[Archive] Education Commission Report No.7 Quality School Education - QUALITY SCHOOL EDUCATION
QUALITY SCHOOL EDUCATION
1.1 The Education Commission (EC) set up a Task Group on School Quality and School Funding (the Task Group) in April 1996 to make recommendations on quality school education for its Report No.7 on Quality School Education (ECR7). The terms of reference and membership of the Task Group are at Appendix A. Recognising the complexity of the issues and the far-reaching implications for school education, two rounds of public consultations were conducted. The first round involved the publication in June 1996 of a pamphlet entitled "Quality School Education : Ways to Improve Performance" to invite comments on the broad principles, goals and targets of quality school education, ways to relate school funding to performance, the roles of key players in the school system and their relationship with one another.
1.2 The first round of consultation indicated clear support for the need to tackle the quality issue in the school system. In the light of public feedback, the Task Group proposed a number of changes to enhance the quality of school education together with a strategy for implementation. These were set out in a consultation document published in November 1996 for a second round of consultation, which ended in January 1997. Over 60 000 copies of the consultation document were issued during the two-month consultation period. During the two consultation exercises, EC organised a number of consultative sessions for the then Legislative Council and District Board members, the Education Department (ED) staff, school principals and teachers, school sponsoring bodies and school councils, educational and other professional bodies, teacher education institutions, advisory bodies on education, parents, employers, media and other members of the public. Members of EC also reached out to various organisations for the purpose of focus group discussions. The two rounds of consultation together attracted more than 200 editorials and articles in all major Chinese and English newspapers. Over 300 written submissions were received from various educational bodies, professional organisations and members of the public.
1.3 In general, there was overwhelming support for the spirit and direction of the consultation document, and subject to certain views regarding implementation, most of EC's recommendations received clear public endorsement. Concerns, however, have been expressed on a number of issues. A summary of major public feedback is at Appendix B. As many major issues required careful follow-up and in some cases more thorough studies and deliberations, EC decided to revive the Task Group in February 1997 to re-examine these issues in the light of the public views. The revised terms of reference and membership of the Task Group are at Appendix C. The Task Group held a series of discussions from February 1997 to July 1997, and submitted its proposals to EC for consideration at the end of the period. EC then finalised its recommendations as contained in this Report and submitted them to the Government in September 1997.
1.4 The ECR7 seeks to achieve the following objectives:
- to enhance community appreciation of the need for quality school education;
- to inculcate a quality culture in the school system to contribute to the personal growth of students, and the pursuit of excellence;
- to provide a practical framework for key players in the school system to achieve the aims of education in an efficient, cost-effective and accountable manner;
- to recommend an integrated strategy for quality assurance and development;
- to provide incentives for quality performance;
- to assist and remedy under-performing schools to encourage initiatives and continuous improvement; and
- to recommend a framework for raising the professional standards of principals and teachers and enhancing their professional education and development.
1.5 Concern about the quality of school education is an international trend. Many developed countries such as Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States have been studying ways and carrying out reforms to improve the quality of school education. Like them, Hong Kong faces new challenges and demands. Our education system should adapt to these changes and meet the demands of a dynamic world. We have to rely on quality education to contribute to the personal growth of our students, to build a competent work force to promote social, economic and cultural development and to increase our competitiveness in the international market.
1.6 In the early days when only relatively few people could attend school, academic achievement and proportion of students entering universities were obvious quality indicators of schools. With expansion in the provision of education from primary to tertiary levels in the past two decades, with the development of a diversity of schools offering different types of curricula and with the wider participation in education at all levels, indicators of school quality should be revised to reflect the changes in definition and emphasis of the quality of education. Broadly speaking, the essence of quality school education comprises :
- delivery of educational outcomes which meet the needs and expectations of the community in an efficient, accountable and cost-effective way;
- pursuit of excellence in both academic and other domains of education;
- participation of front-line educators to choose the best teaching and learning model that suits the needs of teachers and students of individual schools; and
- provision of educational diversity and choice to parents and students.
1.7 The ECR7 aims to channel the efforts of educators to improve the quality of school education, and to put in place a framework to streamline and co-ordinate the various reform measures in a systematic manner. We recommend that ED should encourage schools to develop their own ways to achieve quality education, such that each school has its own individuality and characteristics. They should develop school-based management and their own curriculum to meet their needs and the goals of quality education. At the same time, good practices should be disseminated, and experience in the development of quality education shared with other schools.
1.8 In order to improve the quality of school education, the involvement and commitment of the community and all players in the school system are vital. We need to build a quality culture.
1.9 EC finds that there is a need to enhance the quality of the present school system. Some schools do not have clear development plans to ensure that the fundamental aims of education are achieved. Some do not have clear targets for both academic and non-academic achievement of students. Others do not have a proper appraisal system to assess the performance of teachers and principals. In order to build a quality culture, we suggested, and many respondents agreed during public consultation, that both internal development within schools and external provision of an enabling environment were essential. The key components of a quality culture are :
- setting clear and commonly accepted goals for school education and having these goals clearly understood by all players in the school system;
- translating the goals into achievable, observable and measurable quality indicators for self-evaluation and external assessment;
- allowing school management greater autonomy in general administration, finance and personnel matters but at the same time requiring a higher degree of accountability for school performance;
- having an efficient, equitable and cost-effective funding system which meets basic needs of schools and which is related to performance;
- providing incentives to recognise and encourage initiative and the pursuit of excellence;
- assisting and where necessary taking remedial measures regarding under-performing schools;
- raising the professional standards of principals and teachers and enhancing their professional education and development; and
- introducing corresponding changes in the education-related executive and advisory structure, the curriculum, examinations and the academic system.
1.10 The successful building of quality school culture hinges on the provision of external enabling elements, and efforts made by the schools themselves. The pace of school-based development may differ. Nevertheless, we believe that with increased transparency of school operations, broadened participation from parents and the community in school management, increased accountability of schools to the public, and sharing of experience among schools with similar background or within the same quality circle, schools will be expected and thus motivated to improve and continue to strive for excellence.
1.11 EC notes that the University Grants Committee (UGC) has completed a review on tertiary education and published a report in November 1996. The Board of Education (BoE) has also completed reviews on pre-primary education and special education, and published respective reports in April 1994 and May 1996. The BoE review on 9-year compulsory education will soon complete. These reviews, together with the ECR7, will help map out the overall direction for quality improvement in our education system.
1.12 While the ECR7 focuses mainly on issues of quality school education in the context of public sector primary and secondary schools, in particular ways to improve school management and performance towards the provision of quality school education to better meet the needs of students, the principle behind the various recommendations is of a generic nature, applicable to all levels of education, and aims to provide a practical framework for the inculcation of a quality culture in the education system.
1.13 EC's approach is multi-dimensional, consisting of :
- reviewing overseas and local literature on effective school movements, quality assurance measures and school management approaches;
- organising visits to study the operation of education authorities in other places;
- taking reference from similar reforms in the local public sector, such as those carried out by the Hospital Authority and the social welfare sector;
- studying the report by the consultant commissioned by the then Education and Manpower Branch in September 1995 to develop performance indicators for the school system;
- organising focus group discussions with relevant educational bodies and organisations; and
- assimilating views from the public consultation exercises.
1.14 In the ECR7, we map out a framework for the development of quality school education. First, we define the goals of education. These goals can be translated into observable and measurable indicators. In Chapter 2, we will discuss in great detail the setting of goals for school education and the development of quality indicators.
1.15 In order to achieve quality education, both internal quality assurance within schools, and the establishment of an external quality assurance mechanism are necessary. Chapter 3 outlines how an effective quality assurance framework can be developed.
1.16 To achieve their individual goals, schools need greater flexibility and autonomy in the administration and use of resources. The present funding arrangements are relatively rigid and should be reviewed in the light of encouraging school-based management. Chapter 4 sets out the various recommendations in respect of funding arrangements.
1.17 Encouraging innovation and value-added improvement are important elements of reform. In Chapter 5, suggestions are made to provide incentives for these purposes.
1.18 There is a need to provide a systematic and co-ordinated training and development strategy to help instil a quality culture, optimise available training resources and raise the professional standards of the front-line educators. Chapter 6 sets out the recommendations in this aspect.
1.19 Related reforms necessary to improve the quality of education include reforms in respect of the education-related executive and advisory structure, the curriculum, examinations and the academic system. Chapter 7 makes suggestions on these reforms.
1.20 Chapter 8 summarises the major recommendations of this Report, suggests the strategy and timeframe for implementation, and estimates their financial and staffing implications.