Minister fails to thwart motion with assurance on pace of implementation An impassioned plea by education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung failed to stop the Legislative Council from passing a motion yesterday urging the government to conduct a review of the pace of education reforms and reduce teachers' workload and mental stress. The motion, proposed by Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairman Ma Lik, carried after a heated three-hour debate. Professor Li told Legco members that the pace of education is so measured he is unlikely to live long enough to witness the graduation of the first group of university students educated under the new senior secondary school system. Earlier, about 100 representatives from teachers' unions, including the Professional Teachers' Union and the Education Employees General Union, protested outside Legco, demanding the government cancel unreasonable education policies and review the pace of education reforms. 'It is unfair to accuse [the government] of introducing the reforms too fast, as schools, sponsoring bodies, principals, teachers, including the Legislative Council, were consulted,' Professor Li said. 'The first group of students who will receive education under the new 3+3+4 schooling system will graduate from universities in 2016. My bones would be hitting drums,' said the 60-year-old minister, using an old Cantonese idiom meaning someone is very old or dead. The launch of the 3+3+4 system - three years of junior and three years of senior secondary schooling followed by four years of university - is scheduled for 2009, starting with secondary three students. Professor Li said the Education and Manpower Bureau was concerned about teachers' problems and the independent committee reviewing reforms would complete its work this year. Ma Lik said the unhealthy atmosphere in the education sector was not good for the promotion of reforms. 'The teaching environment is abnormal now. Schools have done many things, not to improve teaching quality, but for survival. It is like a different version of the show Survivor,' he said. Legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who represents the social welfare sector, called on EMB officials who formulate policies to experience teaching at schools that admit less-capable students. Mr Ma said: 'I think EMB officials should get into schools, especially Band Three schools where they can see what is really going.' Democrat Cheung Man-kwong urged the government to take advantage of the declining population to reduce class sizes. 'Closing schools which fail to admit enough students fuels unhealthy competition among schools and increases pressure on teachers who are buried in reports and non-teaching work to impress the EMB with figures,' he said.