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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.

2004| Important notices
Last revision date : January 7, 2004