When the Chief Executive (CE) ran for his post in 2012, his campaign platform highly stressed the importance of human resources to the development of Hong Kong and the significance of education in cultivating talents for society and our mother country. He said that spending on education is not expenditure but an investment into the future. Sadly, since he was elected in 2012, we have not seen the CE giving any priority, putting much more funding or making any commitment to raise the standard of our education as promised in his campaign. Last year, we commented on education issues in the CE’s Policy Address 2013. This year, to the Policy Address 2014, we have the following views for the overall education development of Hong Kong.
Target and planning
When we look at education in Hong Kong, we can’t help but ask: What is the core value of our education? Who determines its long-term goals? Who sets our education policies and financial support measures? How to achieve continued coherent development from kindergarten, primary and secondary schooling to higher education? How to ensure different education plans complement each other? Unfortunately, we have not seen any holistic or comprehensive plans from the government. Since the education reform proposed in 2009 and its subsequent implementation, the government has not put forth another education blueprint.
We sincerely hope that the Education Bureau (EDB) will carry out a comprehensive review of the academic structure and come up with a new blueprint on education that will meet the needs of Hong Kong and enhance our young people’s adaptability to the changing world.
Fairness and equality
It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education. But the situation now is worrying. We are extremely concerned about the learning opportunities of students with special education needs and non-Chinese speaking students. The EDB tries to deal with the issue by providing cash subsidies and partial professional support to schools that admit these students. However, these measures alone cannot create fair learning and development opportunities to them. The solution lies in the curriculum and academic structure. Instead of having only one single assessment standard, we must have a system that can accommodate student diversities and their differences in ability.
Another concern is the Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools. The controversy over them has nothing to do with their performance or management. Their presence has raised the question of equal access to quality education between the rich and the poor. We cannot ignore the fact that students coming from families under the poverty line have far lower chances of entering university than students belonging to the higher socio-economic class. The EDB and the government have responsibility to solve the problem of cross-generation poverty by increasing the upward mobility of students under the poverty line through education.
Enhancement and Development
In the next three years, the number of students entering secondary schools will continue to decline. To maintain stability, the EDB has taken measures to preserve the number of schools and teachers and the strength of our education. We have reservations that these measures will solve the problem of student number fluctuation and raise the quality of our education.
Children born to non-local parents coming to study in Hong Kong are affecting the vacancies available to local kindergarten and primary school students in some districts. While this issue is being resolved, the same situation will occur to secondary schools students several years later. Further, problems caused by differences in background between Mainland and local students and their parents also need to be addressed.
The paradigm shift in learning and teaching under the New Senior Secondary academic structure has pushed the teachers’ workload and endurance to a breaking point. How would the EDB support them? When professional support is scarce, how far can teachers help alleviate the effect of social problems on students’ learning and growth? We implore the EDB to properly address the teacher workload problem. If successful, it will provide frontline teachers a reasonable working environment and encourage young people with the heart and ability to enter the teaching profession.
It is sad to hear on many occasions that education is not the CE’s prime concern. But education does affect Hong Kong’s present and future. It is important because it helps nurture the next generation, foster the quality of our citizens and shape Hong Kong into a civilized and high-quality society. If we take our education lightly, the price we pay is the future of Hong Kong. We hope the CE will shoulder this important responsibility in this new policy address and his future governance.