My Take

Education chief is dodging his responsibilities

Eddie Ng Hak-kim believes blame for policy failures should be shouldered by the whole government, but he couldn’t be more wrong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 1:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 3:27am

People should always take responsibility for what they do. A chef is responsible for the quality of his dishes, even if the restaurant is ultimately liable. I may be a lowly hack, but I am still fully accountable for what I write.

This is especially so when you are high up in the hierarchy of an organisation. When you are a minister with a policy portfolio, you can’t say the whole government is responsible for your failure. That is why I find a statement from Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim extraordinary. He was responding to perceived criticism by his former boss Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is running for chief executive.

Ng said: “For important education policies, the Education Bureau of course assumes full responsibility. But in the course of implementation, we need the entire government to support us, in terms of resources and policy.

“The policies could not have been implemented without support from the whole government.”

Education policies were backed by Carrie Lam when she was in office, minister says

For sure, I can’t publish without the resources of the paper. Ng can’t do a thing without the support of the government. Still, he is fully accountable.

In such a crucial policy area as education, many parents and students have felt angry and cheated in the past five years. Ng completely failed in his baptism of fire over national education in 2012, behaving like a helpless bystander. In the end, other people had to clean up the mess for him. Having learned nothing from the national education debacle, he let criticism of the hated Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) for Primary Three pupils turn into a full-blown political crisis. Meanwhile, some educators think the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) curriculum, just five years into its existence, is discouraging secondary school students from pursuing science. There are indications from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – which ranks 15-year-olds from dozens of countries and territories in mathematics, science and reading – that our pupils may be falling behind in science.

Now, I am not blaming Ng or his bureau for the latest PISA results. But they should ring alarm bells about the curriculum. Yet, nary a word about DSE and science teaching from Ng and his lieutenants.

Ng is right about one thing. When his bosses let a poorly performing minister serve out his tenure, they are the ones responsible.