Progress of education reform and school-based professional support
Dear Supervisors, Principals, Teachers and parents,
Since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1997, we have witnessed a transformation in our education system with significant achievements :
- Professional upgrading of our teaching force - the proportion of qualified and trained teachers increased significantly, coupled with rapid growth in the volume and variety of in-service professional development activities;
- Increased professional autonomy for schools - today schools enjoy much more flexibility over the use of resources and curriculum design to suit the needs of their students;
- Improvement in student attainment – students’ results in HKCEE and HKALE have improved across a range of indicators. Primary students are also reported to enjoy learning more and have improved in communication and thinking skills. Furthermore, Hong Kong students have won many awards in international competitions;
- Increase in learning opportunities and choice - subsidised school places are available for all secondary three students to continue their education with more choice of schools and curriculum to suit individual interests and aptitudes. We have also expanded post-secondary education opportunities and provided alternative progression pathways; and
- Upgrading of learning facilities - the Y2K design and school improvement programme have significantly enhanced the quality of school and learning facilities. The IT in education strategy has modernised our schools to meet the needs of a knowledge society.
These are considerable achievements over a short period of time. I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your hard work and dedication that have made this possible.
However, the aspirations of the society and the demands of an increasingly complex modern world require that the generic skills, the knowledge base and the values of our young people will have to be strengthened if they are to be good citizens of Hong Kong and the world. Our education reform effort is focused on this necessity.
I do recognise that the scale and pace of reform can leave those who have the greatest sense of responsibility feeling under pressure and overloaded. On the basis of a series of meetings with school councils, focus groups of frontline educators, and members of advisory committees over the past two months, I have gathered the following concerns :
- the underlying rationale of reform initiatives are not thoroughly understood as they reach the frontline and not sufficiently connected at the school level with clear priorities ;
- there is not enough celebration of what the education system does well and teachers' effort is not sufficiently affirmed;
- the curriculum reform entails high professional demands which are not matched by sufficient support; and
- the threat of school consolidation due to enrolment decline has undermined confidence.
These are important challenges to which EMB will respond swiftly and proactively. The first and most immediate action that we will take is to increase and improve communication between schools and EMB. Effective reform is a shared endeavour. There has to be thorough and shared understanding of the purpose of every reform initiative, and a shared commitment to deliver the desired outcome. The EMB directorate officers have jointly initiated a series of district level meetings to offer a holistic view of the initiatives originating from individual divisions and how they connect. We shall also share information with you about the latest progress on aspects of the education and curriculum reform, and the key findings of the stakeholders' survey.
Secondly, we shall launch a range of practical actions to relieve the pressure on schools and teachers, and provide better and more tailored support in key reform areas. Specifically,
- an evaluation of the impact of the Capacity Enhancement Grant (CEG) affirms that it has been successful in reducing teachers' workload and improving student learning. In addition, to facilitate forward planning, schools have also expressed a desire for longer term commitment on the part of the Government. I am pleased to announce that EMB will continue the CEG for at least 3 years from the 2004/05 school year, subject to regular adjustment as approved by the Finance Committee. We will also explore ways in which we can give more flexibility to schools in other non-salary grants.
- a task force will be established to reduce system-school level bureaucracy. Included in its terms of reference will be a review of various requirements under the Code of Aid, which have generated administrative work. The task force will report before the end of 2004 on the administrative processes that can be abandoned immediately.
- I understand that the School Development and Accountability (SDA) framework has caused a good deal of anxiety in school, especially at a time of enrolment decline. I wish to re-emphasise that the framework is intended to be developmental and improvement oriented. My deputy, Chris Wardlaw, has already written to you to introduce several modifications to the SDA framework.
Thirdly, we shall enhance the mode and level of school-based professional support to assist schools' development of teaching and learning in the Key Learning Areas, beginning from the 04/05 school year, and sustain for a period of three to five years. The nature of support will depend on a school’s own needs assessment. Already we have begun implementation of the SCOLAR plan for district-based support of Chinese and English panels. We shall also draw in professional support from tertiary and community partners both within and outside of Hong Kong.
I attach for your information a paper for the LegCo Education Panel which sets out details of the proposed school-based professional support. We aim to seek Finance Committee's funding approval within the current legislative session, so that work can begin in the next school year. I welcome your views on how to serve your needs better.
I hope this letter, and the actions that flow from it, will open a new chapter in education reform in Hong Kong. We have achieved an enormous amount and that success provides an unrivalled platform for the future. In order to build on our success, we need to develop a shared vision for the future, and a shared understanding of how we will achieve this vision. I look forward to your partnership and active response in moving forward.
Mrs Fanny Law
Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower
The Paper for LegCo Education Panel