Investing in Education to Keep
Up with the Times
43. The main tool for promoting
economic restructuring and establishing a knowledge-based
economy is to invest substantially in education and
to strategically raise the competitiveness of our labour
force. Hong Kong has received favourable comments worldwide
for the quality of our education, thanks to the hard
work and professionalism of our educators. Currently,
education accounts for about 25% of government expenditure.
As I have said on many occasions, every cent spent on
education is an investment, not an expense.
44. It is imperative for Hong Kong
to continue developing tertiary education. We should
encourage tertiary institutions to take the initiative
to specialise in order to achieve excellence. In 2002,
we established the Continuing Education Fund with $5
billion to promote life-long learning. To pursue continuing
education, many people in Hong Kong are now eagerly
enrolling themselves at the Open University, the extra-mural
programmes of other universities, as well as a variety
of other programmes. The proportion of secondary school
graduates who could pursue further studies has increased
from 30% a few years ago to 48%. To support economic
restructuring, this proportion will need to be increased.
We have provided different avenues for further studies.
We are establishing a qualifications framework to provide
learners with a clear articulation ladder.
45. Education reforms carried out in
primary and secondary schools over the past few years
have been on the right track. For students, the interest
in learning has increased, curricula have become more
varied and there is now more scope for developing an
individual¡¦s potential. All the efforts
of school principals, teachers and parents have produced
encouraging results. I am aware that the implementation
of education reforms has increased the workload of teachers
and confused some parents. Following feedback from educators
and parents, we will strengthen communication with school
principals, teachers, parents, students themselves and
the community at large to clearly explain the concepts
behind the policies and listen to views from all sectors.
But, for the sake of Hong Kong's long-term
interests, we must insist on education reforms.
46. In its report published last
year, the Education Commission proposed changing the
academic structure to three-year junior secondary, three-year
senior secondary and four-year university. After consulting
the education sector, the Government has accepted this
direction in principle. Nevertheless, changing the academic
structure of senior secondary forms and universities
is a major exercise. It involves complex preparation,
gives rise to many resource allocation issues and must
be planned in detail. The Secretary for Education and
Manpower will consult the public within this year on
these changes, including the design blueprint, timetable
for implementation and financial arrangements. The change
of academic structure is expected to require four years
of preparation. We will only implement these changes
after adequate preparation and with public support.
The prime mission for the next few years is to ensure
the success of reforms already started and to fine-tune
the various related arrangements.