Increase Expenditure on Education and Make Good Long-term Planning

Are the educational measures implemented by the new Government sufficient to cater to the public demand?

Policy Address Comments
We will strengthen our support for students with special educational needs. Starting from the 2013-14 school year, the EDB will raise the ceiling of the annual Learning Support Grant from $1 million to $1.5 million per school to strengthen support for schools. Only 28 out of 680 publicly-funded schools are eligible for the grant.
To provide an opportunity for ethnic minority students to learn Chinese more effectively, we will enhance support measures in schools. No tailor-made curriculum and examination of the subject of Chinese Language for the ethnic minority students were introduced.
In the sector of Secondary schools, a series of measures to help preserve our schools, the teaching force and the strengths of our education sector will be implemented. No timeline has been made for the introduction of small-class teaching in the secondary schools.
Budget Comments
An additional $480 million be injected into the HKSAR Government Scholarship Fund (GSF) to set up scholarships for outstanding local students to take degree courses or teacher training programmes in prestigious universities outside Hong Kong. Awardees must undertake to teach in Hong Kong upon graduation for at least two years. No substantial solution for facilitating new teachers to be recruited.
$5 billion be injected into the Language Fund. Two English language schemes under the Language Fund to provide schools with supporting staff have been cancelled.

626p1a_pic03In January, the first Policy Address and Budget announced by the Chief Executive were very much disappointing the education sector. We had believed that what Leung promised to do for the education sector in his policy platform would bring a new hope to the stagnant educational policies carried out by our sunset government. However, Leung just played a tactics of procrastination after he took office. We have not seen any new long-term planning on primary, secondary or special education. Even the new fundings were only one-off, or did not meet the social need.

A survey conducted in July of this year concerning teachers’ views towards the educational policies of Leung Government showed that 65% of secondary school teachers were dissatisfied with the policies, which was the highest among all sectors. This is a clear warning to the Government. Fung Wai-wah, our President and Ip Kin-yuen, the lawmaker of our field, talked with Chief Executive, Chief Secretary for Administration, and Financial Secretary last month about our comments towards the coming Budget and Policy Address. We urged the Government not to turn a deaf ear to our voices, and the most essential is to strengthen the investment in our field.

Increase the recurrent expenditure on education

To show Government’s long-term commitment in the education, she should first increase the recurrent expenditure on the field. Despite the abundant financial reserve, the expenditure on education which represented 24% of total recurrent government expenditure in 2005, dropped down to 16.5% in this financial year. Moreover, in recent years the percentage of resources allocated to education, as compared to our GDP is under 3.5%, which has been surpassed by other economic developed countries. We suggested that the Government should increase this percentage to 4.5% in the short term, which barely reaches at the lower end level of the economic developed regions; and 5.4% in the long term, which is nearer to their average level. Only at this level will the Government have sufficient resources to carry out a variety of measures. Concerning the primary and secondary education, we propose:

Reduce the number of teaching sessions
·To increase the numuber of vacancies of permanent teaching posts, and improve on the class-to-teacher ratios in primary and secondary schools, from 1:1.7 to 1:2.0 in junior secondary schools; from 1:2.0 to 1:2.3 in senior secondary schools and from 1:1.5 to 1:1.8 in primary schools respectively, so that the quality of education can be upgraded. Based on the fact that every student has 40 sessions per week, we believe that every teacher can teach 4 to 5 sessions less per week.

Equal pay for equal work
·We found that the employment of regular teachers with fixed-term contracts is now being abused, and the number of the regular teachers employed with fixed-term contracts amounts to more than 2000. We urge the Education Bureau to address this issue seriously, and at least change half of the posts of teachers employed with fixed-term contracts to the permanent posts within a year.
·The numbers of teachers with degree qualifications but holding non-graduate teacher posts in secondary and primary schools amount to 4764 and 9761 respectively. We urged the government to change all these non-graduate teacher posts to the graduate posts, to achieve qual work deserves equal pay?

Relieve teachers’ stress
·To relieve teachers’ stress by completely reviewing all the policies of the education reform, and reduce all non cost-effective work. Abolish external school review and simplify the operation of SBA.
·To re-activate the application of Liberal Studies Curriculum Support Grant and two English Enhancement Schemes so that the shortage of teaching manpower can be relieved.
·To review and regularise all kinds of school grants and funds in the long term, so that more staff of school administration, clerical staff and supporting staff of IT and other technologies can be recruited to alleviate teachers’ non-teaching workload.

Introduce small-class teaching in secondary schools and stabilize the sector’s stability
·To take the opportunity of the decline in secondary student population, the Government should introduce progressively the 25-student small class teaching in secondary schools.
·To make good planning of school places and review the proposal of reducing the allocation class size, so that the secondary school sector would be stabilized.
·To allow secondary schools facing under-enrolment and reduction of classes, including those schools which did not take part in Voluntary Optimisation of Class Structure Scheme, to keep their establishment of regular teaching manpower intact.

Improve Special Education and Integrated Education
·To largely increase the expenditure on the integrated education. The unit cost of each integrated student should be the same as that of students with mild intellectual disabilities. ($137,500)
·To increase the teaching posts for those schools recruiting more integrated students, by around one to two permanent teaching posts on top of the normal establishment of the regular teachers, and also increase a permanent post of the coordinator for special education in the mainstream schools. In the short term, one autistic student recruited by a school should be counted as two normal students, so that schools can be eligible to recruit sufficient professionals.
·To provide integrated and special schools with additional supporting and counselling manpower, such as speech therapists, psychologists and occupational therapists. When a school recruits a student who is diagnosed as suffering from mental health problems like schizophrenia or psychosis, the school should be provided with extra resources and professional support.
·To provide teachers with appropriate, long-term and sustainable professional training of integrated education, so that they are equipped with professional techniques to take care of students with special needs.
·To increase the manpower of the special schools, and reduce the number of students in each class, from 10 to 8 students in the class of moderate intellectual disability and from 8 to 6 students in the class of severe intellectual disability, and provide schools with appropriate assistance packages to improve the campus.

Reform the vocational education
·To offer financial support for the implementation of “Applied Learning Courses” in secondary schools, and facilitate the students of grass-root families to have more opportunities of taking the applied learning courses.
·To carry out sweeping reforms of vocational education, and introduce some new and quality vocational education programs in stage of senior secondary and post-secondary education, so that the students can keep abreast of the new vocational technologies and career attitudes.
·To consider the feasibility of cooperating with different industries to open some apprenticeship programs or even enhance their remuneration package, in view that Hong Kong will experience the ageing of and a succession gap among technical personnel in some industries, so that the youth would be attracted to join these industries.

Cancel TSA and enhance the counselling service
·To overall review the TSA and save students from those unnecessary overdone training. If the situation has not ameliorated, the TSA implemented in Primary 3 and 6 should be abolished.
·To enhance the counselling service and introduce a system of “one plus one” in primary schools, that is one school social worker plus one counselling teacher. To scrap the tendering approach so that the sustainability and the effectiveness of the counselling service would be ensured.