New scholarships meant for students eyeing teaching, Eddie Ng says

HK$480m budget measure will favour people set to study English or early childhood learning

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 3:58am

A new HK$480 million initiative to sponsor top students in their overseas studies is aimed at applicants with an eye to a teaching career, the education chief says.

Those who intended to read English or early childhood education would get priority in the selection, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said.

Ng was responding to criticism, including from University of Science and Technology president Professor Tony Chan Fan-cheong, that the new scholarships were too narrow in scope.

Candidates who picked subjects outside the government's priority areas might get a chance to clinch a scholarship, provided they planned to teach after they returned, Ng said yesterday.

"The scholarships target students who complete the Diploma of Secondary Education examination next year," he said. "They need to have outstanding academic achievements, and at the same time regard education as their lifelong career."

On Wednesday, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced in his 2013-14 budget that the Government Scholarship Fund would get a fresh injection of HK$480 million.

Successful applicants will each get up to HK$300,000 a year to take degree courses or teacher training programmes "at prestigious overseas universities". Each year the fund will select about 20 scholars, who must return to Hong Kong upon graduation and take up a teaching role for at least two years.

Lawmakers and industry professionals were critical of the measure. Chan agreed it could boost the quality of education, but said the planned number of awards was far from sufficient. He called for more long-term investment in education.

"Why must the applicants study English or do their degrees overseas? If the government relaxes the criteria and sponsors those who study other subjects, more people can benefit."

New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said returning scholars should not be forced to take up teaching. "It's not only the education sector that needs outstanding students."