Three years after introduction uncertainty clouds implementation of changes under government guidelines Educators remain baffled by education reforms three years after their launch. At a forum on the impact of the reforms this week at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), they pointed to the increased pressure schools and teachers faced in carrying out the wide ranging reform measures, which they said had also created much confusion. Louisa Cheung Yuet-sai, project manager at CUHK's Centre for University and School Partnership, said her centre had been flooded with requests from primary and secondary schools for help in areas such as curriculum planning and design. Some also had no idea how to perform school self-evaluation under which they are expected to submit documents with information on performance indicators to the Education and Manpower Bureau, required from this year. 'Some schools still have no idea what kind of performance indicators they should use even after attending the two-day workshops organised by the EMB,'' said Ms Cheung, whose centre has provided support to 100 schools in the past two years. Preparing those documents and their three-year plans, also required by the EMB, had only added to teachers' workloads. She added there was a lack of official guidance on the connection between various reform elements, for instance between the four key tasks identified for curriculum reform - promoting IT, reading, project learning, and moral and civic education. 'The EMB should give schools clear ideas on what kinds of skills they want to foster among students instead of just leaving teachers struggling to design various tasks for students in those areas. There should be integration between those areas,'' she said. 'We have to be careful not to distort the spirit of reform.'' Other speakers criticised the drastic and substantial changes involved in the reform. Lisa Yip Sau-wah, principal of Sha Tin Tsun Tsin Secondary School, said: 'The proposals in the 2000 reform document overturned the changes that had been made over the previous 20 years. There are too many slogans involved but few concrete ideas for action. The EMB has also not got enough expertise and manpower to support schools.'' Her school had not stuck to the reform blueprint, she said. 'Principals should have the mission and vision for change. They should also know how to prioritise,'' she said. She also criticised the current confusion over when four-year university education, another reform proposal, would be introduced. She and Professor Tsang Wing-kwong from CUHK's faculty of education voiced concern that the call for schools to comply with the performance indicators - or a 'checklist'' - amounted to a market-oriented approach to education. This shifted attention to extrinsic factors rather than addressing the issue of what the reform was for and for whom, said Professor Tsang. 'Is our system accommodating students of various abilities? Are our students really learning to learn?'' he asked. Ms Yip said schools should be given the room in designing activities that suit their students' needs. The reform was at a crossroads given that future policies, including for public examinations and the university system, remained uncertain, added Professor Tsang. 'If as stated by the government, the reform aims at encouraging life-long learning, then are there enough opportunities for further education? As more sub-degree programmes will become self-financed, the ability to pay is the key to whether a person can go for sub-degree studies,' he said. The rise of through-train schools under the reform would also lead to a closed and divisive system. 'The system will only become more polarised, with the elites attending top schools to the exclusion of others,'' said Professor Tsang.