Arthur Li says parents should have a say in how their children are being educated The education chief denounced the Democratic Party yesterday for trying to block the passage of the Education (Amendment) Bill 2002, which would allow parents a say in school management. Speaking after attending an education function in North Point, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said it was contradictory for the Democrats to oppose the bill. By opening up 40 per cent of seats in school management committees to teachers, alumni, parents and community representatives, it was a step towards democracy, he said. The government is hoping to push the bill through the legislature before the end of the current session in July. 'I find it strange that the Democratic Party is opposing the bill,' Professor Li said 'It seems to me that they consider themselves the only ones who are democratic, while others are not. 'School-based management is a worldwide trend. It will be a pity if the Democrats continue to delay the bill to the point that it cannot be passed by July. Parents should have a say in how their children are educated in schools.' His comments came after Democratic Party legislator Cheung Man-kwong - who represents the education sector - criticised the bill last week at a Legco bills committee meeting for giving the Education and Manpower Bureau too much power. Mr Cheung suggested schools be allowed to decide if they wanted to follow the new model under the bill, which allows the government to force all schools to comply at the end of a five-year period. Yesterday, a number of parent groups pledged support for the passage of the bill. The Home-school Co-operation Committee, along with parent-teacher associations from 11 districts, said in a joint statement that parents had a right to be involved in school management. Cheung Kwok-wah, the chairman of the committee, disagreed with the suggestion of giving schools a choice to opt out of the proposed arrangement. 'It is true that there is a great divide in views towards the bill between some school-sponsoring bodies and parents,' said Dr Cheung. 'However, parents and teachers have the right to take part in school policymaking because they are the greatest stakeholders. 'The Legislative Council should make a decision in the best interest of the public. We hope that the bill would be passed within this legislative year.' Catholic Church leader Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and Timothy Ha Wing-ho, education secretary of sponsoring body Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Episcopal), have opposed the bill on the grounds that it would deprive school-sponsoring bodies, such as the churches, of control over their schools.