Policy Address

V. Nurturing Talent

My Belief

147. Talent is the most important element in Hong Kong’s continued development, and education is the key to nurturing talent. Success in education requires the collaborative efforts of all who care about our next generation, with the Government playing a key role. During the past year, I have fulfilled my promises made during the election campaign and after election by devoting substantial resources to education, maintaining professional leadership in charting the way forward and listening carefully to voices of the education sector. My two statements regarding education – “the Government’s expenditure on education is the most meaningful investment in our future” and “we should treat our teachers nicely” – have earned wide support from the education sector and become our internal guiding principles for handling education matters. The education sector has, over the years, gone through some anxious and besetting times, I am glad to see that “education is re-emerging as education” and a stable and caring teaching and learning environment is gradually taking shape. That said, in order that our learning and teaching could be even more inspiring and satisfying, we still need to continue with our efforts.

Latest Development in Education

148. In accordance with my belief and vision in education, the Government has, since the 2017/18 school year, allocated considerable new resources to and done a lot of work for education. We have increased the teacher-to-class ratio for public sector schools by 0.1 across-the-board and provided around 2 200 additional regular teaching posts. Besides, aided secondary schools with surplus teachers arising from the reduction of secondary one classes in the past few years were allowed to extend the retention period for the surplus teachers concerned until the overall secondary one student population rebounds steadily. I have also pledged earlier that the Government will work together with schools to tackle the issue when the same situation arises in future due to decline in primary one student population.

149. We strive to provide more opportunities for secondary graduates to further their studies. Last year, we set up a $30,000 non-means-tested subsidy for eligible students pursuing locally-accredited self-financing undergraduate programmes, and increased subsidised places from 1 000 to 3 000 per cohort under the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors (SSSDP). In the 2017/18 academic year, about 23 000 students benefited from the above two measures. Our policy has enabled the provision of subsidised tertiary education for all students who meet the general entrance requirement (i.e. “3322”) in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination.

150. To achieve balanced development of students and whole-person education, we have put in place various enhanced measures in respect of the primary and secondary school curricula, student support, relieving pressure on students, promotion of reading, as well as strengthening moral and civic education. We are now refining the primary and secondary school curricula progressively. In the past year, we have revised the junior secondary Chinese History curriculum and implemented Chinese History as an independent compulsory subject at junior secondary level, with a view to enabling all secondary students to learn Chinese History in a holistic and systematic manner and develop a more comprehensive understanding of our country’s history and cultural heritage. The revised junior secondary Chinese History curriculum is expected to be implemented from the 2020/21 school year onwards.

151. The development of our young people should be holistic and should not be limited to academic achievement. An important component in our school curriculum is values education, which includes elements such as moral and civic education, sex education, environmental education, commitment to the community and development of national identity. The Task Force on Review of School Curriculum is now deliberating on the school curriculum with a view to creating space for schools to deliver values education in a holistic manner and to help students develop positive values and attitudes at a young age. For students in their teens, proper sex education is particularly important. I hereby appeal to schools, parents and stakeholders who care about the growth of our children to continue to collaborate with the EDB in cultivating an atmosphere conducive to helping students develop positive values and attitudes to life.

152. In terms of resources for schools, apart from the new education resources of $3.6 billion of recurrent expenditure allocated shortly after my assumption of office, the Quality Education Fund, in response to the invitation of the Government, has set aside $3 billion for application by primary and secondary schools, kindergartens and special schools for launching school-based curriculum and student support measures, as well as relevant school improvement works and procurement of supplies, through simplified procedures. This initiative has provided schools with more opportunities to enhance learning and teaching and is well received by the school sector, and many schools have submitted applications to the Fund.

153. In addition, starting from the 2018/19 school year, we disburse a new Promotion of Reading Grant involving a recurrent expenditure of about $50 million to all public sector schools. This will encourage schools to create a better reading atmosphere, enhance students’ interest in reading and help them develop a good reading habit.

154. We care about students’ learning pressure, including the over-drilling problems brought about by the assessment system. In response to the drilling and pressure issues associated with the Primary 3 Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), we have introduced a new arrangement early this year after extensive consultation. Under the new arrangement, Primary 3 TSA will be conducted every year on a sampling basis, while schools may also choose to arrange all their Primary 3 students to participate in TSA and obtain school reports. This year’s TSA has been conducted smoothly with positive feedback. The new arrangement has affirmed the value of making good use of assessment data to provide feedback to learning and teaching, and re-established TSA as a low-stake assessment without the need for drilling.

155. At the same time, the EDB also stresses to schools and school sponsoring bodies through different channels the importance of quality over quantity of homework. We are delighted to see more schools designing meaningful and interesting homework based on school contexts and student abilities and allowing more room and time for students to develop their personal interests.

156. Our next generation needs not only knowledge and skills, but also positive thinking. I am glad to know that schools are continuously enhancing life education to cultivate in students a positive attitude towards life and enable them to learn to overcome difficulties and cherish their lives. To enable students to understand the Basic Law accurately, we adopt different approaches and organise more activities to actively promote the Basic Law education.

157. My commitment to education is continuous. Taking into consideration the recommendations and preliminary views of the various task forces, I now announce the concrete measures in which the Government will inject resources with a view to enhancing the quality of education further and addressing the concerns of teachers, principals and parents.

Diversified Life-wide Learning

158. Today’s education is not confined to classroom learning. The EDB has all along been advocating the adoption of diversified pedagogies to enhance students’ motivation in learning and to promote self-directed learning. I propose to provide, starting from the 2019/20 school year, a new recurrent Life-wide Learning Grant with an annual provision of $900 million. The Grant will support public sector schools and schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme to take forward, on the present foundation, life-wide learning with enhanced efforts through organising more out-of-classroom experiential learning activities in various curriculum areas such as the humanities, STEM education, physical and aesthetic development, moral and civic education. Community service, for example, can help develop students’ care for others and empathy, and sports activities can strengthen students’ perseverance and resilience. Moreover, activities such as field studies, exchanges outside Hong Kong and workplace experience can enable students to learn in real-life contexts, broaden their horizons and foster their whole-person development. We trust that the enlivened and enriched learning experiences and the opportunities to apply what students have learned will not only enhance their interest in learning, but also help them develop positive values and attitudes, enhance their spirit to serve and sense of responsibility, and foster positive thinking and good character.

Professional Led Active Listening

159. I all along believe that the way to quality education must be led by professionals and the Government must actively listen to and join hands with the education sector. Within the first month of my assumption of office, I directed the Government to embark on studies in eight major policy areas. Over 70 education experts have participated in a number of task forces and commenced their work. As I mentioned earlier, the task force reviewing the assessment system has completed the review of TSA and new arrangement has been implemented by the EDB early this year. The work on review of school curriculum is complicated and four sub-groups have been set up under the relevant task force to probe into different key areas. Recommendations are expected to be available for consultation in mid-2019. For the remaining six task forces, some of them have completed their work and submitted reports to the Government.

Strengthening Research Capacity

160. Under the lead of Professor TSUI Lap-chee, the Task Force on Review of Research Policy and Funding has submitted report to me last month. The Task Force considers that strengthening our support for the work of researchers and fostering a research culture can help promote the vigorous development of industries as well as technological innovation, thereby enhancing Hong Kong’s long-term competitiveness and propelling Hong Kong’s development into an international I&T hub. After detailed consideration, I have decided to accept in full the recommendations made by the Task Force.

161. First, we will inject $20 billion into the Research Endowment Fund (REF) of the RGC under the UGC to increase the provision of more stable research funding to help attract and retain talents. We will also ask the UGC to rationalise the use of different pots of REF for more effective deployment of funding.

162. In order to encourage private entities to increase support for the R&D work of universities, I propose to launch a new Research Matching Grant Scheme with a total commitment of $3 billion for three years for applications by local degree-awarding institutions. R&D expenditure and donations from private sector and philanthropists secured by individual institutions would be matched by the Government for research-related purpose. The Scheme will allow the higher education sector to tap more research funding sources as well as encourage the industries to collaborate with the sector in R&D activities, thereby enhancing the social impact of research conducted by the higher education sector.

163. We also support the RGC in introducing three new regular Fellowship Schemes, which will benefit post-doctoral fellows, researchers at associate professor and professor ranks. This will not only encourage doctoral graduates to pursue careers in research, but also provide support to promising researchers, as well as enable universities to attract and retain talents. I have reserved $190 million recurrent expenditure per annum for these new schemes.

Professional Development of Teachers

164. On teachers’ professional development, the Government will implement in one go the all-graduate teaching force policy in public sector primary and secondary schools in the 2019/20 school year. Schools may, taking into account their school-based circumstances, achieve full implementation in two years. The amount of additional funding involved is about $1.5 billion. Meanwhile, in tandem with the full implementation of whole-day schooling and the all-graduate teaching force policy in primary schools, the Government will earmark a recurrent allocation of $500 million to rationalise the salaries for principals and vice-principals and to improve the manpower at the middle management level in primary schools. The Task Force on Professional Development of Teachers will submit its recommendations in this regard later.

School-based Management

165. To strengthen school-based management and at the same time reduce the administrative work of teachers and principals so that they may focus on teaching and have more time to take care of the development of students, starting from the 2019/20 school year, the Government will provide public sector schools and schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme with additional resources of $570 million each year to strengthen the administrative support for schools and their management committees.

Parent Education and Home-School Co-operation

166. Parents play a vital role in the growth and learning of their children. I hope, through enhancing home-school co-operation, parents and teachers together could nurture children to grow up healthily and happily. To promote parent education and home-school co-operation, starting from the 2019/20 school year, we will increase recurrent funding by about $30 million so that additional resources can be provided to Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations and Parent-Teacher Associations of schools for organising more community-based and school-based parent education programmes or activities.

Post-secondary Education

167. To further increase the opportunities and subsidies for local students to pursue post-secondary education, the Government has decided to step up support for self-financing sub-degree programmes that nurture talents to meet our social and economic development needs. Starting from the 2019/20 academic year, about 2 000 students per cohort will be subsidised to undertake designated self-financing sub-degree programmes through the SSSDP. Current students of the designated programmes will also receive the subsidy. It is expected that about 4 000 students will benefit in each academic year. This initiative will incur $120 million additional recurrent expenditure each year.

Vocational and Professional Education and Training

168. Vocational and professional education and training (VPET) allows students to pursue pathways that best suit their abilities. A comprehensive review had been conducted on VPET in the last term Government. As such, the Task Force on Promotion of VPET was only set up in April this year. The review is underway and public consultation is scheduled for the second quarter of next year.

169. Meanwhile, we strive to explore opportunities to develop VPET. The Vocational Training Council (VTC) will offer 1 200 training places per year to enable trainees to join industries which require specialised skills under the “Earn & Learn” model. Furthermore, to encourage working adults in designated industries to pursue higher qualifications, the Government will continue to provide tuition fee subsidy for three years to a total of 5 600 students admitted to designated professional part-time programmes offered by the VTC. Both schemes will enhance the employability of young people and working adults, and attract and retain talents for the relevant industries.

Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs

170. Apart from the eight areas of common concern in the education sector, I also care deeply about students with special educational needs (SEN). Last year, we created a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) post for each ordinary primary and secondary school. This year, we will enhance our efforts to provide support for students with SEN in different areas. Starting from the 2019/20 school year, I will implement the following support measures with an additional funding of $800 million each year:

  1. re-structuring the Learning Support Grant (LSG), Intensive Remedial Teaching Programme and Integrated Education Programme to provide permanent teaching posts and grant based on students’ needs. LSG will be extended to all public sector ordinary schools and the grant rate for the tier-3 support will be increased. Under the enhanced measure, schools will have a more stable teaching force and additional resources for flexible deployment to support their students with SEN;
  2. upgrading the SENCO post to a promotion rank in public sector ordinary schools with comparatively large number of students with SEN to facilitate SENCOs to deliver their leadership duties more effectively;
  3. extending further the Enhanced School-based Educational Psychology Service, with the target of about 60% of public sector ordinary primary and secondary schools receiving the service by the 2023/24 school year through enhancing the ratio of educational psychologist to school from 1:6 – 1:10 to 1:4. The ratio will be enhanced to 1:6 for the remaining 40% of schools; and
  4. creating school-based speech therapist (SBST) posts in public sector ordinary schools by phases in three years starting from the 2019/20 school year to allow schools to form clusters to employ SBSTs to support students with speech and language impairment or other students with SEN.

Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority

171. The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) has been administering the HKDSE Examination since its introduction in 2012. It strives to ensure professional administration of the HKDSE Examination as well as fair and just assessment of all candidates. With a continuous decline in candidature in recent years and an increase in operating expenditure, for example, the need to make special examination arrangements for candidates with SEN, the HKEAA is under great pressure to substantially increase the examination fees. To allow time for the Government and the HKEAA to study in detail how to alleviate the serious deficits resulting from the declining number of candidates and to work out a long-term solution, we will provide the HKEAA with a non-recurrent funding of $360 million in four years to support the effective operation of the HKEAA during the period.

Kindergarten Education

172. Great importance has been attached to early childhood education in recent years and quality kindergarten education fosters in children an inquisitive mind, develops in them an interest in learning and exploration, promotes their balanced development, and develops their healthy self-concept and confidence. In this connection, the Government has implemented the new kindergarten education policy starting from the 2017/18 school year with a substantial increase in government expenditure to enhance teachers’ remuneration, reduce parents’ financial burden and improve quality of teaching. We will use the data of the three school years from 2017/18 to 2019/20 as the basis to explore the feasibility of introducing a salary scale for kindergarten teachers. We have initially collected the data concerned and plan to start a review in mid-2019 on the implementation of the new policy, including the salary arrangements for kindergarten teachers. We will consult stakeholders during the process.

Investment for the Future

173. The commitment for the above work and measures will exceed the $3.4 billion additional recurrent provision earmarked earlier. However, given the determination of the current-term Government to promote quality education, we would not haggle over the resources needed, nor would we trim our measures due to resource constraints. I believe that the new resources for education would not be expended for no purpose and I look forward to working hand in hand with the education sector in nurturing quality future generations for Hong Kong.