Letter to Candidate – 2022 Chief Executive Election “Hong Kong’s Education – Present Constraints and Future Prospects” | 給2022年行政長官候選人的信「香港教育——今天的局限、明天的發展」

Letter to Candidate – 2022 Chief Executive Election “Hong Kong’s Education – Present Constraints and Future Prospects”

Executive Committee

The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS)

14 April 2022

(This letter was sent to Mr. John Lee Ka-chiu on 14 April 2022)

The Education Reforms since 2000 greatly hinge on the vision of students’ whole-person development, which also forms the basis for the nurture of students’ independent thinking and character building.  Two decades after the inception of the reforms, it is pleasing to see more lively modes of learning and teaching, diverse education opportunities and the enhanced care for students with special needs.  Yet, there are still items in the education agenda for the consideration of the next term of government.

Healthy Campus

In the short period of the first 2-3 months in the 2021/22 school year, there have already been 8 cases of student suicide.  The number and frequency are indeed very appalling.  According to the latest figures on suicide cases released by the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, Hong Kong University in September 2021, the rate of suicide cases amongst young people aged 15 or under has soared to 1.3 in every 100,000, an almost double increase compared with the rate of 0.7 in every 100,000 in 2019.  In April – May 2020, the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) conducted a survey amongst secondary school principals with the Synergy Against Adversity Mental Health Consultancy Group to understand the need for school-based mental health services.  In just several weeks’ time, about 300 principals responded.  Data collected reflected that nearly 60% of the schools identified self-harm inclination amongst students.  Over 80% of the principals attributed the sources of pressure on students to the following: social turmoil, conflicts amongst family members, unresolved personal emotion and academic studies.  All these lead to the rapid deterioration of students’ mental health.  Organizations such as The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, The Department of Social Work of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Christian Service have also conducted various studies related to students’ emotional and mental health condition.  All these studies reported a relatively high pressure index amongst secondary students.  More than half of the interviewees have displayed anxiety and depressive symptoms.  All these surveys point to the same conclusion – the mental and emotional health of students is deteriorating and the situation is extremely worrisome.  If no concrete mitigating or relief measures are in place in time, the situation will be going further downhill with a very heavy social cost.

At the same time, the pressure on teachers who are regarded as the ‘gatekeepers’ of students’ mental health has also been on the rise.  The report released by the Youth Research Centre of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups on 18 April 2021 revealed that teachers in general work over 60 hours a week.  Their work pressure index has risen from 6.40 in the pre-COVID-19 period to 6.97 (10 being the highest) during the COVID-19 period. This is extremely undesirable.

Figures released in 2021 from a survey which has been conducted in 10 consecutive years by a number of rehabilitation and public organizations on the general health index of Hong Kong people titled ‘The Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey’ certainly warrant our very serious attention as well – the index has failed to reach the ‘passing’ line!  This somehow concurs with our observation through contacts with parents.  Pressure is looming on many of them as they have to take care of the various needs and daily routine arrangements of their children during school suspension and on-line lessons at home.  Besides, they also face economic pressure arising from the pandemic.  All these challenges parents facing will eventually affect the healthy development of their children in one way or another.

In face of this ‘tsunamic’ deterioration of mental health, we have the following suggestions:

  1. The government should work to ensure that each and every student will have a happy and mentally healthy life to enjoy living and learning, which is facilitative to their self-actualization in the long run. It is important for the government to diligently conceive plans on emotional education and devote ample resources so that schools have room and manpower to achieve the goal in promoting the happy and healthy growth of children.
  1. Some years ago, the government set up the Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides in response to the rising cases of student suicides. While the government fully accepted the report by the Committee which was released in November 2016, nothing very concrete has been done since then except issuing a letter to schools bidding all teachers to perform the role of the ‘gatekeeper’.  Without any concrete action, there is no way to assess if this is really effective.  The government should reinstitute the Committee, expand its scope of work so that it would conduct comprehensive researches on the mental health conditions of both students and teachers and come up with targeted measures.  The government should also ensure that the suggestions and policies adopted should conscientiously be put into practice.  
  1. Since its inception in 2016/17, the Student Mental Health Support Scheme has been serving 90 schools in providing mental health services for students. Yet, case referrals to the public hospitals still take quite some time.  The government should further allocate resources so as to shorten the waiting time for help to be offered in time.  The government should also probe into the possibility of expanding the scope of the scheme to support teachers with mental health risks.
  1. Student mental health issues are not just only induced by the COVID-19 challenges. The keen competition of the education system in Hong Kong has been overloading students and thus generating a lot of pressure and anxiety, especially in their secondary school years.  The government should work in collaboration with the education profession to scrutinize the heavily criticized school curriculum and assessment arrangements so that appropriate improvements can be made in time.

Opportunities for Tertiary Education

According to the statistics released by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) from 2015 to 2019, the rate of tertiary education qualifications amongst people aged from 25 to 34 in 43 countries (excluding China) reached 44.9%.  Yet, the current annual first-year-first-degree places under the subsidies of the University Grants Committee (UGC) in Hong Kong are about 15,000, with an increase of only 500 places compared to 14,500 25 years ago.  Judging only by the increase in UGC subsidized places, the increase is 3.4% in 25 years.  Even if we add the 5000 senior undergraduate intake places under the UGC provisions for graduates of sub-degree programmes and students with other qualifications, the number only constitutes 35% of the university-age population.  This is much lower than that of 50% in Singapore, and those of the major cities in Mainland China such as 76% in Beijing and 73% in Shanghai.  As an international city, it would be hard to maintain our competitive edge if our talent nurture provisions are not on par with other neigbouring regions.

Since the inception of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) in 2012, the annual average rates of male and female candidates who meet the minimum university entry requirement (attaining Level 3 in Chinese and English as well as Level 2 in Mathematics and Liberal Studies – 3322) are 30% and 45% respectively.  This persisting imbalance between male and female candidates will in the long run be affecting the social and economic development of Hong Kong.  Besides, the emphasis on language proficiency in the minimum university entry requirement cannot cater for students who fail to attain Level 3 in the language subjects but are talented or strong in Science, Mathematics and other non-language areas.  Perhaps it is this restrictive language bar that has led to the enduring sex imbalance in university admission.

To further enhance the nurture of human resources of Hong Kong and to ensure equal opportunities for both sexes to unleash their potentials for social betterment, we have the following proposals:

  1. The government should continue to put in resources in tertiary education so as to raise the university admission ratio to a comparable level with its international counterparts.
  1. Ever since 2022, university admission has been enhanced through the School Nominations Direct Admission Scheme (SNDAS). Under the scheme, it is estimated about 1000 students with different talents that cannot be fully reflected through the HKDSE results can be recommended by their schools for university admission.  This is a good start and the government should increase such quota to embrace students with different talents and facilitate their further studies.
  1. In 2019, the HKAHSS and the Chinese University of Hong Kong jointly conducted a survey titled “Survey on the Curriculum Reform: From Present to the Future”. From the responses of 162 principals, the majority opined that the minimum university entry requirement for the 4-year bachelor degree courses should best be changed from the present 3322 to 14 points from the best 6 subjects.  The government should take note of this appeal and review the minimum university entry requirement.  The proposal will not lower the standard of university admission.  On the contrary, it will allow more flexibility to accommodate students who have special talents other than language proficiencies.
  1. The mere increase in university places and changes in university admission criteria will not be sufficient to raise the general manpower level of Hong Kong. The government should also review the university curricula so as to match with the pace of the fast-changing world and the need of future social development.  This would also help students unleash their potentials and versatilities.  Besides, the social incidents in recent years have somehow upset the harmony in university campus life.  An active review on how to refine and boost the campus milieu for the healthy development of students should be engaged.
  1. The present focus of the universities of Hong Kong is mostly on academic studies and research. Their contact with schools at primary and secondary levels as well as the community is not vibrant.  This is rather different from many renowned universities overseas which have become the education hub in their community or locality.  They share educational resources and research findings with people in their community and thus contribute to the raising of humanistic literacy of their nations.  Many universities in Mainland China have helped build up learning or research bases in secondary schools to facilitate students’ early contacts of various knowledge in greater depth and breadth.  We would certainly see a bright new future if our universities will render their service and collaborate with different parties in the community and enhance its connections with secondary schools.    
  1. In recent years, it is pleasing to see that the Applied Learning (ApL) curriculum has become increasingly popular amongst senior secondary students. With a wide spectrum of courses, the ApL curriculum also provides students with good career orientation as well as broad learning experiences.  Universities should seriously consider formally including ApL courses in their university admission system so as to increase the flexibility to embrace students’ talents and at the same time giving due recognition to efforts that students have put in these courses.

Technology and Education

In recent years, schools in Hong Kong have gained considerable progress in “Bring Your Own Device” Implementation, internet services support and the application of hard and soft wares in education.  In the last two years, schools have begun adopting blended learning (the complementary use of actual and virtual learning modes) under the COVID-19 challenges within a very short period of time.  Teachers’ adept mastery of the skill involved has helped sustain learning and teaching effectiveness.  This considerable achievement is not easy to come by without much might and efforts from teachers and students.  To sustain and build on this hard-earned achievement, the government should have better and more concrete planning on what to learn and how to learn through the IT platform besides merely disbursing money to schools.  At present, many efforts are still very much school-based and this is not desirable in this fast-changing world when individual schools’ efforts and energies cannot be synchronized, well-supported or fully shared.  Worse still, there is no trace of how to develop individualized student learning strategies through the use of big data and adaptive learning platforms.  Neither have we seen any progress in the reduction in teachers’ workload through information technology. 

At the same time, development in STEM education in Hong Kong is lagging behind a bit compared with the more advanced countries and regions.  Again, the government lacks a clear direction in STEM education.  What it can best do is to provide schools with disburse financial resources and allow free development of STEM education according to individual schools’ interpretation.  Without the central coordination of the government and a systematic STEM curriculum structure and framework in most schools, STEM education will easily be reduced to a bunch of activities or competitions.  At the same time, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Education is still at its slogan stage till now without any substance.  The government therefore should exert much greater effort to help schools move towards the level of their counterparts in the more advanced countries and regions.

To equip our next generation with good information literacy on par with other advanced cities, we have the following suggestions:

  1. As schools need much support in the development of STEM and AI curriculum, the government should take the lead in setting up the curriculum framework and the inventory of skills that should be mastered by students. It should also prepare samples and exemplars to enhance teachers’ understanding.  Besides, the arrangement for teachers’ study trips to Mainland and overseas will enhance their knowledge of the latest development in the area.  Besides, the government should allocate more resources to tertiary and teacher training institutes so as to nurture talents to support the planning and development as well as learning and teaching of STEM and the application of AI in education.
  1. In the current staff establishment in schools, there are no posts for teachers specially in charge of STEM and AI. There are also no teaching assistants, laboratory technicians in this area.  Neither are there any clear prospects or careers pathway for them.  All these result in a rather high staff turnover rate. The government should set up the post of ‘IT in Education Coordinator’ in schools and put in place a career ladder for IT technicians with appropriate salary scales and welfare terms.  It is only with these measures can there be a stable serving team in schools. 
  1. The use of AI to assist learning and teaching calls forth a strong back-up support of data analysis and logarithms which is way beyond the efforts of any individual school. Holding numerous and bountiful student data by the Education Bureau and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, the government should work out how to well use the data it has captured within the stipulations of the Privacy Ordinance to build up a data bank, which will be the first crucial step for AI-assisted learning and teaching.
  1. With the vigorous development of the metaverse in the IT field, we can foresee the interchange of actual and virtual realities in the future. The government should take the bold lead to plan in advance how these newly-developed/developing technologies can be applied in schools to facilitate student learning.  At the same time, it should also carefully assess the impacts of such advancements on students’ mental and psychological development. 

  2. In the long run, the employment opportunities related to STEM and AI will affect the motivation of students’ interests in these areas. The government’s efforts and strategies in innovation and technology industries will have washback effects on the implementation of innovation and technology education at the primary and secondary levels.

Student Population

The population structure of Hong Kong is facing challenges related to ageing and the drop in birth rate.  This results in the continuous drop in the need for school places.  The number of students in Primary 1 has dropped from 56,600 in 2018 to 46,700 in 2021, with a plunge of about 10,000 in 4 years.  At the same time, the student population in the secondary level is not stable.  The number of students joining the Secondary School Places Allocation System in 2018 was 49,500 with a rise to 54,100 in 2020.  Yet, there was a drop of 2,000 to 52,000 in 2021.  In the foreseeable future, it is not likely for any rebound in student population in both the secondary and primary levels.

The decreasing number in student population has very far-reaching impacts on the social development and education system in Hong Kong.  It is envisaged that some schools will be required to close or merge due to the drop.  There will also be the movement of student transfers and this ‘musical chair’ effect will bring undue pressure to schools.  At the same time, in face of possible closure and merger, teachers will be troubled and concerned about whether they will face dismissal, school transfer or career change.  At the same time, it would also be very difficult for the teacher training institutes to plan for service provisions and this will definitely affect the healthy training and turnover of the teaching force. 

To well manage and capitalize on the opportunities arising from the drop in student population, we propose the following:

  1. The government should capitalize on the arising opportunity to improve the quality of education through refining the teacher-student ratio. The reduced class size will facilitate greater interactive learning strategies, more vibrant student-teacher and student-student interactions to enhance learning efficacy.  This will also result in better care for students’ needs and diversities through individualized guidance and tailored programmes.
  1. The government should also review the existing school places allocation system and plan well in advance in determining the optimum class size with reference to the needs of individual districts. The early planning will mitigate the negative impacts of the drop in student population.
  1. The government should also create space for teachers to build up transformative energy so that schools will have ample human resources and knowledge to develop new and innovative projects such as STEM and AI curriculum, IT in Education, National Education, the Rule of Law and Law-related Education, the collaboration between universities and secondary schools, promotion of healthy campus and other headway projects.
  1. All along, the secondary education in Hong Kong has been implemented under the stringent official curriculum framework. Yet, if we aim to develop and nurture talents for today and tomorrow, the curriculum should change with more forward–looking planning as well as individualized design in learning and teaching.  With the opportunities in the drop in student population, there is room, without the input of extra resources, to try out more proactive and innovative endeavor.  We can also take reference of the good practices in other more advanced education systems.  All these will help bring in new elements in education.

 

Teachers’ Professionalism

Teachers play a pivotal role in education and they are the great driving force behind education reforms.  In the last three years, front-line teachers have been standing tall on professionalism in helping students through challenges one after another while also striving to maintain the education quality.  Yet, it is so unfortunate that they have to face continuous and sometimes organized malicious attacks which are greatly detrimental to the harmonious and efficacious school environment.  Teachers’ morale is seriously hampered and this will affect the development of education and the nurture of talents.

To fully unleash teachers’ potentials and capabilities through due respect and recognition, we suggest:

  1. The government should strive to safeguard the respect for the professional autonomy of schools and teachers. When there are malicious attacks or smearing, the government should responsibly and appropriately protect teachers from unnecessary and unreasonable disturbances.  
  1. The non-statutory advisory body, Council on Professional Conduct in Education (CPC), would be dissolved by the end of April 2022, after which there will not be any teacher participation in the ruling of issues and cases related to the professional conduct of the teaching profession. Upon the dissolution of the CPC, the ‘Code for the Education Profession of Hong Kong’ which was put into practice since 1990 would become a historical paper.  When announcing the dissolution of the CPC, the Education Bureau said that it would provide ‘clear guidelines and examples on teachers’ professional conduct’.[1]  From this we understand that the only ruling party for complaints about teachers’ professional misconduct in the future will be the Education Bureau.  With the complete absence of front-line education workers, how can the autonomy of the teaching profession be safe-guarded? This autonomy on which professionalism is forged is very vital to the self-regulating spirits underlying each profession.  In the research report on “How to Promote Hong Kong Secondary School Teachers’ Professional Status and Social Recognition” released in 2021 by the HKAHSS and the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, it is revealed that principals and teachers interviewed opined that the setting up of a self-regulatory professional body would enhance the social recognition of teachers.  Over 80% of parents shared similar views.  To respect the views of the education profession and stakeholders, the government should seriously consider setting up a statutory professional body for the teaching profession.

Capitalizing the Opportunities of the Greater Bay Area Development

In the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area announced by the Chinese Central Government on 18 February 2019, Hong Kong will be an integral part of that development plan.  Together with Macao, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, Hong Kong will be identified as one of the core cities, as well as core engines for driving regional development.  All along the years, local tertiary institutes such as the Hong Kong Baptist University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have respectively engaged in collaborative campus building projects in the Greater Bay Area.

To well prepare our students in advance, we have the following suggestions:

  1. The Outline Development Plan clearly supports Hong Kong in consolidating and enhancing its status as an international financial, transportation and trade centre as well as an aviation hub. The government should therefore hinge on our competitive edge and work with all tertiary institutions for the training of talents in these areas.  Besides serving local students, Hong Kong can develop into a financial and trade education hub in the Greater Bay Area.
  1. The development of the newly-announced Northern Metropolis plan and Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone would strengthen the status of Hong Kong as a financial centre. At the same time, it will facilitate the development of innovation and technology industries.  Besides the continuous development of STEM education, the government should promote the collaboration of tertiary institutions and the commercial sector so that achievements in scientific researches will be translated into actual applications that will bring about products and services of economic values.
  1. At present, there are discrepancies between the salaries and payment schemes in Hong Kong and the other parts of the Greater Bay Area. Unless the employers in the Greater Bay Area are willing to offer attractive housing and other welfare packages, Hong Kong graduates may not consider working in the Mainland.  While The Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme has been set up with an aim to bridge the salary gap, this can only encourage cross-border employments for a specific period of time.  If the government really would like to address the issues of concern and expand the horizons of Hong Kong students so that their future development opportunities will not be undermined, it should have long-term planning to clear obstacles and iron out differences along the way.
  1. After the COVID-19 challenges, the government should plan to build more schools in the Greater Bay Area to meet the needs of the children of Hong Kong residents working there. It should also consider subsidizing students’ school fees and work on the academic interface so that these children will be able to return to Hong Kong for further studies. Yet this should not be done at the expenses of cutting the number of existing schools and classes in Hong Kong.  In the long run, to enhance the integration of Hong Kong into the Greater Bay Area, much more work should done in the area of mutual recognition of academic system and qualifications, and transfer of studies between Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

Conclusion

One of the key tasks listed in Mr. John Lee’s Election Manifesto is to boost Hong Kong’s competitiveness, which can only be achieved through the nurture of talents.  All development and progress in any society hinge on the power of education.  The government’s budget for education in 2021/22 is HK$110.9 billion which constituted 15.2% of the total government expenditures.  The budget for education in 2022/23 is HK$111.9 billion (13.8% of the total government expenditures), which is much lower than the past years and fails to meet the baseline as proposed in the Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action (Education 2030), which earmarks at least 4-6% of gross domestic product (GDP) and /or allocating at least 15-20% of public expenditures for education.  We earnestly anticipate that the next term of government will invest sufficient resources so that the education development of Hong Kong is on par with other advanced cities.

The success of education requires abundant resources.  More importantly, up-to-date education policies and careful strategic planning are crucial.  We all know that policy making cannot solely depend on the government’s efforts.  We sincerely hope that the government should aim at ample communication and collaboration with stakeholders.  At the same time, it should actively embrace the suggestions from front-line education workers and unite different walks in society to work for the future development of our younger generations.

[1] ‘Council on Professional Conduct in Education to officially end’, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region Press release 19/01/2022

2022年行政長官候選人的信

「香港教育——今天的局限、明天的發展」

(執委會已於2022414日去信李家超先生)

 

香港自2000年開展教育改革,主張教育的發展要從個別學生的全人發展作為出發點,著力培養學生的獨立思考能力及優秀品格。20多年以來,學與教變得活潑,學習機會趨向多元,弱勢學生亦獲得更多照顧。 然而,香港仍有諸多教育及與教育相關的議程需要新一屆政府的關注。

健康校園

2021-22學年開學短短兩、三個月間,便發生8宗學童自殺事件,個案之多、頻率之密,令人震驚。香港大學防止自殺中心於2021年9月公布當時最新的自殺數據,15歲或以下少年自殺率由 2019年的 0.7(即每十萬人有 0.7人自殺),躍升至 2020年每十萬人有 1.3人自殺,升幅近一倍。2020年4月至5月,香港中學校長會與「逆境同行」精神健康顧問團隊透過問卷調查,以瞭解中學校長對中學生精神健康的校本需求。在數周內獲近300 位校長回應,當中顯示近60%中學發現學童有自殘傾向,超過80%中學表示,社會的動盪氣氛、家人間的衝突、個人情緒的欠缺紓緩、學業的壓力,均令學童的情緒及精神健康迅速惡化。香港青年協會、香港中文大學社會工作學系、香港基督教服務處等機構亦有不同的學生情緒及健康狀況研究, 發現受訪中學生的壓力指數偏高, 過半受訪學生出現焦慮及抑鬱徵狀。所有研究及調查均指向同一結論,學童的情緒及精神健康每況愈下,情況令人極度擔心,若不再有具體紓緩政策,情況只會越趨惡劣,社會亦將為此付出沉重代價。

作為學童精神健康的守門人,教師隊伍的壓力亦與日俱增。香港青年協會青年研究中心「青年創研庫」於2021年4月18日公布有關「支援教師應對教學新挑戰」研究報告,發現逾半受訪教師平均每周工作60小時或以上;教師的工作壓力指數由疫情前的平均6.40分,上升至疫情期間的6.97分 (10 分滿分),情況絕不理想。

而由多個復康組織及公營機構連續進行十年的「全港精神健康指數調查」,結果顯示香港市民精神健康指數的平均分仍處於不合格水平。單從觀察及接觸,亦不難察覺在疫情及學校停止面授課之際,父母在經濟上、照顧孩子生活與學習上、社群交往上所承受的巨大壓力。父母所承受的壓力,或多或少會影響孩子的正常成長。

面對海嘯式的精神健康惡化問題,我們建議:

  1. 政府應以培育每位學生,讓他們擁有健康快樂情緒、懂享受學習與生活、能走向以自我實現的成長為目標,認真規劃學生的情緒教育,並按實際需要作出資源調配,讓學校具備足夠的人手和空間去實踐這目標。
  2. 多年前政府因應學童自殺事件頻生,特別成立防止學生自殺委員會,審視情況及向政府提出建議,雖然政府當年(2016年11月)已全盤接納委員會的報告及建議,但除向全港學校發信,囑咐教師、學校要做好「守門人」的角色外,未見有具體跟進措施以應對問題,更遑論具體成效。政府應重設委員會,擴大其工作範疇,除深入調查研究學童和教師的精神健康情況,作針對性的措施,更須確保被接納的政策建議能切實地執行。
  3. 自2016-17學年起推出的「醫教社同心協作計劃」服務近90所中學,為有精神健康需要的學生提供支援服務。惟轉介學生至公營醫院的精神科醫療服務輪候時間仍然頗長。政府應進一步增撥資源,加快輪候時間,讓受情緒或精神狀況困擾的學生能盡快得到適切的服務。政府更須探討擴大「醫教社同心協作計劃」服務範疇的可能,支援有精神健康風險的老師。
  4. 學生精神健康問題不單純是疫情下的產物,香港學生升學競爭特別激烈,教育環境存在著超出學童負荷的壓力與焦慮,特別是在中學階段。政府須與教育界攜手協作,審視一直被詬病過於沉重的課程及考評制度,適時作出改善。

大學教育機會

根據經濟合作及發展組織(OECD)2015至2019年統計,43個不同國家(不包括中國)的25至34歲人口中,曾接受高等教育的平均人口百分比達44.9%。現時香港教育資助委員會資助大學第一年學士學位約為1.5萬個,較25年前的1.45萬個,只上升了500個。單看資助學士學位的增加幅度,25年來僅增加了3.4%,即使加上教資會資助大學高年級學位學額約5000個,估計只佔適齡人口35%,不但低於新加坡的約50%,更遠低於內地一線城市,如北京的76%、上海的73%。作為一個國際城市,人才培育若比鄰區遜色,難以維持香港的競爭能力。

自2012年香港中學文憑考試實施以來,每年男性考生中只有約30%符合「3322」的要求,女性考生則約為45%,持續多年男、女生失衡情况,長遠來說可能影響香港的經濟及社會發展。此外,「3322」入讀大學的基本要求偏重語文能力,未能照顧語文能力未達第3級而數理能力或其他方面表現優異的人才。或許正是這收生條件的局限,才造成長期的男、女生入讀大學比例失衡。

為進一步提升香港整體的人力質素,確保男、女生均能按其潛質發展所長,貢獻社會,我們建議:

  1. 政府應繼續投放資源於大學教育,增加接受高等教育的平均人口比例至世界先進城市水平。
  2. 由2022年起,大學透過新設立「學校推薦直接錄取計劃」(SNDAS),讓不同才華的學生可以透過文憑試以外的資歷入讀大學,預計每年將有最多約1,000名學生透過此計劃獲得推薦。此項新計劃的確是對培育具備不同才華的學生踏出第一步,政府宜因應需要,增加名額,讓更多具不同專長的學生能繼續升學。
  3. 2019年,本會與香港中文大學合作進行「課程改革的調查研究——從現在到未來」, 從162位中學校長回應中,較多認為應以文憑試最佳6科總成績14分為入讀大學的基本要求。政府應聆聽教育界聲音,檢討4年制學士學位課程最低入學要求。這個放寬並不會降低大學收生水平,而是讓大學有更大彈性按個別課程需要取錄更合適的學生,也讓在語文能力以外有獨特潛質、具學習能力的學生得以一展所長。
  4. 單單修改大學收生的數量和方法,仍未足以提升整體人力水平。為配合社會一日千里的發展,政府及各大學宜檢視所提供的大學課程,讓學習更能配合未來社會發展的需要,讓入讀學生能各展所長,盡顯潛質。這兩年來社會衝突事件亦影響了大學校園的和諧,大學須檢視如何優化校園學習氛圍,以利學生身心的發展。
  5. 香港的大學除教學外,亦著重研究成果,但與中、小學及社區的聯繫和協作不多。反觀外國許多著名大學學府,都能成為當區的教育樞紐,與社區人士分享大學書藏及其他學術成果,為提升整體國民的人文素養而作出貢獻。內地不少大學也會協助當地中學建立科研基地或特別學習中心,讓中學生能及早接觸更高深更遼闊的學問。若我們的大學也能延伸至社區,並加強與中學協作,當能為教育帶來一些新局面。
  6. 近年應用學習(ApL)課程漸受高中學生歡迎,現時應用學習課程涵蓋面頗闊,既有課程具職業導向,亦有課程能擴闊學生的學習經歷。既然學生須付出心力、時間修讀應用學習課程,大學收生應把應用學習成績,正式納入收生計分制度,既讓大學收生趨向靈活,亦能照顧不同才華的學生。

科技與教育

香港學校在推行學生自攜裝置計劃、網絡基建及軟硬件應用上均有相當不錯的發展。過去兩年疫情影響下,學校已開始混合式學習 (Blended Learning),在面授課堂與網課的互補下,老師在疫情下仍能頗有效地進行教學,以及跟進學生的學習進度。老師、學生在短時期內建立起進行混合式學習的能量,這進展得來不易。承接並延續這得來不易的成果,政府除為學校繼續提供財政資源外,更需就「如何學」、「學甚麼」等,作具體規劃。目前運用資訊科技於教學上,仍是家家煉鋼,這對於一日千里的資訊科技教育,並不理想。至於以資訊科技協助學生自學、善用大數據讓學生作適性學習、運用科技減輕老師的工作量等等,至今更未見寸進。

相對於其他先進國家及地區,香港學校在STEM教育上起步較遲。政府只向學校「派錢」,讓各校在自己所理解的STEM教育上自由發揮。政府在STEM教育上既無統籌,大部分學校也沒有系統式的STEM課程架構,STEM教育容易淪為一大堆活動、比賽。政府必須加大力度,向發展成熟的國家、地區急起直追。至於人工智能(AI)教育,至今仍只是口號,未見有任何相應舉措。

為讓新一代能具備良好的資訊素養,使香港的資訊科技發展不落後於其他先進城市,我們建議:

  1. 在STEM和AI課程開發上,政府應該負起領頭責任,訂出課程框架,指示學生須學習的技能,通過課程示例讓老師理解,並安排教師到內地及國外交流,吸收STEM及AI教育的最新發展。政府可向各大專院校和師訓機構增撥資源,培訓STEM和AI教學和支援人手,使學校有才可用。
  2. 在STEM和AI人手編制上,政府必須投放更多資源。現時並無專科老師、教學助理、STEM實驗室技術員等編制,這類教學及輔助教學人員難望有所發展,離職轉職率極高。政府應設立「電子學習統籌主任」,並為IT技術員訂定薪酬福利和晉升階梯,才能有穩定的團隊為學校服務。
  3. 至於以AI輔助學與教,背後需要龐大的數據作分析之用,絕非一人或一校之力可以達到。教育局及考評局是目前掌握全港學生成績數據最多的機構,如何在不違反私隱條例下善用數據,逐漸建立資源庫,是建立AI輔助學與教的關鍵一步。
  4. 科技界大力發展元宇宙,可見將來實境與虛擬世界會是交替運用,政府應及早籌劃,具前瞻性地帶領和安排,讓學校早作預備,迎接這科技新發展,妥善地應用於學生學習上,並關注這發展對學生身心成長的影響。
  5. 長遠來說,香港在STEM和AI範疇的就業前景,會影響年青人學習這些技能的意欲。政府如何推動創新科技產業,最終因著「倒流效應」,將對中、小學推動創新教育有所影響。

學童人口

香港正經歷人口結構的老化和少子化等問題,小一學額需求正不斷下降,參加小一派位學童人數由2018年的 5.66 萬人,下降至2021年的4.67萬人,4年間減少了近一萬名學童。中學情況亦未見穩定,2018年中一派位人數僅為 4.95萬,之後回升至 2020年的 5.41萬;惟2021年中一學童數字下跌愈2000名至5.2萬。而在可見的未來,中、小學童人口難以回升。

少子化對社會整體發展及教育體系的影響深遠,學生及開班數目減少,學校面臨裁併或廢校;學生出現流動轉校,學校系統出現「音樂椅效應」,學校收生出現壓力;教師供求失衡,人心難安,師資培育機構發展困難,新老師更難以入職,延緩學校師資的新陳代謝。

轉危為機,善用學童人口下降的契機,我們建議:

  1. 政府可借勢進一步改善教育質素,優化師生比例,降低每班學生人數。既可增進師生、生生互動,提升學生的學習成效,亦有利於照顧學生個別差異,為學生設計個別化學習及作個別輔導。
  2. 政府應檢討現行的學位分配制度,儘早規劃,按區本學童人口決定每班人數,降低少子化對教育生態的衝擊。
  3. 為老師創造進修的空間,積聚變革能量,讓學校有充足的人力資源和知識開展新的教育項目,例如STEM和AI課程、電子學習計劃、國民教育、法治教育、大學和中學協作計劃、促進校園健康項目及其他延伸性的教育事工。
  4. 香港的中學教育一直在嚴謹的官方課程框架下進行,若課程是為了培育今日及未來的社會棟樑,教育便須與時並進,甚或跨越今天今時的識見,作出更具前瞻性的規劃,以及更個人化的學與教設計。在學童人口下降的今天,正正是最佳時機多作嘗試,參考其他先進的教育體系,在不增加教育資源下,為教育注入新思維。

教師專業

教師是執行教育的主體,也是推動教育改革的動力。面對過去三年的種種困難,前線員工能持守專業,在能力所及的範疇,協助學生渡過難關和維持教育質素,充分顯現香港教師的專業精神。惟社會持續出現有組織的肆意抹黑教育界的言論,破壞和諧高效的學校環境,教師專業飽受衝擊,嚴重打擊教育工作者的士氣,影響教育發展和人才培育。

為讓教師專業獲應有的尊重及認同,以發揮最高能量,我們建議:

  1. 政府應致力確保及尊重學校的校本管理和教育工作者的專業自主,當教育界被無理抹黑和攻擊時,政府應適時發聲,保護和尊重人才,免受干擾。
  2. 非法定組織的「教育人員專業操守議會」將於2022年4月底解散。解散以後,所有有關教育專業操守的裁決,將不會再有老師的參與,而自 1990年開始的《香港教育專業守則》亦將成為歷史文件。教育局已宣布將「就教師專業操守提供清晰的指引及示例」*[1] ,以後有關教師專業失德的投訴,只有教育局的裁決。在前線參與全缺的情況下,如何才能真正保障教師的專業自主,讓業界能真正自主自律?本會與香港政策研究所於2021年發表「如何提升香港中學教師的專業地位及社會認同」研究報告,受訪的中學校長和教師表示,若設立一個自治的專業機構,能有效提升中學教師的社會認同。不約而同地,問卷調查中亦有超過 80%的家長認同此建議。政府應尊重學界及其他持分者的意見,積極考慮成立一個具備法定地位的教育人員專業組織。

善用大灣區發展的契機

中央政府於2019年2月18日公布《粵港澳大灣區發展規劃綱要》,將香港發展融入國家發展大局。連同澳門、廣州和深圳,香港將為區域發展的核心引擎之一。香港先後有香港浸會大學、香港中文大學、香港科技大學等,與內地不同大學於大灣區合作建校。

為及早預備我們的學生,拓闊未來的發展機遇,我們建議:

 

  1. 國家規劃香港為國際金融、航運、貿易中心,政府應繼續發展香港在這方面的優勢,並與各大專院校合作,大量培訓這方面的人才。除服務本地學生外,更可發展成為大灣區內的金融商貿教育樞紐。
  2. 北部都會區和前海合作區的發展,除強化香港作為金融中心外,亦有利創新科技行業的發展。除繼續發展STEM教育之外,政府應鼓勵大專院校與商界合作,將科研成果帶至應用層面,轉化為有經濟效益的產品和服務。
  3. 兩地平均工資仍然有頗大的差距,除非僱主能提供住房及其他福利,香港畢業的青年人未必會考慮回內地就業。「大灣區青年就業計劃」補貼兩地工資的差距,只能短暫鼓勵年青人回大灣區工作,若希望擴闊香港學生未來的發展領域,政府應作出長遠規劃,別讓這刻兩地的差異障礙了學生未來的發展。
  4. 疫情過後,政府應在不減少香港現時學校和開設班級數目的原則下,規劃在區內興建足夠適合港人子弟入讀的學校,並提供學費資助,方便到大灣區發展的港人子女在當地學習及日後回港升學。長遠而言,兩地學制須互相承認,就讀內地學校的學生可以回港升學,就讀本地學校的學生可以到內地升學,才能進一步加強大灣區的融合。

總結

我們樂見李家超先生的三大競選綱領中,「全面提升香港競爭力」是其中一項重點,而提升競爭力的不二法門,是人才的培育。任何社會的進步與發展,都需要借助教育的力量。特區政府2021-22 年度教育方面的開支預算為1,109 億港元,佔政府開支總額預算 15.2%,而2022-23年度教育開支預算總額為1,119億港元,只佔政府開支總額預算13.8%,較過往為低*[2],未能符合聯合國多個組織提出之《2030年仁川宣言及行動框架》(Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action)的資源投放基準,即教育開支應佔國內生產總值的至少4%-6% 及/或 公共總支出的至少15%-20%。期望新一屆政府能投放足夠的資源,讓香港教育發展不遜於其他先進城市。

教育的成功,需要有足夠的資源投入,更需要適切的政策與及慎重的規劃,而政策規劃絕不能單單靠政府一方之力,我們期望政府能與教育界多作溝通,積極採納前線對教育政策的建議,團結社會各界,共同為香港年輕一代的全人發展而努力。

香港中學校長會 執行委員會

2022年4月14日

[1] 〈教育人員專業操守議會將正式結束〉,香港特別行政區新聞公報19/01/2022

[2] 財政預算案2022/23教育開支

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