Lawmakers spell out wish list for policy address
Legislators have drawn up a shopping list of education expectations for next week's policy address, including smaller classes, more international school places and more assistance for associate degree graduates.
The calls follow reports this week that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's speech on Wednesday was likely to include a commitment to extend free education from nine years to 12 in 2009, in line with the implementation of the new senior secondary structure.
Democratic Party lawmaker and deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's education panel, Yeung Sum, said the policy address needed to tackle concerns about the future for associate degree graduates.
'By 2005, the government had already met the target of providing associate degrees or community college education to 60 per cent of secondary students, but the public is still unsure of the quality of education provided at this level,' Dr Yeung said.
He called for more financial resources and manpower to improve and monitor education in community colleges, not just more places.
Dr Yeung said it was unfair that associate degree and higher diploma students received fewer subsidies than other university students.
He also called for a timetable for the introduction of smaller classes. In view of the drop in the student population and the sizeable surplus in last year's budget, the coming year would be 'the crucial and the right time' to implement the small-class policy, Dr Yeung said.
Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, the Civic Party lawmaker representing the social welfare sector, was also concerned at the lack of details on the small-class policy and future paths of associate degree students.
'Graduates of associate degrees are hitting the bottleneck towards degree education as there are only 800 plus places available. Obviously, there are resource implications to increasing university places to accommodate these students. Are there policies to address the implementation and create more pathways for these students?' Dr Cheung said.
He also urged Mr Tsang to pledge to protect academic freedom, following impressions of the government's 'high-handed' approach left by the inquiry into allegations of government interference in the Hong Kong Institute of Education's affairs.
Liberal party lawmaker Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said local and overseas professionals hoped for more international schools and English Schools Foundation schools.
'Quality schools providing excellent languages training are very important for Hong Kong to attract overseas talents with children. Local schools are simply not going to cut it for them,' Mrs Chow said.
She said the long waiting lists for these schools was unacceptable.
Chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tam Yiu-chung, said the party was expecting small-class teaching and 12 years of free education to be among initiatives delivered in the policy address.
'We feel it is important for the government to support parents on senior secondary school education as it is changing the school system to the '3+3+4' format in 2009,' he said.
A commitment to 12 years' free education is expected in the address
The approximate number of associate degree places available in Hong Kong: 800