IV. Nurturing Talent
121. Talent is the most important element in Hong Kong’s continued development, and education is the key to nurturing talent. Government expenditure on education is therefore the most meaningful investment for our future development. The sound education infrastructure, renowned universities and outstanding research personnel in Hong Kong help not only to cultivate our future generations, but also to train talents for the Mainland and neighbouring regions. Given the benefits that a wider pool of talent can bring to our economic and social development, the Government should assume a more active role in establishing our position as a talent hub.
Vision on Education
122. My vision for education is to nurture the future generations into quality citizens who are socially responsible and equipped with a sense of our national identity, a love for Hong Kong and an international perspective. We should create a stable, caring, inspiring and satisfying teaching and learning environment for students, teachers, parents and principals.
New Education Resources
123. Education is founded on dedication and commitment. Money alone does not guarantee quality education. Yet, we cannot deny that given the fluctuations in the student population, coupled with the government funding model and various other reasons, some problems faced by the education sector have to be addressed urgently with additional resources. Thus, I proposed in my Election Manifesto an immediate increase of recurrent education expenditure by $5 billion a year. The $3.6 billion first-phase measures, which reflected the consensus I reached with the education sector through discussions when I was Chief Executive-elect, were announced in the first week after my assumption of office. Following approval by the LegCo Finance Committee, these measures, covering the whole spectrum of the education system from kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, integrated education, special education to post-secondary education, are being launched progressively starting from September this year. As to how the remaining $1.4 billion recurrent funding should be put to good use, the Government will examine the relevant issues and continue to discuss with the education sector. We will also provide additional resources where necessary.
Further Review on Eight Key Areas of Education
124. After listening to the views of stakeholders in the education sector, I pointed out at my Question and Answer Session at the LegCo on 5 July this year that the Government need to carry out in-depth reviews on eight key areas of education, including professional development of teachers, curriculum arrangement, assessment system, vocational and professional education and training (VPET), self-financing post-secondary education, school-base management, parent education and University Grants Committee (UGC)’s funding on research and student hostels. The EDB will set up task forces this year to take forward the reviews on these various areas. Under the principles of “Led by Professionals” and “Listening to Views Directly”, we will invite education experts, including professionals with good knowledge of the situation of frontline teachers and student learning, to participate in the work of the task forces. We have invited the UGC to set up a task force, to be chaired by Professor TSUI Lap-chee, to review the existing research support strategy, the level of research funding and the funding allocation mechanism for the higher education sector. Regarding the role of self-financing post-secondary institutions and the way forward for sub-degree programmes, we will establish another task force, to be chaired by Professor Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung, to review the issues and make recommendations to the Government.
125. VPET is another area on which the Government will conduct in-depth review. The Government has all along stressed the importance of VPET for the sustainable social and economic development of Hong Kong. We have been actively implementing the recommendations made by the Task Force on Promotion of Vocational Education in 2015, including the rebranding of vocational education as VPET, the launch of promotion and publicity activities, and the provision of grant subsidies to secondary schools to cover Applied Learning course fees. Nevertheless, stakeholders in general still consider VPET inferior to traditional academic education. This bias is not conducive to the development of VPET and the relevant industries. We will strengthen our promotion efforts by widening our use of social media and online platforms to promote VPET to youngsters and parents. The EDB will develop and maintain a VPET portal as a one-stop platform that provides information on VPET and related industries. The EDB will also assist education and training institutions, employers and trade associations in organising seminars and visits for senior secondary students and parents.
126. For kindergartens, the new free quality kindergarten education policy has been implemented starting from this school year. The Government has undertaken to review the salary arrangements for kindergarten teachers with the aim of assessing the feasibility of introducing a salary scale for them. We will use the data of the three school years from 2017/18 to 2019/20 as a basis to assess the implications of a salary scale on the stability of the teaching force, the sustainability of quality services as well as the flexibility and diversity of the kindergarten sector. The EDB will further consult the kindergarten sector and stakeholders and chart the way forward.
127. Universities in Hong Kong have made remarkable achievements in the academic domain and are highly reputable around the world. Our universities also carry the mission of grooming high-calibre talent for Hong Kong. The Government will provide further support to the researchers and students of local universities in a more proactive manner, and enhance Hong Kong’s position as a regional education hub. We also need a wider research talent pool to drive the development of an innovation and technology-based economy. We will inject $3 billion into the Research Endowment Fund to provide studentships for local students admitted to UGC-funded research postgraduate programmes, thereby incentivising more local students to engage in research work in support of the development of innovation and technology.
128. For years, the Government has not been able to provide sufficient hostel facilities to allow all local undergraduate students enrolled in UGC-funded universities to experience hostel life while in university. This also reduces the incentive for non-local students to study in Hong Kong, and impedes the achievement of the policy objective of creating more internationalised campuses. If we continued with the arrangement whereby every university hostel project has to compete for resources internally and then make a funding submission to the Public Works Sub-committee and the FC of the LegCo, the shortfall in university hostels would unlikely be eased in the short term. In view of this, the Government will adopt a new approach by setting up a $12 billion Hostel Development Fund to provide unit cost subsidy for the construction of university hostels so as to increase hostel facilities at a faster pace. We will submit a detailed proposal on the Hostel Development Fund to the LegCo.
Children with Special Educational Needs
129. There is a dire need for children in pre-primary education who have special needs, such as those suffering from autism, hyperactivity disorder, language disorder or dyslexia, to be provided with pre-school rehabilitation services as early as possible. In late 2015, the Government launched the Pilot Scheme on On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services, under which multi-disciplinary teams visit schools to provide services to children with special needs. These teams comprise occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech therapists, psychologists, social workers and special child care workers. With the pilot scheme delivering notable results, the Government has decided to regularise the pilot scheme, upon its completion, from the 2018/19 school year. The Government will earmark $460 million a year in recurrent expenditure for the programme and double the service places from about 3 000 to 7 000 in two years, with a view to achieving the policy objective of “zero-waiting time” for pre-school rehabilitation services. In addition, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) is working with the EDB on ways to enhance support for children with special needs so that they will be provided with appropriate services when they proceed to primary education. Starting from October 2018, the SWD will regularise another pilot scheme which supports youths with autism having high average intelligence and their carers. The programme aims to enhance the living, social and employable skills of these youths; provide their parents/carers with support services; and render advisory services and professional training to relevant subvented rehabilitation service units and frontline staff.
Enhancing Teaching Facilities in Primary and Secondary Schools
130. The Government has been implementing various measures to improve the teaching and learning environment as well as the facilities in schools according to their needs. As air-conditioning facilities can produce a more comfortable teaching and learning environment in hot weather, the Government will provide air-conditioning systems for standard teaching facilities (including classrooms and special rooms), student activity centres and assembly halls in all public sector schools. Starting from the 2018/19 school year, a recurrent Air-conditioning Grant will be provided for schools to cover the related daily expenses, including electricity charges and routine maintenance costs. The Government will also arrange for the installation of air-conditioning systems for the facilities concerned as necessary in phases, taking into account the actual situation of individual schools. Schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme will also benefit from the new initiative, and the amount of subsidy they receive will be adjusted accordingly.
131. The Qualifications Framework (QF) has been implemented for nine years. At present, about 8 000 QF-recognised academic and vocational qualifications are listed in the Qualifications Register. The EDB has also conducted comparability studies of QFs with the relevant authorities in the European Union, New Zealand, Scotland and Ireland. Such international co-operation will not only enhance the international image and recognition of the Hong Kong QF, but also promote the mobility of learners with recognised qualifications. We need to further strengthen and drive the development of QF, enhance recognition of qualifications for different industries and provide youngsters with quality-assured pathways for further studies and career development. The Government will inject $1.2 billion into the QF Fund for the continued implementation of various initiatives.
Understanding Chinese History and Culture, and Developments of Our Country
132. It is the intrinsic duty of school education to help students to understand the development of the history, culture, economy, technology, political system and law of their country and to cultivate in them a sense of their national identity. The EDB will include Chinese history as an independent compulsory subject for the junior secondary level in the 2018/19 school year. On the basis of the existing curriculum, the EDB will continue to enrich curricular contents to promote students’ understanding of Chinese history and culture. We are conducting a second stage consultation on the revisions to the curricular content with the education sector. The EDB will continue to adopt diversified strategies to enable teachers and students to gain an all-round understanding of our country and to appreciate and inherit the splendid Chinese culture. These strategies include, strengthening Basic Law education, organising more professional development programmes for principals and teachers, developing teaching and learning resources, enriching Mainland exchange programmes and learning activities for teachers and students, and encouraging sister schools to enhance exchanges and co-operation on an on-going basis. Having regard to the development strategies of our country, the EDB will enhance the content of Mainland exchange programmes to enable more teachers and students to understand the opportunities brought by these development strategies and to widen their horizons through visiting the Belt and Road provinces and cities, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area and enterprises in the innovation and technology sector. We expect that through the learning of Chinese history and meaningful activities, students will develop positive values and attitudes, become knowledgeable and responsible citizens with a sense of our national identity, and contribute to our country and our society.
133. The Government will inject an additional $1.5 billion into the Continuing Education Fund and improve its operation by expanding the range of the courses covered, stepping up quality assurance for the curriculum and enhancing protection for applicants. We estimate that an additional 150 000 citizens will be able to receive the subsidy and the Fund’s operation will be extended to 2024.
Human Resources Planning
134. The Commission for the Planning of Human Resources, to be chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, will commence operation early next year. The Commission will consolidate the resources and efforts of the Government and various sectors (such as the business, education and professional sectors), and collectively formulate, examine, co-ordinate and take forward policies on human resources in a holistic manner, through this initiative, we aim to ensure that our human resources will cater for the short-, medium-, and long-term development needs of Hong Kong and keep up with our country’s latest developments as well as the evolving trends in the global market. This will enable our citizens to seize the manifold and enormous opportunities ahead for upward mobility. The Government will also draw up a talent list for attracting professionals to Hong Kong in a more effective manner to support our development as a high value-added and diversified economy.
Importation of Labour
135. The unemployment rate in Hong Kong has remained low in recent years and we basically achieve full employment. Individual sectors, particularly the elderly care service sector, have persistently suffered from labour shortage and recruitment difficulty. With an ageing population and a declining birth rate, the overall labour force in Hong Kong is expected to continue to drop after reaching the peak in 2019 to 2022. An ageing population will significantly increase the demand for in-patient services and ageing-in-place carers. Moreover, large-scale infrastructural projects such as the Three-Runway System and new railway projects, the ten-year hospital development plan and the public housing development plan will create heavy pressure on the labour supply for the construction sector. If the formidable challenge of an inadequate workforce is not dealt with properly, Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness and its sustainable social development will be seriously undermined. Therefore, relevant policy bureaux and departments will discuss with relevant industries ways to enhance training and attract new recruits, especially young people. On the premise that local workers’ priority for employment will be safeguarded, we will also explore with stakeholders the possibility of increasing imported labour on an appropriate and limited scale. For example, consideration may be given to allowing subsidised elderly service and rehabilitation service units more flexibility in importing carers.
136. Women are the main carers in Hong Kong families. To protect the interests and well-being of women and unleash their working potential, the Government will make efforts to strengthen the support for families on various fronts, including community and home care support services for the elderly, persons with disabilities and children. With regard to child care services, the Government will provide a total of about 300 additional places in aided stand-alone child care centres in the North District, Kwun Tong, Kwai Tsing and Sha Tin starting from 2018-19. Moreover, we have commissioned the University of Hong Kong to conduct a study and make recommendations on the long-term development of child care services. The study is expected to be completed by the first quarter of next year.
137. Meanwhile, in early October this year, the Government relaxed the income limit for low-income families under the Fee Waiving Subsidy Scheme for After School Care Programme through the Community Care Fund, and provided 2 000 additional fee-waiving and fee-reduction places. In 2018-19, we will inject $400 million into the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged. Of this sum, $200 million will be mainly for implementing after-school learning and support programmes and about 130 000 grassroots children are expected to benefit, thereby alleviating the pressure on working women in looking after their children.
138. With the rapid development of our country and in support of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development, the demand for talent in such fields as financial investment, air and maritime transport and logistics, infrastructure, professional services, trade, legal and dispute resolution services has surged significantly. The Government is committed to strengthening Hong Kong’s position as a talent hub, nurturing talent for the local community and neighbouring places.
139. In recent years, we have established the Hong Kong International Aviation Academy and the MTR Academy to train personnel in air transport and railway operation and management for Hong Kong, the Mainland and other places. To nurture more high-calibre and professional construction practitioners, the Construction Industry Council also plans to establish the Hong Kong Institute of Construction in the first half of 2018. The Fire and Ambulance Services Academy was established in early 2016 to provide training service for the Hong Kong Fire Services Department as well as other public and private organisations. It aspires to become a leading training centre in the region for fire and ambulance services. Hong Kong should fully realise its soft-power in grooming talent. This will not only boost the recognition and influence of Hong Kong professionals in the Mainland and the region, but also open up development and mobility opportunities for our professionals.