Workable education policy needs everyone's support
I am writing in response to Mrs M. Leung's letter, 'Reforms on the wrong track' (Education Post, March 16) in which she expressed concern about the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and Medium of Instruction (MOI) policy.
I would like to address the issues. DSS schools receive a recurrent subsidy on a per capita basis equivalent to the average unit cost of an aided school place. Hence, there is no question of the Government shirking its financial responsibility. An aided school which joins the DSS does not necessarily have to charge high tuition fees. Indeed, most of the 28 DSS schools charge low fees that compare with those charged by aided schools from Form Four. The Government does allow schools some flexibility to collect tuition fees to enhance the quality of education. However, it also requires DSS schools to provide scholarships or bursaries to needy students. It is also in the interest of DSS schools to adopt a need-blind admission policy if they wish to recruit the best students.
DSS schools make up less than two per cent of the 1,302 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong. The proportion is expected to remain low as the Government is committed to maintaining an adequate supply of free school places for nine years' compulsory education to accommodate all those who choose to study in aided schools.
It is also important to differentiate between 'language learning' and the 'medium of instruction'. Using English as the MOI does not assure a student's English proficiency. To learn English well, the student must be motivated to use English in the four modes (reading, writing, listening and speaking), the teacher must be highly proficient and there must be an English-speaking environment at home or in the school.
At the same time as the medium of instruction policy was enforced in 1998, a package of measures was introduced to strengthen the teaching of English in Chinese-medium (CMI) secondary schools and to support teachers in using Cantonese as the MOI. It was also decided in 1998 that CMI schools could choose whether to use English for some or all subjects by the time students reached Form Four.
The decision rests on three considerations; namely, students' ability to learn effectively using English as the MOI, teachers' English proficiency and the quality of bridging programmes to help students change from using Chinese to English as the MOI. Indeed, some CMI schools made this switch in Form Four.
Education is a heavily value-loaded subject and it is not easy to achieve consensus. For a policy to succeed, we need the support of the community, in particular teachers and parents like you.
I have pledged to do my utmost to inform the public more widely and accurately about our policy and to remove any misconceptions they may have in order to win their support.
MRS FANNY LAW
Secretary for Education and Manpower