Monitoring the operation and effectiveness of the Quality Education Fund
Asked by : Hon Emily LAU
Replied by : SEM
The criteria and procedure adopted for vetting and approving applications for grants from the Quality Education Fund ("QEF") and the effectiveness of the QEF have been criticized. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council :
- of the average time taken to complete the processing of an application for grants from the QEF; whether QEF's vetting and approval procedure is relatively lax in comparison with those of the other funds that receive public funding;
- whether the Education Department has applied for grants from the QEF; if so, of the number of the department's projects that have been granted funding and the total amount of the grants awarded; whether they have assessed if Education Department's application for grants would pose unfair competition with schools and other organizations;
- whether the Administration conducts regular reviews on the effectiveness of the schemes funded by the QEF; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
- of the measure in place to enhance the monitoring of the operation and effectiveness of the QEF?
|a.||From 1999 onwards, the QEF invites applications once a year. As a large number of applications are received in each call, it takes about six months from the date of the application deadline to complete the entire assessment process. The QEF adheres to a set of established vetting criteria and procedures in assessing all applications for funding. An Assessment Sub-committee set up under the QEF Steering Committee (QEFSC) is entrusted with the task of assessing applications. It has a wide representation, ranging from education practitioners to representatives of other community organizations. Initial screening is undertaken by the QEF Secretariat. The Assessment Sub-committee assesses the applications based on criteria such as the projects' potential in enhancing the quality of education and their cost-effectiveness. Thereafter it makes recommendations to the Steering Committee as to whether funding should be allocated. Expert assessors are involved in the vetting of applications involving sizeable grants or which are complex. In other words, a three-tier assessment mechanism is in force to vet every application before a decision regarding funding is made.|
|b.||(b) The Education Department (ED) submitted twenty-three applications in the past four calls for applications. Twelve of these applications have been supported and the allocated funding totaled $300 million. In eight out of the twelve approved applications, the ED only acts as a coordinator with the direct beneficiaries being the students, teachers and parents of the participating schools, e.g. the provision of information technology co-ordinators for secondary schools and enhancing schools' professional collaboration through the networking of resource schools. The other four projects are education researches exploring ways and means to enhance the quality of local schooling, e.g. "Study of Effectiveness of Public-sector Secondary Schools"; and "Development of performance indicators for measuring: (a) primary and secondary students' performance in affective and social domains and (b) value-added improvement of primary and secondary students' academic performance". Moreover, applications from the ED have to undergo the same assessment procedures and be assessed with the same set of established criteria. Hence, equity is ensured for all applications. Moreover, no pre-determined upper limit is imposed on the amount of total grant in each call. It follows that the allocation of funding to ED applications will not affect the success rate of other applications.|
|c.||The Promotion and Monitoring Sub-committee set up under the QEFSC is responsible for monitoring the progress and effectiveness of approved projects. The Promotion and Monitoring Sub-committee comprises representatives of the education sector and the community. Front-line education practitioners, Secretariat staff and expert reviewers engaged on a need basis are also involved in the actual monitoring work. Project leaders are obliged to submit progress reports and financial reports regularly. Other monitoring activities include site visits, interviews, attending project functions, scrutinizing progress and final reports, examining project deliverables and requesting project leaders to give presentations on project progress to the school sector. The frequency of monitoring takes into account the amount of grants involved and the significance of the projects. Where project progress is unsatisfactory, the QEF Secretariat will suspend the payment of grants and undertake follow-up action. The QEF will contact the project leaders concerned to obtain a full picture and render assistance.|
|d.|| The composition of the QEFSC helps ensure the effectiveness and proper operation of the QEF. The Chairman of the QEFSC comes from the commercial sector. The Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower and the Deputy Director of Education are ex-officio members. In addition, membership of the Steering Committee also comprises seven front-line practitioners from the pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary education institutes as well as two from the commercial sector.
After the assessment exercise of every call for applications, the QEFSC undertakes a thorough review so as to improve various aspects of the QEF operation. Over the past few months, the QEFSC has discussed the assessment, monitoring and promotion work of the Fund. It has agreed on a number of improvement measures and the launch of reviews on different aspects of the Fund. The QEFSC also examines the progress and effectiveness of individual projects.
In addition, the ICAC and Audit Commission also regularly monitor the operation of the QEF.