Asked by : Hon Kenneth TING
Replied by : SEM
It has been reported that the record of an organization indicates that the number of young children being sent abroad for education has been on the increase for three consecutive years, and these children are sent abroad at a much younger age; there are comments that this situation is related to the hasty and ineffective education reforms implemented in Hong Kong in recent years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
Hong Kong parents sending their children to study abroad is a phenomenon, which has been existing for a long time. The Government respects the freedom of Hong Kong people entering or leaving the territory, and the decision of parents to send their children abroad to study. Thus, we have not conducted any systematic studies on this matter, and do not have statistics on Hong Kong students studying overseas. However, we believe that in deciding whether to send their children to study abroad, parents must have thought thoroughly and have taken into account various factors, including affordability, their expectations of their children, the ability and aptitude of their children, etc. In addition, they will have compared the social environment, education system, and development prospects of Hong Kong and those overseas.
According to information provided by the British Council and the American Consulate General, there is an overall increasing trend in the number of students studying in the United Kingdom and the United States during 1998 and 2000. However, neither sources have kept record on the number of Hong Kong children aged 12 or below studying in these two countries. In addition, figures provided by the British Council are estimates only since Hong Kong students holding the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport or the British National (Overseas) passport are not required to apply for student visas if they wish to study in the United Kingdom. The figures provided by the American Consulate General on the number of student visas issued also do not have any further breakdown on the level and length of courses. Nevertheless, from our daily contact with the education sector, we are not aware that a large number of primary students are withdrawing from schools to pursue overseas study. In addition, no evidence indicates that people send their young children abroad to study because the education reform is hasty and ineffective.
Indeed, the Education Commission (EC) conducted three rounds of wide public consultation during its review of the education system, and over 30 000 written submissions were received. After thorough consideration and balancing different views expressed by the public, the Commission submitted its final proposals to the Chief Executive last September. We will further strengthen our communication with the public and listen to their views when we implement the reform measures.
In working out the implementation time-table for the education reform, the Government has adopted a gradual and pragmatic approach. Support services and measures are also provided to schools and teachers. On the one hand, we have to take into account current circumstances, including the established culture and professionalism. On the other hand, we need to meet the pressing aspirations of the community in raising the quality of our manpower.
Take the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) System as an example. We will put in place the replacement mechanism recommended by EC by phases. We have abolished the Academic Aptitude Test in 2000, and have adopted transitional arrangements to provide sufficient time for relevant parties to prepare for and adapt to the changes. We will then conduct an interim review in the 2003/04 school year to evaluate the progress of the reform, and to consider, taking into account prevailing circumstances, whether to implement in the 2005/ 06 school year the long-term SSPA mechanism recommended by EC.
As regards the curriculum reform, the Curriculum Development Council proposes that it should be implemented in three phases (short, medium and long term) and that schools should be given ten years' time to gradually implement the reform measures. During the period, to enable schools and teachers to have a solid foundation to modify their curriculum and teaching methods, the Government will conduct a number of curriculum studies to build up successful experiences, and will provide training and teaching resources to principals and teachers.
As the education reform has just started, it is premature to judge the effectiveness of the reform at this stage. Since the establishment of the Government of the Special Administrative Region, we have introduced many important education initiatives, including putting in place the policy for the Medium of Instruction, establishing a $5 billion Quality Education Fund, launching the Five-year Strategy on IT in Education at a cost of $3.2 billion, raising the quality of the teaching force and accelerating the provision of graduate posts in primary schools, and implementing whole-day primary schooling. These measures are effective, and are conducive to raising the quality of teaching and learning. Although these measures did not originate from the review of the academic structure, curriculum and examination system conducted by EC, they share the same objectives and complement one other.
Therefore, the assertion that the education reform is hasty and ineffective is based on an incorrect impression.