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Participants in SCMP poverty debate tell government to focus on education

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 5:29am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 7:51am

Education is the long-term key to tackling poverty in Hong Kong but immediate efforts must be made by the government to treat welfare as an entitlement rather than a handout.

That was the message from panellists taking part in this year's final SCMP Redefining Hong Kong debate yesterday.

Speakers said that a more entitlement-based approach to welfare, as well as a commitment, backed by resources, to boosting education, should form significant components of chief executive Leung Chun-ying's policy address next month.

"Anybody in Hong Kong, faced with serious issues like unemployment, infirmity, disability or family, education and so on ... can be sure that they will be given the services which they require as a matter of entitlement, and not as a matter of either mercy by the government or their self-finance. This should be made a principle," said Leo Goodstadt, former head of the Central Policy Unit.

Francis Lui Ting-ming, economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said education should be the focus.

"Public expenditure on education [in Hong Kong] is 3.5 per cent of GDP, while the world median is 5 per cent," he said.

Privatisation of education had also made good education a privilege of the middle and upper classes, said Fermi Wong Wai-fun from NGO Unison.

"My call to the government is to end racial segregation in the school system … introduce Chinese as a second language for ethnic minorities," she said.

Alex Lo, panel speaker and columnist at the Post, said social welfare should be put higher up the agenda. "The fact that we are not discussing these issues, we have provided governments - past and present - with a guilt-free ride," he said.


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hong kong has illiterate people walking around, do not think so
stop ignoring the elephant in the room
there must be a fundamental change to the property market here
I do not see the elderly walking around singapore picking up garbage , they take care of their citizens
A focus on education.....what a joke. Tell this to the people scavenging thru waste bins for food and/or recyclable materials to survive.
Hong Kong has the longest flawed education system. It takes on the worst of the colonial and Chinese attitude towards education. When the colonial government to make education available free to all, it divided schools into banding of 5 ranks and thus preserving the preference for elitist education. The lower bandings unfortunately instead educating students the schools actually produced low self-esteem students that guarantee failing in the elite education system. If economic well-being ties with education, the colonial government actually has through education created a sea of poverty in Hong Kong.
While Hong Kong must reexamine the value of keeping the bandings (down to three rankings now), the fundamental structure in delivering education appropriately for all must urgently study and action follow. The Chinese concept in education is to have children learn everything at sight regardless of its long term value. Chinese culture prides to be educated but less in true examination for what ultimate value that beyond the immediate economic imperative.
Education can remove poverty but only if it is done in the right way. So far Hong Kong has failed to do so. Yes, it is both the government and the parents in Hong Kong who indulge in preserving the existing education system that still producing poverty.
Hong Kong always has poverty of a kind uncared by the society except by a small handful of social workers and only those timely drive for relief in cold winter days, Hong Kong society accepted poverty unlike other cities and societies which view poverty as a challenge that must be reduced or even eradicate. We accept cage living for an uncounted number of decades and too we are oblivion as if not seeing elderly collecting and pushing carts full of discarded cardboards so a living can be made. The prolonged existence of poverty in Hong Kong is a collective attitude of the entire society. The deepest root of such attitude I believe is one of the refugee culture whom most of us in Hong Kong are.
There is a justification for from rag to riches society to view who is poor being unlike themselves who just haven’t work hard enough. Unfortunately, as Alex Lo pointed out the day that children can be economically better than their parents no longer can be seen. The refugee attitude refuses to even sense that.
The refugee attitude of self reliance must be examined. Overturning poverty is a collective effort. It will facilitate elimination of poverty easier if we acknowledge our shortcomings that have made us hardwired and refuse to do anything about poverty around us. Paying unlivable wages seems has plenty of support in Hong Kong.
What is education when one in five of us is suffering from illness of poverty - no basic food and no roof. Mahatma Gandhi said on seven deadly sins "Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice.” ~~ here in HK, where does our education stand on these?
One has to wonder just how education will help the elderly and why there is no discussion of the plight of elderly in this article or from these panelists. Do they really think that 'fruit money' is the solution? Why no mention of a universal pension scheme as an entitlement? And let's not forget how the word 'entitlement' has been corrupted by the right-wing in the USA and elsewhere, so that it has taken on a highly negative connotation. Failing to factor that awareness about the word 'entitlements' into their use of the term, is at minimum a serious error, or worse, a deliberate attempt to taint the debate before it has gotten started.
The HK govt has the mindset of making money and accumulating huge reserves from her own people ever since the last HK governor boasting of egyptian dowry of reserves. Apart from the Govt Associates (tycoons, civil servants, welfare dependants, licensed monopolies), all other non-associate ordinary people are most likely to be exploited.
HK is a rich financial centre for the rich and the vested interest. The majority poor have to suffer with long working hours (or two jobs) and live in poverty. Either be one of the associates or vote with your feet and leave HK.
I feel very sorry for all those involved with education in HK, especially young children. The current system will not equip children from poorer backgrounds to escape poverty. They are handicapped from the start. Children and their parents are on a treadmill - endless homework, rote learning, no play. Parents want their children to succeed in school - and then proceed to tertiary education. How will this reduce poverty? There are too many graduates and coupled with terrible grade inflation many employers only look at candidates with a 2:1. What is the average pay for newly minted graduates -10-15,000 a month? How will a mantra of 'more education' help those barely surviving improve their lives as they can't wait for their children to grow up?
AL doesn’t look like he can survive Marathon
He may consider fasting on Sunday
While hiking for hours on Sunday
I’d have a banana myself and share three cheese crackers with MBF
Back home I’d prepare a great fish / charsiu / mix veg meal for MBF
and potato fruit salad for myself
When I attended the secondary school in Hong Kong, the Salesian priests told the students that the best gifts for their neighbours were education and health. With good health and education, people can have good jobs and will not need any handout. In addition, they can support their weaker members of their family, e.g. grandparents, parents.
Therefore, as I see Mr. Alex Lo's in the photo, he may need some exercise, e.g. running Standard Chartered Marathon, to improve his healthy image. (Alex, please forgive me for making fun of you.)


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