— Preliminary Recommendations from the HKPTU
PTU News Reporter
Educational policies of the CY Leung’s government are poor. Education resources are seriously lagging behind compared to other regions. Secretary for Education Eddie NG only listens to and believes in parts of the fact, needless to say, incapable of his job. It is already a consent in the society that improving education is one of the most urgent tasks for the new government. During her campaign, Carrie LAM, the Chief Executive-elect, listed out education policies that she will mainly be dealing with which include but not limited to the six items below:
(1) Establishing a pay scale for kindergarten teachers;
(2) Improving the staffing establishment of primary and secondary school teachers;
(3) Converting short-term contract teaching posts to permanent ones;
(4) Enhancing support for integrated education and special education;
(5) Upgrading the hardware and software provided for schools;
(6) Granting financial aid to secondary school graduates to enable them to pursue degree courses in self-financing tertiary institutions; and exploring the feasibility of flexible repayment arrangements for newly graduated students of tertiary institutions to reduce their burden in paying back tuition loans.
After being elected, Carrie LAM said she would discuss with stakeholders of the education sector on amending the list for handling problems proposed by the sector according to their urgentness. Therefore, straight after the completion of the election, the HKPTU immediately consult with our education fellow workers via different channels. From 30th March to 10th April, the HKPTU collected suggestions on the priority of the education policies of the next government issued a questionnaire and received over 3,000 responses in just 12 days, which reflects that our fellow workers are eagerly looking for the increase in educational resources for improvements in the sector.
$5 Billion is only the Beginning and Concurrent Expenses should be Increased in the Long Term
In her manifesto, Carrie LAM emphasized that there is a need to adopt a ‘new fiscal philosophy’ and declared that ‘Land and human resources are our most precious resources that are also the core elements of economic and social development. Only having expenses as investment generously can bring long term returns to the society……’ Increasing educational expenses continuously to a reasonable level definitely suits the spirit of her ‘new fiscal philosophy’.
The new government should have a long term vision for education. First is to reestablish the percentage of the government’s concurrent expenses on education back to 25%. In the long term, public educational expenses should increase from the current level of 3.3% of GDP to 4.5% to catch up with the average of the highly developed economies. We wish that the educational expenses will continue to grow in the coming few years, including an additional of 5 to 10 billion dollars in the second year to allow all improvement measures to be realised in the future.
Major findings and Analysis of Questionnaire
The most concerned issue is still the problem of academic freedom. One respondent explicitly expressd his opinion of ‘No suppression on academic freedom and freedom of speech. Call off the mandatory role of the Chief Executive as Chancellor!’ In terms of resources, our fellow workers have also provided many important suggestions. In the tertiary education sector, the appeals that score the highest are:
Strengthen occupational protection of university staff and reduce the proportion of contract staff (Average score: 8.75): Currently, a lot of teaching and non-teaching staff are them are employed by limited time contracts. Occupational protection for staff provided by contracts is limited. It is also not favouring academics to publish researches that do not align with either the government or the institute. That in turns affects academic freedom. The HKPTU thinks that the government should encourage all tertiary institutions to employ their staff with positions in the establishment. This is especially important to teaching and research staff. The institutions should also maintain an objective and fair system for staff progression. When a member of staff is already employed by contract for a designated number of years and has an up-to-standard performance, the institute should employ the person with established or tenure positions. And in the assessment of the staff, besides considering research results, achievements from teaching should also be considered equally important.
Strengthen the support to vocational education (Average score: 8.03): Hong Kong’s education system places extra emphasis on academic. There is a lack of opportunities for students who are non-academic style. The HKPTU agrees that the government should strengthen its support on vocational education. This includes increasing the number tertiary places for vocational education, allowing more vocational sub-degree holders to progress to bachelor courses, providing enough internships for vocational education students, etc. The HKPTU wishes that different styles of students can all find their suitable paths for studying.
Urge the New Government to Respond to the Demands from the Sector and Strengthen Trainings for the Local Talented
The HKPTU urges the new government to respond to the appeals from the educational sector. These include encouraging universities to review their employment system. They should weigh an academic’s teaching performance equally to the research achievement. And for teaching staff like lecturers and senior lecturers, universities should also implement a suitable and fair system to allow contracted lecturers and senior lecturers to be employed in the establishment after serving a designated number of years. On the other hand, the universities should decrease the proportion of contract based non-teaching staff to strengthen their occupational protection.
At the same time, the government should enhance multiple pathways for students to progress their studies. This can allow a fair chance for different styles of students to advance. For example, increasing the number of places in vocational education courses and providing enough internship opportunities to vocational education students. The HKPTU also urges the next government to increase the number of UGC-funded bachelor’s degree places, and subsidise students who are studying self-financed courses. Carrie LAM has already promised to increase the subsidization on students from self-financed courses during her campaign. The HKPTU hopes that the new government can implement such policy as soon as possible.
Notice of AGM, 2017
The Annual General Meeting of Members’ Representatives will be held on 29 April 2017 (Saturday), from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm in the Causeway Bay Service Centre. (M/F., Wing Tak Mansion, 15 Canal Road West, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong).
For enquiries, please contact the Organization Department of the PTU at 27807337.