Lawmakers refuse to budge on IT staffing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am

Funding for the HK$240 million IT education policy has been held up by the Legislative Council because the government will not pay schools to hire permanent IT support staff.

Addressing Legco's education panel this week, Deputy Secretary for Education Chris Wardlaw urged lawmakers to support the Third Strategy on Information Technology in Education before resolving the outstanding issue over schools' IT advisers.

'The strategy needs to get under way. I urge the panel to accept we've got strong support for the actions we've asked for,' Mr Wardlaw said. He said 45 written submissions were largely in support of the strategy.

'We are certainly not prepared to consider [the issue] with the package proposal,' he said. Moving ahead with the strategy would give them time to consider the issue later.

But lawmakers refused to back the proposal until their concerns were addressed.

The education panel will meet again on January 31 and invite views on the lack of permanent IT support staff in schools.

The government's plan to put the proposal to the Finance Committee has been delayed to February 22, the last chance for the government to receive funding this financial year.

A submission by the IT People Association of Hong Kong said about 1,100 IT advisers were employed under contract in local schools and they were paid only HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 a month. The low salary and lack of promotion opportunities resulted in a high turnover rate.

Citing an e-mail from a principal, education lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said schools were troubled by the limited resources they had to retain IT technicians.

The government has invested HK$7.2 billion for schools to purchase computer equipment since 1998. Information technology lawmaker Sin Chung-kai said it was only reasonable that it fund schools to hire permanent IT support staff to maintain such expensive hardware.