Hope for free education gives way to disappointment
The lack of a timetable for meeting Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's pledge of 15 years' free education is a "huge disappointment" to kindergarten teachers.
Education-sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen spoke up yesterday after Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the government would come up with suggestions and consultations within two years about subsidising kindergartens.
"The preschool education sector had great expectations in this area, but now it has become a huge disappointment to us," Ip said at a meeting of the Legislative Council education panel. "What the minister has spoken of is a very long-term timetable … Can the timetable be shortened?"
He said there would be so many rounds of consultation and planning that it was doubtful whether the scheme could be introduced before Leung's five-year term ended.
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, Wong Kwok-hing of the Federation of Trade Unions and the Labour Party's Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung also feared the process would take too long and demanded a timetable.
In his election platform last year, Leung pledged to offer 15 years of free education to every child.
But at his policy address last week he said only that a special committee would be formed to study the feasibility of the idea.
Ng said a consultancy was now compiling documents as reference materials and the committee would be set up in the middle of this year to deal with any complicated problems.
"There will be five or six working groups to study the different aspects, such as the mode of subsidy … teachers' qualifications and salaries," he said.
He acknowledged that a timetable was important but the education sector would like to have more consultation for the plan.