School management aims hit major delay
The phasing in of a new, inclusive style of school management committees, proposed five years ago, could face further delay of at least a year due to clashes over who should sit on them.
School-based management, first mooted in an Education Commission report in 1997, has been blown off-course by disagreements between the Government and established school-sponsoring boards. It was to start last year, but the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) failed to achieve a consensus on changes to the management committees' composition.
Committees are accountable to the Education Department, school-sponsoring bodies and parents for the overall performance of the school, and ensure that the school complies with the Education Ordinance. They are also responsible for budgeting and human resource management.
Disagreements came to a head when an EMB advisory group proposed in a consultation document two years ago that each committee should, under the banner of school-based management, include at least two teachers and two parents elected by their peers. School-sponsoring bodies, which can presently nominate all school managers, would only be able to name up to 60 per cent.
Some bodies feared that the change, which would also strengthen the responsibility and accountability of management committees, was a move to weaken their control over schools. After a series of consultations last year, the EMB advisory committee amended its document by not specifying the minimum number of teachers and parents in a management committee, saying it recognised that smaller schools might find it hard to identify two suitable teacher and parent representatives.
But some school-sponsoring bodies still say there should not be a set of uniform rules. 'The essence of school-based management is for schools to have the freedom to decide the composition of their management bodies. Schools which are not yet ready for teachers' and parents' participation should not be forced to do so,' said Alice Woo Lo-ming, the episcopal delegate for education of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, which has 130 schools under its direct supervision. She said half already had teachers and parents registered as school managers.
Sun Pong Tak-ling, chairman of the Conference of Sheng Kung Hui (SKH) Secondary School Heads, said that teachers and parents should be given a say in matters directly related to education, but not those on other areas, including property management, and staff appointments and dismissals. 'Teachers may have conflicts of interest in many of the issues school management committees discuss. It would only politicise the role of the group,' she said.
The SKH has been urging the Government to replace the proposed structure with a two-tier management committee, which would allow teachers and parents to have a seat in the school management committee, but limit their remit to educational matters.
The disagreement has meant that the EMB is only now preparing a draft framework, due to be submitted to the Legislative Council by the end of its session in August. Advisory group member Stephen Hui Chun-yim warned that it would take a long time before the committee structure could be brought in. Legco had yet to schedule its debate on the issue, he said, meaning it could take until the end of this year, and then amendments to the Education Ordinance and practical preparations for the formation of management committees would further delay implementation.
A further hold-up was the need to amend the Education Ordinance specifically to make the committees corporate bodies with limited liability. 'This is to curb the current unsatisfactory situation where individual school managers are personally responsible for any legal liability arising from the committee's decisions,' he said.