Better education for less - Letter to SCMP
Tuesday 25 November 2003
The Education Minister needs to move away from “Input Accounting” to "Output/Outcome Accounting".
As a member of a public policy think tank since 1989 and a part-time lecturer of a post-graduate management course, I have no doubt that Prof. Li Kwok-cheung could improve the output and quality in education and achieve a mild reduction in the education budget at the same time.
What the public need to understand is that subventions to universities are simply allocations. It is different from "cost" - a calculated unit of measurement often used to evaluate how effectively and efficiently the universities are delivering the services ("outputs") they are suppose to deliver. In turn, specific public service "outputs", for example training a secondary school teacher, are used by governments to achieve specific "Outcomes". In Prof. Li Kwok-cheung’s case, the "outcome" he would like to achieve is more higher education at a higher quality.
Moderate cost cutting is healthy, as it trims fat and focuses the minds of the university administrators on delivering what they are suppose to deliver. More extreme cost cutting is possible though not desirable from a social point-of-view, unless the costs saved are re-allocated back to education to achieve additional "output" and "outcomes" that will bring other benefits to the society as a whole.
There is no lack of successful precedents and knowledge from around the world on how this can be done. The best and most well documented cases on how to use "Output/Outcome Analysis" to achieve more and better output from higher education institutes come from Australia.
Reproduction of this paper is permitted with proper attribution to the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation