'Outsider' heads free kindergarten study

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

A solicitor labelled by critics as an "ignorant outsider" has been appointed to chair a study on free kindergarten education.

Dr Moses Cheng Mo-chi will head the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education and work with 19 members to finish a study in two years.

The panel will look into ways to improve the operations of kindergartens, possible modes of government subvention, teachers' pay, teacher-pupil ratios, and issues related to free kindergarten education.

Dr Cheng, who has since 2009 chaired the Education Commission, is a vocal opponent of the sector's calls for a pay scale to improve kindergarten teachers' salaries.

Ip Kin-yuen, a legislator representing the education sector, doubted the government's sincerity in giving free kindergarten education.

"We see that the committee is headed by an outsider who is ignorant about preschool education," said Ip, adding that two years was too long for the committee to take.

"The issue has long been discussed and there has been a general consensus. I do not see why the committee needs two years to study it," said Ip.

"It may take another three to four years to go through the legislative formalities even if the government accepts the committee report at the end."

The chairman of Education Convergence, Choi Kwok-kwong, shared similar views and said a free kindergarten education policy was long overdue.

Mary Tong Siu-fun, chairman of the Hong Kong Kindergarten Association, also urged the committee to have more consultation with the sector.

Dr Cheng yesterday argued that two years was not a long time, given the significance and complexity of the issue.

He maintained yesterday that a pay scale would have nothing to do with teachers' professionalism. But he added his personal opinions should not affect the objectivity of the study.

Those on the committee will include three kindergarten principals, one kindergarten teacher, and three parents.

In his maiden policy address in January, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying promised to enhance kindergarten education and instructed the Education Bureau to look into the feasibility of free kindergarten education.