Incoming Chief Executive Ms. Carrie Lam said in her manifesto that “…education is the key to nurturing talent. Government expenditure on education is therefore the most significant investment for our future” and announced an infusion of HK$5 billion into our education system. Financial secretary Paul Chan has also announced that portions of the huge surplus amount to $18 billion left over from last year will be used on education.
In recent years, the government has dedicated a large amount of resources to education, but many problems are still seen and felt by parents, teachers and students. These include having insufficient educational resources, too much pressure on students and the lack of spaces in post-secondary education. The DAB has always emphasized the importance of education, and therefore we welcome the announcements of both Ms. Carrie Lam and Mr. Paul Chan on this issue. It is only through intelligent and targeted spending of these new funds that we can truly raise the quality of education, train more talented people and allow the next generation to achieve a happy and positive future.
Therefore, the DAB has put forward these 10 major points as a proposal:
1.Lengthen the eligibility period for “tide-over grant” and set up a permanent pay scale for kindergarten teachers
The government has to set up a rational pay scale for kindergarten teachers in order that senior teacher’s salary can be guaranteed. Provide a complete career development ladder system and encourage the industry to professionalize and improve the quality of education provided. When establishing the kindergarten pay scale, we propose lengthening the eligibility period for “tide-over grant” in order to relieve the financial pressure on the kindergartens and allow them to keep a stable team of teachers.
2.Increase the funds provided to whole day (WD) and long whole day (LWD) kindergartens
Families where both parents work are now standard, and the need for WD and LWD kindergartens continues to rise inexorably. The government should implement 15 years of free education as soon as possible and increase the quota for WD and LWD kindergartens while providing them with enough resources to operate while also improving the quality of education given to students.
3.Turn contract teaching positions into permanent positions
The government should change any contract short term teaching position into a permanent teaching post as soon as possible. This will not only allow these new teachers to not have to worry about renewing their contract each year, this also solves the problem of different salaries between contract and permanent teaching staff. This will also attract more interested young people to join as teachers, allowing Hong Kong’s teaching profession to develop in a more stable direction and with higher quality as well.
4.Increase the class-to-teacher ratio
A teacher’s day is very stressful and the expectations of parents on schools continues to increase. The government should use new funds to hire more primary and secondary school teachers to improve the class-to-teacher ratio (For example, 1.7 teachers per class in elementary school instead of 1.5, 2.0 instead of 1.7 for secondary school and 2.3 instead of 2.0 for senior high school). This will ease the burden on teachers and improve the quality of education provided.
5.Promote a voucher system and financially support students who need it to receive a degree
Every year many secondary students who qualify for post-secondary education are not able to take up a spot due to a lack of publicly-funded undergraduate places. We should give vouchers to such students in order to help fund their education within self-financing undergraduate programs and help relieve their financial stress on this front.
6.Set up a permanent position for SENCO
Currently, Community Care Fund provide a certain number of schools with a 3-year experimental program named SENCO. This program provides funds to ordinary schools with large numbers of SEN students. As the criteria to qualify for this experimental program are very strict, not many schools have been able to benefit from these funds. We propose that SENCO should receive a permanent position in our education system in order that all elementary and middle schools with SEN students can receive the financial assistance of SENCO.
7.Strengthen education on life issues
In recent years the problem of student suicide has become more and more severe. The government should provide more resources to encourage more education on life skills and issues and enable students to better deal with stress, to manage their emotions better, to limit the effect of setbacks and to stabilize their self-confidence. The government should also increase the number of “gatekeepers” with sufficient resources and educational psychologist services.
8.Promote Equal Pay for Equal Qualifications
Under the current system in secondary and elementary schools, teachers holding degrees are employed as Certificated Master/ Mistress (CM) posts due to the limited number of graduate teacher posts, leading to a separation within schools themselves. The government should quickly review the salary and hiring systems in place and get rid of restrictions in order to allow all teachers with teaching degrees to fill graduate teacher posts and improve the morale of the teaching profession.
9.Educate the parents
As parents are a major stakeholder in any education system and a key component in improving the quality of education in Hong Kong, the government should provide resources to schools to create permanent positions that will help educate parents and strengthen the cooperation between schools and parents. This will improve the culture of conflict between parents and schools, and increase the percentage of parents cooperating with schools instead of fighting them.
10.Improve the Facilities on School Campuses
Currently some schools with sub-standard facilities are either old or lack funding. The government should research the real situation at each school and then repair and upgrade facilities as soon as possible. Also, air conditioning should become a standard in all schools and the installation and repair of all air conditioning units should be subsidized by the government. This will definitely improve the environment for both teachers and students and also help relieve the financial burden on schools and parents.
DAB Vice-Chair and Spokesperson on Education Horace Cheung (9681-8757)
DAB Vice-Chief Secretary Vincent Cheng (9194-4255)