Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s recent policy address has put him under fire from basically all sides, including the education sector, where the grievances of workers are about to reach the tipping point.
Despite all the pressing issues confronting the education system, our chief executive, much to the dismay of frontline education workers, turned a blind eye to all these problems and instead committed a lot of resources to promoting the totally irrelevant One Belt, One Road strategy, in an apparent effort to please Beijing.
Under his plan, all sectors of our economy — financial services, infrastructure planning, logistics, trade and professional services — will have to adapt to the new strategy. Education is no exception.
Apart from enhancing student exchange across the border, adjusting our curriculum and reviewing the Quality Education Fund in order to incorporate more One Belt, One Road elements into them, the measure that proves most mind-boggling for the education sector is the decision to set up a HK$1 billion fund to subsidize foreign students from One Belt, One Road countries to study in Hong Kong.
To be fair, it may be reasonable and acceptable to fund overseas students if we had abundant public resources. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that our current funding for education is already scarce and there are a lot of pressing but unresolved issues in our education system that need to be dealt with promptly.
These issues include the government’s undelivered promise on free pre-school education, the unanswered demand for the establishment of a master pay scale for kindergarten teachers, the predicament of thousands of secondary school teachers hired on short-term contracts who are continuing to suffer from heavy workload and unequal pay, as well as the debt crisis for associate degree graduates.
Unfortunately, rather than directing his efforts towards resolving these pressing issues that concern hundreds of thousands of our local teens and frontline education workers, the chief executive chose to sweep all these problems under the carpet and spend huge sums to fund overseas students rather than our own students. Is it really so difficult for him to get his priorities right?
CY Leung often claims that he always has the Hong Kong people’s best interests at heart, but the priorities he set in his policy address seem to suggest otherwise.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 21.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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