Education 'can do without more reforms'
The education system should be spared any further overhaul after more than a decade of reform, the man hotly tipped to be the next education minister says.
In an interview yesterday, Examinations and Assessment Authority chairman Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the education system would have to diversify and make students more competitive by teaching them to learn in their own way.
But he remains confident in the quality of education in the city, citing the series of reforms since 2000, when the Education Commission set out a plan to bring Hong Kong in line with Western countries. Demands made on children were also eased, while encouraging lifelong learning.
'A 12-year [reform] is a thorough and large-scale [reform] ... there is no need for an overhaul,' Ng said.
Ng, a human resources management consultant by training, refused to be drawn on whether he would leave his current role before the end of his term in August.
He is tipped to take over from Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung, who leaves at the end of next month when chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying and his ministers take office.
But Ng did outline an education strategy he believes the government should take, emphasising the importance of 'seamlessly' communicating with the public and not bulldozing policies forward. 'If you push [policies] without paying attention to the difficulties facing your colleagues, it is problematic,' he said.
Asked about the much-criticised introduction of national studies to the school curriculum, Ng said every subject had value but there should be better engagement with students and teachers when a new subject is introduced. 'If people can't understand the need for it, how can you push for it?' he said.
Fung Pik-yee, vice-chairman of the Professional Teachers' Union and a primary school principal, said it remained to be seen whether Ng would be the right man to lead the education system. 'We are unfamiliar with his track record, especially in the primary [school] sector,' Fung said. 'But first he should get rid of his business mindset when looking at education, since there is no short-term return in this sector. Some kind of vision is needed.'
Leung has yet to name his candidates for to take up top office on July 1, who must be approved by Beijing.
While he refused to comment on his ties to Leung, Ng said the chief executive-elect's policy of offering 15 years of free education to every child would meet a 'natural' demand from the public.
While his background is in business - he is a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management - Ng said he was committed to education as a member of several secondary schools' management committees and as ex-deputy chief of a teacher-training body, the Institute of Education.
He says one of his sons studied overseas, while another was schooled in the city.
Ng maintained that education reforms had been successful. One of these changes had a profound impact on the exams authority that Ng chairs, with the A-level and Certificate of Education Examination replaced by the new Diploma of Secondary Education. The number of years students spend in senior secondary education and at university were also changed.