Budget got it wrong on education

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 3:27am

The responses from the Hong Kong community to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's budget have not been very positive.

Some regard the measures he announced as disappointing and platitudinous, while others, especially the middle class, consider the handouts to be paltry. Every year, when the budget speech is made, members of the middle class are left feeling a bit like Cinderella.

I agree that while the government bears some responsibility to support low-income groups, the needs of the middle class cannot be neglected.

Middle-class citizens are part of our community and they work hard to strive for a better Hong Kong. They, too, deserve more subsidies to alleviate their financial burden caused by inflation.

As an educator, I am also concerned about the resources the government devotes to nurturing the next generation.

It is pleasing to learn that expenditure on education continues to be the highest in the budget.

Unfortunately, I have strong reservations regarding Tsang's proposal to inject an additional HK$480 million into the Government Scholarship Fund to establish scholarships for outstanding local students to "take degree courses or teacher training programmes in prestigious overseas universities".

I believe that this sum could be better spent on other areas of education.

While I totally agree with Tsang that a "quality teaching force is the key to the quality of education", linking studying overseas with a quality teaching force is a dubious argument. Can't students receive a quality education in local universities?

Tsang's proposal seems to imply that a university education in Hong Kong is not a quality one. If so, shouldn't this amount of money be spent to improve standards, which can be even more beneficial?

A quality teaching force is certainly a key to providing a high standard of education, but it definitely is not the only way.

If the government is determined to achieve this goal, it should use that sum of money to respond to the requests it has received to implement small-class teaching in secondary schools. This may have a more far-reaching effect than granting the scholarships to 20 people each year.

More and more research from around the globe has demonstrated that small-class teaching is conducive to student learning.

With improved education standards for the young, Hong Kong is destined to have a prosperous future.

P. Leung, Sai Ying Pun