year 2007, and that there would be adjustments to the reduction of class size in primary and secondary schools. Progress of the implementation of whole-day primary schooling would depend on a number of factors such as the availability of suitable sites for construction of new primary schools and the distribution of population growth in the next decade. When whole-day primary schooling was achieved, resources could be re-deployed to further reduce class sizes in primary and secondary schools. DS for EM assured members that the Administration would keep under review the progress of implementing whole-day schooling and reducing class size in public sector schools. As regards schools with a larger intake of Band Five students, DS for EM said that additional support and teaching resources had been provided to these schools.

14. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung asked about the reasons why implementation of whole-day primary schooling could affect the progress of reducing class size in secondary schools. D of E replied that as priority was given to implementing whole-day primary schooling, there were not enough sites for new schools to reduce class size. DS for EM supplemented that shortage of suitable sites for new schools remained to be the major constraint in the reduction of class sizes in schools.

15. Mr SZETO Wah commented that despite improvements made in respect of student-teacher ratio, teacher-class ratio and class size, there were more grievance from teachers about heavier workload arising from the implementation of many education initiatives in recent years. He suggested that ED should review with schools and teachers ways to streamline or reduce existing procedures, particularly those of an administrative or clerical nature, so that teachers could concentrate more on teaching and professional duties. D of E responded that there were no short-term solutions to the problem and the whole issue of enhancing quality education and reducing teachers' workload should be considered in the context of the Education Commission's review of the education system. She agreed that teachers should be given more time to review and reflect on their teaching effectiveness, and measures were being taken to relieve teachers from duties not related to teaching, such as the provision of IT coordinators in schools.

16. Mrs Selina CHOW said that the student-teacher ratio would definitely have an impact on the quality of education. She noted from the Annex of the Administration's paper that the student-teacher ratio would decrease in the coming years, but there was no indication of the Administration's long term target ratio. In this respect, she asked whether there was any planning target for student-teacher ratio. In reply, D of E said that the Annex in the Administration's paper already indicated Government's commitment to improving the student-teacher ratio based on existing policies. However, the Administration had yet to formulate future policy targets which would be announced once a decision was made.

17. In view of the shortage of schools sites in urban districts, Mr SIN Chung-kai suggested that the Administration should consider a new school planning concept similar to the Industrial Estate. For example, the Administration could designate a larger area in new towns and developments such as the South East Kowloon Development for construction of a number of primary and secondary schools. Provided with a more spacious environment and better facilities including school bus and catering services, the "School Estate" would be welcome by parents and students.

18. In response, D of E said that Mr SIN's proposal could be considered if the community was in support of a policy providing school places on a territory-wide basis instead of a district basis. She added that apart from competing for physical resources for construction of new schools, the Administration also had to deal with the problems of reprovisioning a number of existing schools whose design was out-dated and could not meet the accommodation standards for year 2000. DS for EM said that he would relay Mr SIN's proposal to the relevant bureaux for consideration. He added that the provision of secondary schools was now planned on a territory-wide basis, on the condition that secondary schools would not concentrate only in some districts. Adm

19. Dr YEUNG Sum stated that Members of the Democratic Party were in support of reduction of class size in schools as a measure to enhance the quality of teaching. In this connection, he urged the Administration to clearly set out the policy direction and implementation table for reduction of class size. Dr YEUNG was of the view that as Hong Kong's economy was undergoing re-structuring, there would be a greater demand of an educated workforce. He reminded the Administration that Hong Kong's assets lay mainly in its high quality workforce, and it would be important for Hong Kong to continue to invest in education and manpower resources in order to maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness in the next century. D of E noted Mr YEUNG's concern and re-assured members that the Administration was committed to progressively reducing the class size in schools.

20. Ms Emily LAU commented that the urban re-development projects would increase the supply of land for construction of new schools. She reiterated that more resources should be allocated to schools which had a higher intake of Band Five students.

21. With regard to the provision of land for construction of new schools, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested and members agreed to further discuss the issue with representatives from the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau at a future meeting. The Chairman advised that this could be included in the agenda of the March meeting of the Education Panel.

IV. Target Oriented Curriculum
[Paper No. CB(2)1063/98-99(01)]

22. The Chairman informed members that a survey report of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers Limited on the implementation of Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) [LC Paper No. CB(2)1092/98-99] had been circulated to members before the meeting.

23. At the invitation of the Chairman, D of E briefed members on the TOC in primary education. She said that TOC comprised four major components, namely, the objectives, the curriculum framework, the teaching and learning process, and the target oriented assessment system. While the TOC elements were generally well accepted by the teaching profession, there were criticisms about the assessment aspect of TOC. D of E agreed that there was a need to review the teachers' workload generated from assessing, recording and reporting students' performance under the TOC scheme. In this connection, ED was actively reviewing the assessment procedures in order to provide greater flexibility to teachers. The review would be completed before commencement of the 1999/2000 academic year when TOC would be extended to primary five classes of public sector primary schools.

24. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed strong reservations about the effectiveness of TOC. He informed members that many teachers had found TOC's assessment methods too tedious and time-consuming and yet unreliable as a basis for Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA). Moreover, TOC did not provide concrete measures to help those low achievers to improve. He said that the Administration had not accepted the suggestion of many educational bodies, including the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, to defer full implementation of TOC pending the results of a comprehensive review of its effectiveness. The implementation of TOC had now proved to be a failure. Mr CHEUNG considered that one main reason for TOC's failure in achieving its objectives was that the Administration had been too hasty in implementing the TOC in the 1995/96 academic year.

25. D of E replied that ED was always ready to listen and respond to suggestions of the education community. In addition to the continuous evaluation of the implementation of TOC, ED had commissioned the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Institute of Education to conduct studies on the problems encountered in the implementation TOC in schools. Chief Executive, Curriculum Development Institute (CE/CDI) supplemented that based on findings of these studies and the experience in implementing TOC, ED had introduced improvements to the TOC curriculum and its assessment methods. For example, schools were encouraged to exercise their professional judgement to integrate flexibly the assessment strategies of TOC with other appropriate assessment methods to suit the needs of individual schools. CE/CDI also clarified that there was no intention at the present stage to replace the Secondary School Places Allocation System with TOC assessment. As TOC was only one method to identify the strengths and weaknesses of students, schools were advised to adopt also other methods such as corrections, counselling and remedial teaching to assist students to achieve the learning targets.

26. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong acknowledged that ED had made swift improvements to TOC in response to comments. He said that the lesson to be learnt from the experience of TOC implementation was that every major change in the education system should only be carried out with careful planning and thorough evaluation of the consequences. While he appreciated the values and ideology of TOC, he pointed out that the TOC assessment methods had proved to be not workable. He said that TOC was not the only method to achieve the educational targets in primary education. He therefore urged the Administration to adopt a more prudent approach in educational reform.

27. The Chairman asked whether a primary school which adopted TOC elements except the assessment methods would still be regarded as a TOC school. CE/CDI responded that there were different levels of TOC implementation in schools. She explained that TOC assessment was based on criterion-referencing principles emphasizing on judging, monitoring and describing the progress of individual students in relation to targets or criteria. As TOC consisted of four elements, a school which had adopted the three elements other than the assessment method of TOC would still be regarded as a TOC school. To encourage and assist schools to implement TOC, ED would provide grants and arrange teachers training programmes and other professional support services for schools implementing TOC. In reply to the Chairman's further question, CE/CDI said that the classification of TOC and non-TOC schools was largely based on the feedback by schools and the fact that whether they were in receipt of the TOC grants.

28. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung said that many teachers had found it difficult to design appropriate targeted oriented assessments for individual students, and some had resorted to expensive TOC exercise books available on the market. Moreover, these TOC assessment exercises covered a wide range of topics and were rather complicated. This had become a burden on teachers, parents and students who had to comprehend and complete the assessments. In this connection, Mr LEUNG expressed much concern about the financial and psychological pressure on parents and students. He urged the Administration to suspend the implementation of TOC, until the result of a comprehensive review of TOC was known.

29. CE/CDI responded that the studies conducted by the University of Hong Kong had recommended improvements to the target oriented assessments, including simplifying the recording and reporting procedures and reducing the number of formal assessments. It also recommended providing feedback to individual students. She said that parents were expected to play a significant role in monitoring children's learning progress. She stressed that the implementation and development of TOC in primary education would be a continuous process and its effectiveness would be subject to monitoring and improvements. In the absence of a better alternative, it would not be practical to discontinue TOC at the present stage. She emphasized that according to the findings of the two researches, the majority of school heads and teachers had given positive comments on TOC. D of E supplemented that it was natural that schools and teachers would have to undergo an adjustment process to familiarise themselves with the changes arising from implementation of TOC. She considered that under the school-based management, schools would have flexibility in modifying the teaching and assessment methods. Parents who had difficulties in monitoring their children's progress could approach the school heads and teachers for advice and assistance. She said that there were also successful examples of the implementation of TOC, and it would be inappropriate to abandon TOC altogether.

30. Prof NG Ching-fai enquired about the methodologies adopted by the two tertiary institutions in evaluating the effectiveness of TOC and the proportion of successful and unsuccessful cases in the implementation of TOC. CE/CDI replied that evaluation was a longitudinal study on schools which joined TOC in 1995 and 1998. Basically, it included observations by ED inspectors during their visits to schools implementing TOC and quantitative/qualitative analyses of the progress made. She pointed out that evaluation of the effectiveness of TOC implementation was largely based on the feedback of teachers. In the 1998 survey, over 600 questionnaires had been issued and 60% had responded. The majority of the school principals and teachers responded to the questionnaire gave positive comments on TOC, and they considered that both teaching and learning had been enhanced after implementing TOC.

Mr SZETO Wah commented that by encouraging schools to exercise more independence and flexibility in their implementation of TOC, the Administration had in fact acknowledged the failure of TOC. As such, the Administration should immediately cease the implementation of TOC in primary schools. In this connection, he cited the example of an education reform in the 1960's reducing the duration of primary education from six to five years. He said that Hong Kong Government had then taken the decisive step to abandon the reform one year after implementation.

31. Mr SIN Chung-kai asked whether the survey had included feedback from parents and students as users of TOC. CE/CDI responded that the findings on parents' acceptance of TOC were less reliable as parents generally were not familiar with the conceptual framework of TOC. D of E supplemented that it would be difficult to have a consensus view among all stakeholders in any major education reform. She pointed out that the education community was generally in support of the TOC concept, although there were different views on implementation. It was hoped that all parties concerned would gradually appreciate the merits of TOC after a period of implementation. According to survey findings, only 15% of the respondents had indicated their preference to abandon TOC while the majority demanded improvements to TOC, in particular the assessment mechanism. She suggested that members might wish to read the half-yearly TOC Newsletters which contained views expressed by school principals, teachers, parents and students.

32. Dr YEUNG Sum stated that when TOC was first introduced into primary education in 1995, Members of the Democratic Party had urged the Administration to take a prudent approach by conducting a trial scheme and a review of its effectiveness before taking a decision on full implementation. He was disappointed that the Administration had not taken heed of the advice. He noted that ED would now encourage schools to implement TOC independently and flexibly, and he queried what would remain in TOC if schools chose to abandon the TOC assessments and delink TOC with SSPA. CE/CDI responded that despite some adverse comments from stakeholders on the TOC Scheme, TOC was generally regarded as beneficial to the development and learning of children. She said that TOC in fact had a much wider coverage than the previous curriculum. Before the introduction of TOC, teachers were less conscious of the learning targets of the curriculum. TOC also emphasized on using daily contexts in teaching and learning to facilitate the application of knowledge. The experiential dimension in TOC had proved to be very effective in stimulating interest of students and enhancing the learning process. The student-centred teaching strategy could also cater for individual differences, which was a major change from traditional teaching. In general, students under the TOC scheme made more satisfactory progress in the five fundamental ways of learning, i.e., reasoning, communicating, conceptualising, inquiring and problem-solving. According to feedback from the surveyed schools, most students receiving TOC education had acquired more skills and made marked improvements in listening and speaking skills in addition to reading and writing.

33. Miss CHOY So-yuk said that while she did not object to the principles of TOC, she was concerned about its effectiveness given the limited resources allocated for implementation. For example, the large class size and numerous TOC tasks would add burden to teachers who might find insufficient time to help those under-achieved students. D of E responded that the five essential elements of TOC were generally accepted by the education community. As regards remedial education, she considered that parents also had a role to play in assisting their children to achieve the learning targets.

34. Mrs Selina CHOW said that Members of the Liberal Party did not oppose to the concept of TOC but they were concerned about the coordination of efforts among different stakeholders and the adequacy of supporting programmes for the implementation of TOC. As TOC was a major education reform, there should be a range of comprehensive supporting services to ensure that participating schools would not lag behind others in the implementation of TOC. In this connection, she urged the Administration to address the concerns of teachers and parents, and to set out clearly the future direction of TOC such as its interface with SSPA and secondary education. She said she would support the Chairman's motion on "Comprehensive review of the Target Oriented Curriculum" to be debated at the Legislative Council meeting on 20 January 1999.

35. D of E responded that SSPA did not affect the existing teaching practice of schools as they were free to choose whether to include the coursework mark under TOC in the scores to be submitted to ED for SSPA. She said that the main controversy at present was the complicated task-oriented assessment methods under TOC which had added pressure on teachers in evaluating their students' performance. To address this problem, ED would conduct a holistic review of the TOC curriculum to ensure that it would meet the demands of the 21st century. Schools would also be given the flexibility in adopting TOC assessment methods. As regards additional resources to schools implementing TOC, D of E informed members that schools which adopted the Activity Approach would have a class size of 32 instead of 37, and this would alleviate the pressure on teachers in coping with the extra workload.

36. The Chairman concluded the discussion by informing members that a motion debate on the subject would take place at the LegCo meeting on 20 January 1999.

V. Centres of Excellence for higher education
[Paper No. CB(2)1063/98-99(04)]

37. Ms Emily LAU said that one main objective of establishing areas of excellence (AoE) in local universities was to attract and retain outstanding talents to work in Hong Kong. She noted, however, that many Nobel Price winners of Chinese race had chosen to work overseas. She therefore asked how Hong Kong could create an environment to attract and retain internationally recognized talents, with the limited resources to be ploughed back from the 5% savings of the UGC-funded institutions.

38. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for EM) responded that the 5% savings in terms of average student unit costs to be achieved by UGC by the end of the current triennium (1998/99 to 2000/01) would amount to about $1,100 million. Of this amount, the UGC estimated that about $380 million could be made available for the development of AoE and other related quality assurance initiatives in the remainder of the current triennium. He emphasised that, as highlighted in the Chief Executive's 1997 and 1998 Policy Addresses, the Government was committed to the development of AoE. UGC would continue to invite proposals of AoE in the second and subsequent rounds of funding.

39. Ms Emily LAU then enquired about the potential areas of excellence where local tertiary institutions would be most qualified to attain international recognition. In response, Deputy Secretary General of University Grants Committee (DSG of UGC) said that UGC had considered 41 detailed proposals, covering a wide spread of disciplines, from the eight UGC-funded institutions. UGC could initially support five proposals in the first round. She assured members that UGC would follow up with the institutions concerned on other worthwhile projects and the second round would commence later this year.

40. The Deputy Chairman commented that the Administration should provide additional resources for establishing AoEs rather than using the 5% savings of the UGC-funded institutions for the purpose. As regards the potential areas of excellence in local tertiary institutions, he was of the view that though Hong Kong might not be able to match in full with those AoEs in the United States, many local institutions were now capable of developing their existing strengths into AoEs. As the critical mass had developed and there were talents within the local tertiary institutions, Hong Kong would be able to develop some world class research centres with time and perseverance. Now that the Administration had agreed to provide a supplementary provision of $129.5 million to UGC-funded institutions to meet the shortfall in tuition fee income in 1998/99, he sought assurance from UGC whether it would be prepared to encourage re-submissions of proposals for AoEs in the light of increased resources.

41. Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS for EM) replied that as a result of Government's decision to freeze the 1998/99 tuition fee of UGC-funded institutions at the 1997/98 level, the tuition fee income of these institutions in the 1998/99 academic year would be $149.5 million less than the estimated amount. Since the UGC had been able to identify $20 million savings from the approved provision to meet part of the income shortfall in 1998/99, the Administration would seek the approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for a supplementary provision of $129.5 million in 1998/99 to meet the balance of income shortfall of these institutions. DS for EM supplemented that in view of the financial constraints in recent years, UGC-funded institutions had been requested to identify 10% savings, without detriment to the quality, by the end of the current triennium. The Administration had agreed that half of the 10% savings could be retained by UGC to meet new expenditure requirements and encourage new developments, including the development of AoE and additional quality assurance initiatives.

42. As regards re-submission of AoE proposals, DSG of UGC stressed that consideration of these proposals was strictly based on their merits.

43. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed serious reservations about the approach adopted by the Administration in the recent funding arrangements for tertiary institutions. He was of the view that the Administration should not unilaterally announce the decision of freezing the tuition fees at 1997/98 level without first consulting the UGC-funded institutions about the consequent funding arrangement. He said that the Administration was wrong in requiring the universities to find their own resources to finance the AoE and to take on 265 additional taught postgraduates above the target number without additional funding from Government. The top-down approach was unfair to UGC and the eight UGC-funded institutions. He also queried that such practice was detrimental to the contractual relationship between Government and the tertiary institutions.

44. DS for EM explained that the recurrent triennium funding for UGC-funded institutions was determined on a deficiency grant basis after deducting the estimated expenditure from the projected income such as tuition fees. If the actual income in a particular academic year turned out to be less than the estimated amount, and to the extent that the shortfall could not be met by UGC or the institutions, Government would seek supplementary provision to meet the shortfall. He added that Government had discussed with UGC the financial constraints faced by Government, and UGC had indicated understanding of the situation and willingness to identify savings. As regards the intake of 265 additional students above the target number, DS for EM clarified that the eight UGC-funded institutions had full discretion in deciding the number of additional students to be enrolled without detriment to quality and additional funding. PAS for EM(1) stressed that it was not Government policy to impose on the universities that they must enrol 265 additional students. UGC-funded institutions were only encouraged to consider enrolling more students than the target number without detriment to quality, as a measure in support of further education.

45. Mr CHEUNG was not convinced of the Administration's explanation. He said that the universities were placed in a difficult position as the Government had announced its intention before consulting them. Dr YEUNG Sum shared the views of Mr CHEUNG and urged the Administration to refrain from such practice in future.Adm

46. The Deputy Chairman sought clarification from the Administration as to whether the 5% savings of UGC would be reserved specifically for AoE and not for other purposes. DSG of UGC said that the assurance was already given in paragraph 6 in the Administration's paper. She added that in the current triennium, UGC had about $380 million available in its Central Allocation Vote as provision for AoE and other related quality assurance initiatives.

47. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration for attending the meeting.

VI. Any other business

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

Legislative Council Secretariat
14 May 1999