Legislators today have a rare chance to reform the way in which many of our schools are managed. They have an opportunity to change the system for the better. It is one they should grasp. The Education (Amendment) Bill 2002 concerns the way in which aided schools - those that receive subsidies from the government - are to be run. One of the main aims is to give parents and teachers more of a say. Other objectives include making school managements more accountable and better able to respond to the needs of their various stakeholders. The new law is in line with international trends and is the culmination of efforts stretching back more than a decade. There is, however, no guarantee that it will pass when legislators vote today. The reason for this is the strong opposition the bill has attracted from school sponsoring bodies, especially the Catholic and Anglican churches. They argue that the reforms are a bid by the government to strengthen its grip on the schools. The result, they say, is that the sponsoring bodies will be undermined - and chaos will reign. This is most unlikely to be the case. We should always be wary of scare stories from vested interests. At the heart of the reforms is the requirement that all aided schools set up an incorporated management committee. At least one parent and one teacher representative must be included and they will be elected, along with alumni and community figures. It will allow them to have some input into the way in which the school is run. This is hardly a revolution. We should not think that the sponsoring bodies will be left with little influence. It is understandable that they fear an erosion of the values according to which their schools are run. But these concerns have been exaggerated. The sponsoring bodies can select up to 60 per cent of the management committee's members and appoint the chairperson. They can nominate candidates for school principal, remain responsible for the school's mission statement and retain control of its assets. It is not such a bad deal. Schools will be given seven years in which to comply, with the scheme to be reviewed in 2008. It should, at the very least, be given a try. The reforms are in the interests of the people who matter most in this debate - the pupils. That is often forgotten amid the vocal political battle between the government and the sponsoring bodies. Many a dark conspiracy theory has been floated in an attempt to discredit this bill. But the reality is that the purpose of these reforms is simply to improve the quality of education. By ensuring that parents and teachers are represented, communication and participation will be enhanced. It will provide for broader-based, more inclusive decision-making and is more likely to lead to consensus than chaos. It is hoped the reforms will give students a greater sense of belonging and allow teachers to feel more involved in the running of the schools they work in. Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is one of the most outspoken opponents of the proposed legislation. Seemingly as a last resort, he is threatening legal action should the bill be passed. But the argument that it breaches the Basic Law is a weak one. Article 141 protects the right of religious organisations to run schools 'according to their previous practice'. This does not, however, mean that the current arrangements are cast in stone - as civil servants learned when they tried to rely on a similar provision concerning their pay. Article 136 requires the government to improve education. That is what it is trying to do by introducing this bill. Bishop Zen should be willing to place greater trust in the ability of parents, teachers and others involved in the schools to have a positive input. The aided schools each receive millions of dollars a year in government funding. It is reasonable for the community to expect to have a say in the way they are run.