Hong Kong schools

Carrie Lam’s cash boost for Hong Kong education passes first hurdle

Finance Committee up next after lawmakers raise no objections to chief executive’s brainchild

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 10:50pm

Plans for a quick-fire injection of about HK$4.3 billion into the education sector will be submitted to the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee after lawmakers raised no objections at a meeting on Monday.

Last week Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced details of an extra HK$3.6 billion a year in spending – part of a HK$5 billion plan she promised earlier – plus HK$714 million to extend the tide-over grant for kindergartens offering free classes by an extra three years.

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The measures included increasing the teacher-to-class ratio by 0.1 for all public primary and secondary schools and providing an annual subsidy of HK$30,000 for students pursuing full-time locally-accredited self-financing undergraduate programmes in Hong Kong who meet the entry requirements or have completed relevant sub-degree programmes.

Lam expressed the hope that the Finance Committee would approve her brainchild before the summer break in time for the next school year.

After a heated debate on details of how the HK$3.6 billion should be spent, the chairwoman of Legco’s education panel, Ann Chiang Lai-wan, asked members whether they supported the Education Bureau in submitting the proposal to the committee. She received no objection. A bureau spokeswoman later confirmed it would submit the plan.

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Lawmaker Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan requested in a letter to Chiang that the plan get priority in the next committee meeting and be exempted from the usual six-day notice period.

Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por, who was at the meeting, said the exemption was not an issue but it was more suitable for the government to decide on scheduling of the agenda.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said he would discuss the issue with relevant colleagues if there were firm requests to do so.

There are 10 more Finance Committee meetings in this Legco session.

During the meeting, Yeung also clarified that the HK$30,000 would be for local students only, after legislator Cheng Chung-tai raised concerns about mainland Chinese students benefiting.

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Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, questioned the decision to subsidise private institutions but not public universities offering self-financing degrees.

“The 15 self-financing institutes’ curriculum and degrees are not popular and some have less than 20 per cent enrolment,” he said.

Leung wondered if the government was trying to save courses offered by private centres.

“[Is the exclusion of self-financing courses by public universities] because you helped [self-financing institutes] in the basic infrastructure, so you want to help them attract students and not close down?”

Yeung the plan to exclude public universities was a matter of balancing the two sides and he did not rule out a change in future after a review.