Solid Commitment, Sincere Communication, Acknowledging Professionalism –– Suggestions to The Chief Executive’s first Policy Address from HKPTU

PTU News Reporter

Upon assuming office, Mrs. Carrie LAM’s government immediately injected 3.6 billion dollars as recurrent education expenditure. The increase in funding incorporated two breakthroughs. The demonstration of the government’s commitment to education through increasing “recurrent expenditure” differ vastly from the tendency to fund education in the form of short-term subsidies in the past. The education sector is also actively involved and consulted by the government in the process of the allocation of funding; policy making is no longer done behind closed doors. The HKPTU deem the above to be invaluable experiences and important practices that the government should maintain in the future.

The increase in funding, however, is insufficient in resolving issues that had been accumulating over a long period of time, there are yet much to be done by the government in order to resolve these issues. Chief Executive Mrs. Carrie LAM will be delivering her first Policy Address in October, we hereby urge the Chief Executive to demonstrate her visions and to lay down the blueprints for the future developments of education policies, in order for education to be improved and the education sector to progress. With such demands, the Executive Committee of HKPTU met with Mr. Kevin YEUNG Yun Hung, Secretary for Education on the 5th September, delivering the needs and demands of the education sector.

Re-evaluate roles of tertiary institutions, Expansion of tertiary education subsidies

The HKPTU welcomes the $30,000 government subsidy provided to students from self-funded tertiary institutions. Yet this new policy reveals the over-lapping functions and the ambiguous positioning of varying institutions. It is an urgent problem that the Education Bureau will need to address in the near future.

The current finance subsidies do not include students reading self-financing degree programs organized by subsidiaries of UGC-funded universities. These students, albeit similarly reading self-financed, bachelor programs, are unfairly deprived of government subsidy. We urge the government to review the roles, positioning and the functions of all UGC-funded universities and other tertiary education institutions. We also urge, regardless of the outcome of the said review, that all students reading self-financing degree programs in institutions under UGC-funded universities should also be receiving a $30,000 subsidy. We believe that the problem of students?debts will be alleviated through implementing this policy, therefore better realizing the objectives of relative policies.

Government Contribution to the Research Endowment Fund

In April, the Financial Secretary proposed to reserve the 18 billion surplus of the 2016/2017 fiscal year as non-recurrent funding for the education sector, specifically aiming to support the academic research and scientific development of the tertiary education sector. Due to economic downturn, however, the Research Endowment Fund (REF) under the Research Grants Council recorded a significant drop in their income, directly affecting the work of research of scholars in Hong Kong. We demand the government to inject funding into REF in order to compensate for the reduction of income resulted in the significant drop in interest received from investment by the REF, hence ensuring the stability of research funding of the tertiary education sector.
We also urge the government to prioritize the allocation of 18 billion surplus reserved for the education sector in building university dormitories to alleviate the shortages of university dormitory vacancies.

Education as profession, free from political interference

The autonomy of universities is severely threatened in recent years; the Basic Education Curriculum Guide had also been under constant political interference. We urge the government to take lead in safeguarding academic freedom and the autonomy of institutions; we also demand the government to abolish the appointment of university council members by the Chief Executive. We expect National Education as proposed by the government to adhere to the principals of education, giving students a comprehensive view on issues, allowing room for differing opinions and individual thinking.