Investment in Public Education Lags behind Recurrent Expenditure Must Continuously Increase

PTU News Reporter

The lack of investment in public education in Hong Kong has long been an issue. Since the education reform, the government has been issuing one-off funds to meet recurrent education needs, causing serious side effects. The latest IMD World Talent Ranking reveals Hong Kong lags behind in educational investment. After taking office, the new government added a total of 8.4 billion of recurrent expenditure on education to show responsibility. Yet, improving education cannot stop there and the government must catch up with their investment in public education. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) hopes the budget delivered next month will prove the government’s readiness to allocate sufficient resources to education and to adopt improvement measures.

World Talent Ranking: Hong Kong Slips due to Lack of Investment in Education

The IMD World Talent Ranking 2018 issued by the International Institute for Management Development last November shows that Hong Kong slipped significantly in Investment & Development mainly due to the lack of resources in public education. Developed countries in Europe and the United States spend approximately 5% of their GDP on public education while Hong Kong spends approximately 3.5% and ranks 56th among 63 countries/regions. Although education expenditure reached 4% of the GDP last year, the increase was mainly in irregular expenses while recurrent expenditure made up only 3% of the GDP.

Education is a long-term investment and increase should be made in recurrent expenditure. The HKPTU expects the government to allocate resources continuously and increase recurrent expenditure on education to at least 4% of GDP with the long-term goal to reach 5%, the standard of developed countries, in order to continuously improve education quality.

Adequate Budget Must Be Planned for Improvement Measures

The new government is relatively receptive to feedback from the education sector. Measures were adopted in the past year to respond to demands in various aspects such as improving student-teacher ratio, implementing all-graduate teaching force policy, counselling services, subsidies for self-financing programmes, integrated education, and special education.

With respect to early childhood education, the HKPTU demands implementation of a pay scale for kindergarten teachers, improving the remuneration packages of principals, increasing early childhood education unit cost, full subsidies for whole-day and long whole-day kindergartens, planning kindergarten sites, improvement of teaching and administration manpower in kindergartens, addition of courses and special educational needs coordinators, etc. As for primary, secondary, and special schools, the government should continue to improve student-teacher ratio, implement all-graduate teaching force policy, and improve manpower at the middle management level. The government ought to respond swiftly to the fluctuation of number of students, adopt stabilization measures, and implement small class teaching. The students per class at special schools should be reduced and counselling services at secondary and primary schools ought to be enhanced. In tertiary and vocational education, the number of places at universities should be substantially increased and subsidies for self-financing students should be extended.

These are all policies the education sector agrees on and would hopefully be adopted in priority in the upcoming budget to enhance education and to benefit students.