The Quality Childhood Conference International 2015 (QCCI 2015)
held in The Hong Kong Institute of Education
on 18 June 2015 (Thursday)
Speech by Mrs Marion Lai, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education, HKSAR
Professor Cheung, Mr Pong, Dr Thomsen, Dr Cheng, Professor Chung, Dr Whitebread, distinguished guests and speakers, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to join you all here in the Quality Childhood Conference International 2015 today. The theme of the Conference for this year is ‘Enhancing Quality Childhood Education: Synergising Global Efforts’. This is a theme of importance, as we need to put our heads together and join hands to enhance the quality of childhood education for our children, for our future.
2. How is “quality childhood education” defined? “Quality” is an elusive concept. To understand “quality” better, we need to take into consideration various cultural, contextual, practical and technical perspectives. We also need to examine how the beliefs of children, parents, educators and policy makers are impacting our definition of “quality”. Often, what we consider to be quality practices reflects the values and priorities of our society.
3. Nowadays our global education environment is highly interconnected. As such, it provides ample opportunity for international teacher educators, academics, researchers and curriculum developers to share their knowledge and experience. This is what we will be experiencing today. The Conference this year aims to promote an in-depth discussion about the notion of “quality childhood education” across disciplines, and to bring forward new visions for enhancing “quality childhood education” for the betterment of our next generation. Participants in the Conference will be engaged in a focused discourse on “quality childhood education” and the related practices around the world. And with this purposeful professional dialogue, we will be able to explore and learn more about the rapidly expanding field of “quality childhood education” across different cultures. By exploring a diverse range of innovative empirical knowledge and best practices worldwide, we will be able to equip ourselves better to enhance the quality of childhood education locally and globally.
4. Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of a child's physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. At this crucial stage, the growth of a child’s mental and physical abilities progresses at an astounding rate. We have learnt from research that a very high proportion of learning indeed takes place from birth to age six. It is a time when children particularly need high quality personal care and learning experiences. Early childhood education is thus an important stage which lays the foundation for children’s life-long learning and whole person development. It articulates with primary, secondary and tertiary education to form an entire spectrum of education. Every child is capable of learning and entitled to essential and quality learning experiences. In this regard, kindergartens should provide children with high quality and integrated early childhood education and care service.
5. From a curriculum development perspective, the Education Bureau promotes three guiding principles, namely ‘be child-centred’, ‘be comprehensive and well-balanced’, as well as ‘adopting play as a learning strategy’, for achieving quality childhood education. Children are active learners who are curious and interested in exploration. In a safe, enjoyable and challenging environment, and given appropriate resources and adults’ assistance, children can construct knowledge on their own. They learn through daily-life experiences, sensory stimulation and interesting activities. And through play, they can learn in a self-motivated, pleasurable and effective manner. In the past decade, kindergartens in Hong Kong have developed a lot of good practices in adopting the above principles to design and implement their kindergarten-based curriculum.
6. Early childhood education in Hong Kong is characterised by its great flexibility and diversity, with which the diverse learning and developmental needs of children can be addressed. Numerous initiatives have been put forward and implemented in the past decade, leading to a notable enhancement of early childhood education in Hong Kong in terms of both quality and quantity.
7. The Hong Kong SAR attaches great importance to providing quality education to the next generation. Education accounts for 22 per cent of total government recurrent expenditure in the 2015-16 financial year, the highest among all policy areas. To alleviate parents’ financial burden, upgrade the professional qualifications of kindergarten principals and teachers, as well as improve the facilities of eligible kindergartens, the Government has put forward various financial support measures such as the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme and the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme.
8. Moreover, onsite support services by the Education Bureau are provided for kindergartens to enhance teachers’ capacity to develop and implement kindergarten-based curriculum to cater for children’s learning needs. Expertise from the tertiary sector has also been solicited through the “University-School Support Programmes” to provide intensive on-site support for kindergartens. In this respect, the Hong Kong Institute of Education has been our close partner in empowering kindergartens to implement effective kindergarten-based curriculum for three consecutive school years.
9. As the saying goes, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a child; you educate a generation”. Children are the future of our society. It is of paramount importance that all practitioners should seek to keep abreast of the latest developments and good practices in early childhood education. Only through our commitment to building our own capacity can we continue to improve the quality of our kindergarten education. The Conference this year is a valuable opportunity for scholars, practitioners and policy makers worldwide to discuss early childhood education issues, exchange views and learn about good practices. Let’s seize the chance to learn from each other, synergise global efforts and contribute to the enhancement of childhood education for our children and for our future.
10. I wish you all a fruitful and successful conference. Thank you.