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Opening remarks by SED at press conference on education and youth development initiatives in 2015 Policy Address (with photo/video)

     Following are the main points of the opening remarks by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, at the press conference on education and youth development initiatives in the 2015 Policy Address today (January 15):

     The Chief Executive delivered his 2015 Policy Address yesterday. Over the past year, the Education Bureau (EDB) has made every effort to put in place a series of new education issues as stated in the Policy Address last year, including increasing the voucher subsidy under the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme by $2,500 and deliberating on free kindergarten education; strengthening the support for financially needy students, students with special educational needs (SEN) and ethnic minority students; promoting life planning and vocational education; and continuing to increase subsidised places for post-secondary education.

     Major new initiatives stated in the Policy Address:

(1) Increasing the ratio of graduate teacher posts in public sector primary schools

     To attract more talents to join the teaching force of primary education so as to enhance the quality of teaching, from the 2015/16 school year, we propose to further increase the ratio of graduate teacher posts in public sector primary schools in phases in three years, from the current 50 per cent to 65 per cent in the 2017/18 school year.

(2) Enhancing support for students with SEN
(i) Designated teacher to co-ordinate support on SEN in school

     We will invite the Community Care Fund (CCF) to consider providing a cash grant for ordinary schools admitting relatively more students with SEN and financial needs so that the schools could strengthen the teaching team and arrange for a dedicated teacher with relevant knowledge and experience to co-ordinate matters relating to SEN support.

(ii) Increasing the academic expenses grant for post-secondary students with SEN and financial needs

     The EDB will invite the CCF to consider launching an assistance programme to enhance the academic expenses grant for post-secondary SEN students so as to ensure their learning will not be affected due to financial difficulties.

(iii) Pilot projects on career exploration and related experiences for students with specific learning difficulties and non-Chinese speaking students in secondary schools

     Over a three-year period from the 2015/16 school year, the EDB will commission non-government organisations (NGOs), on a pilot basis, to organise work experience programmes for students with specific learning difficulties and non-Chinese speaking students in secondary schools to enhance their knowledge about different jobs and essential work attitudes and skills.

(iv) Extra travel subsidy for special school students with financial needs

     Starting from the 2015/16 school year, we will regularise the CCF programme of Extra Travel Subsidy for Needy Special School Students into the Government's regular assistance programme.

(3) Strengthening support for financially needy students  

     We will invite the CCF Task Force to consider the provision of a one-off special subsidy for primary and secondary students on full grant under the School Textbook Assistance Scheme in the 2015/16 school year through the existing mechanism of the Student Financial Assistance Agency so as to provide timely assistance to low-income families before the launch of the Low-income Working Family Allowance. It is estimated that over 130 000 primary and secondary students on full grant will benefit.

     We observe that for the self-financing post-secondary sector, there has been rapid development of community colleges established under the University Grants Committee-funded institutions, and individual colleges have accumulated a substantial financial surplus. We will request each and every college to seriously review its financial situation and consider different means to benefit students where possible, such as lowering tuition fees, offering scholarships or bursaries for students with financial needs, etc.

(4) Improving mathematics, science and history education
(i) Enriching science, technology and mathematics education

     We are actively strengthening science, technology and mathematics education to nurture diversified talents in the science and technology fields with a view to enhancing the international competitiveness of Hong Kong, including curriculum development, organising a cross-disciplinary symposium, enhancing teacher training, holding an integrative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Fair for students, and strengthening the collaboration among schools, tertiary institutions, professional bodies and the industries concerned.

(ii) Renewing the Chinese History and World History curricula

     The EDB will also renew the content of the Chinese History and World History curricula to enliven the learning and teaching of the subjects. An Ad Hoc Committee set up by the Curriculum Development Council is reviewing the junior secondary curricula of the Chinese History and History subjects, with a view to coming up with reform proposals in the middle of 2015, to be followed by consultations with stakeholders. We will also enhance the professional development programmes for teachers. Learning activities, such as visiting historic sites and museums, etc, will be organised at the same time to enhance the quality and learning effectiveness of the two history subjects.

(5) Promoting schools' exchanges with the Mainland

(i) Strengthening the implementation of various Mainland exchange programmes

     In view of the rapid development of our country, we recommend to subsidise every student to join at least one Mainland exchange programme during each of their primary and secondary school stages, so that they could reinforce and consolidate the knowledge acquired in classrooms and gain first-hand experience of our country's development in different areas.

     We will further collaborate with schools, relevant government departments and NGOs, and adopt a variety of strategies to complement the curricula and the learning elements in different areas and align with their articulation and employment prospects as well as major cultural and economic events of our country, in order to provide more opportunities for students to pursue life-wide learning and exchanges.

(ii) Promoting interflow between sister schools in Hong Kong and the Mainland

     To further promote sister school exchanges between Hong Kong and the Mainland, we propose, through a three-year pilot scheme launched from the 2015/16 school year, to provide an annual grant of $120,000 to each public sector or Direct Subsidy Scheme school having formed sister school(s) with the Mainland to support the multi-faceted development of sister school activities. The number of Hong Kong-Mainland primary and secondary sister schools is expected to increase progressively to about 600 in three years.

     We will collect and disseminate good practices to enhance the breadth and depth of co-operation between sister schools and promote exchanges in areas such as school management, lesson demonstration, lesson evaluation, video conferencing, etc, with a view to enhancing experience sharing and teaching effectiveness.

(6) Promoting the Business-School Partnership Programme to enhance life planning

     We will strengthen the Business-School Partnership Programme in the next three years to promote further partnership between schools and business organisations. To facilitate life planning for students, we will also review and consolidate key elements of effective practices to facilitate the setting up of a platform to showcase exemplars of business-school partnership, thereby attracting participation of more schools and businesses.
(7) Free kindergarten education

     Based on the principle of preserving the characteristics of great flexibility and diversity in kindergarten education, the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education has looked further into such issues as whether to offer basic subsidies to all eligible children who are taking half-day places and whether to adopt a mandatory salary scale for teachers. Moreover, the Committee will study ways to encourage kindergartens to provide more full-day services and consider providing needy families with subsidised whole-day and long whole-day services.

     The Committee is expected to submit its report to the EDB in mid-2015. The EDB will then examine the recommendations of the Committee for formulating the policy and specific measures as well as estimate the resources and necessary arrangements required for the implementation of free kindergarten education. We endeavour to strike a reasonable balance amongst the Government's financial commitment, parents' choice and financial capacity as well as the sustainable and quality development of the kindergarten sector.

Ends/Thursday, January 15, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:52


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