Catholic leader goes head to head with Education Secretary Fanny Law on radio Catholic Church leader Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun likened the school management reform bill to Article 23 after a heated radio debate with Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun yesterday. The pair clashed over the government's Education (Amendment) Bill 2002 on Commercial Radio's morning programme Teacup in a Storm. After the show, Bishop Zen compared the government's action to its failed attempt last year to pass Article 23. 'I wonder why we should still exchange views when our ideals are so different,' he said. 'It seems that the government has already made up its mind to pass the bill, like it did with Article 23, even though there is no strong demand from parents and no immediate need, given that the current model is running smoothly.' The bill, now being scrutinised by the Bills Committee, would require all aided schools to set up incorporated management committees (IMCs) comprising elected parent, teacher, alumni and community representatives, with school sponsors appointing 60 per cent of members and the chairman. The bishop reiterated his argument that the bill would undermine the role of sponsoring bodies. 'Some values of the church may not be appreciated by parents even though they are beneficial to students. For example, schools will be in a very difficult position if some parent representatives on the IMC insist that schools should cut back on Bible lessons to offer more computer lessons,' he said. 'The Catholic Church would have no choice but to withdraw from some of its schools if we have parent representatives who don't agree with our education ideals. The government should let different sponsoring bodies retain their own management systems to preserve variety in local education.' Mrs Law had insisted earlier during the show that the government must ensure the participation of teachers and parents in school management despite opposition from some sponsoring bodies. 'If school-sponsoring bodies think the government is not providing variety in the education scene by insisting that there must be parents and teachers sitting on the school management committee, they would have to accept that we will make sure these stakeholders are represented in school management,' she said, adding she saw no scope for compromise between the government and sponsors still opposed to the bill. 'I think it is best to let the public and Legislative Council decide whether to pass the bill or not instead.' Cheung Kwok-wah, chairman of the Home-School Co-Operation Committee, phoned in to the show, saying it was a natural progression for parent representatives to be included in management now that more than 90 per cent of schools had parent teacher associations. 'I don't think parents would accept that all members in an IMC should be appointed,' he said. Timothy Ha Wing-ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Sponsoring Bodies of Schools, also called in to the radio show. 'It is unacceptable for it to be made illegal for schools not to set up IMCs,' he said.