|Vision for Hong
Kong education system
Mr. Raymond Young, Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower, was the
Foundation's guest speaker on 3 October 1997. This is a summary of his remarks.
Education, as you will agree, is a continuum, comprising various sectors and elements
which are inter-related. After a period of fast expansion in the past few years, our
tertiary education sector is now going through a phase of consolidation, which it needs in
order to nurture the excellence it takes to scale new heights. School education on the
other hand, forms the corner stone to a person's life-long pursuit of learning. It is this
stage of education that Governments around the world seem to be putting renewed emphasis
on recently. The new Labour Government in Britain published a white paper on education
entitled "Excellence in Schools", announcing a grand package of new initiatives
to shake up school education in Britain, auguring a much higher level of central
Government intervention than before. We are no less ambitious in Hong Kong. But this does
not imply that the Government will be playing the "Big Brother" from now on.
Quite the opposite, in fact. We are conscious that education already takes up the largest
chunk of the Government's recurrent expenditure year after year, and that we should not
further entrench the bureaucratic machinery of the Education Department. Instead of
hand-holding the schools, we really should help them shake off their inertia and awaken
them to the education needs of our young people in the 21st
To equip our younger generation with the necessary knowledge and skills to continually
develop themselves, and to meet the dynamic demands of our society, we need to build a
"quality culture" in schools which is open, accountable and student-centred. The
future schools should no longer be "secret gardens". Rather, as pointed out by
our Chief Executive, they should be free to develop their own culture, but at the same
time be accountable to parents and the public, to fulfil the mission to foster among the
young people a balanced and all-round development which can cater for Hong Kong's needs
and contribute to the country.
I fully appreciate that there have always been some good schools and good teachers
around Hong Kong. But there are simply not enough of them, if we are to foster a quality
culture across the territory. To put it simply, some of our schools have had it too good
for too long. 90% of schools in Hong Kong are Government-aided, which means they are 100%
subvented by Government, and their level of subsidy remains the same however badly they
perform. Likewise, teachers receive the same pay month after month, occupy the same
position, irrespective of their performance. In fact, except Government teachers whose
performance is assessed like all other civil service, there is not even an established
performance appraisal system for the bulk of teachers in the aided schools sector. In
other words, there is not enough ACCOUNTABLITY in our school system.
The Education Commission will soon publish its Report No.7 on quality school education.
The report should provide the foundation for promoting quality education at school level,
and arouse public awareness of the need for quality education. Meanwhile, I would like to
share with you some priority areas we have identified towards promoting quality culture in
Hong Kong schools, taking into account the initial proposals in the consultation document
on the Report No.7 and the public feedback on such proposals.
- School-based development and management
The future school education should build upon "school-based" development and
management to meet the needs of students. We envisage that in future schools should be
given the freedom and responsibility to develop their own targets, curriculum and school
activities, and evaluate their progress with teacher, parent and student participation. In
return, they should be held accountable for their performance, and be expected to achieve
"value-added" improvement over the years. We will also devolve more authority to
schools in respect of their finances. You may be aware that the voluntary social welfare
agencies have just been given full flexibility in using their salary subsidy. The same may
be considered for our schools in the long run. We believe that through school-based
development and management, schools can be delegated with the power to operate with
flexibility, and to make the necessary decisions in the best interest of their students.
- Quality assurance
To enhance the quality of school education, we need a quality assurance mechanism,
rooted in schools and monitored by external forces which are fair and objective. At the
central level, we plan to examine the way forward for building a quality assurance
mechanism, in the context of an optimal education system as a whole. The Education
Department has reformed its subject-based school inspection system and recently
established a quality assurance inspection team. The team will commence operation soon,
adopting the "whole-school" approach to inspection, with a view to disseminating
good quality practices and assisting under-performing schools to improve.
Adequate incentives, financial or otherwise, should be provided to encourage
school-based innovative projects and experiments towards quality education. Schools should
be more proactive in carrying out self-evaluation of their performance, and in sharing
experience in quality pursuit with other schools.
- Quality front-line educators
Teachers is another priority area where improvements are urgently needed. We need
devoted and quality front-line educators who are committed to the delivery of quality
education. The Chief Executive and the public have pointed out the need for all new
primary and secondary school teachers to have university degrees and professional training
in education. In this connection, we have invited the University Grants Committee to study
how the Hong Kong Institute of Education and other tertiary institutions can join forces.
We look forward to the recommendations soon.
In future, in accordance with the spirit of school-based management, schools should be
required to put in place a fair and open performance appraisal system for their teaching
staff. This should help enhance the professional development of principals and teachers.
Meanwhile, a Preparatory Committee has been set up under the Education Commission to
work out the detailed arrangements for the establishment of the General Teaching Council
(GTC), with a view to enhancing the standard of teaching and professional development of
teachers, maintaining the integrity of the profession and raising the professional esteem
of teachers. We will endeavour to set up the GTC as soon as possible, preferably not later
I have not delved into whether we think our education system adequately serves the
economy's needs. This is really a question for you, "end-users" of our education
system, to judge. Incidentally, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce has recently
done a survey among their members asking them to compare their local employees (most of
whom are graduates of local institutions) and their overseas employees and a clear
majority of the respondents feel that their local employees are as good as and even better
than their overseas counterparts. Nonetheless, this is only a narrowly-sampled survey and
does not give us any grounds for complacency at all. If you ask the solicitors firms, for
example, they will probably tell you that some of the new intakes of locally-trained
solicitors are not up to scratch. We are acutely conscious of the host of problems in our
education system - it is too much exam-oriented; there is no incentive for innovation; our
school buildings do not live up to present day needs; there is little use of Information
Technology in classrooms; language standards are falling...
The Government is continuing to formulate and implement specific policies and measures
to tackle these problems head on. What we need is some time to work out the details, a
strong will to roll out new programmes that may upset vested interests, and the full
co-operation and understanding from educators, parents, and the public as a whole.
The above summary does not necessarily represent the views of the Hong Kong
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