Education sector personnel have been thrilled with Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s pledge to divert an extra HK$5 billion into education annually once she assumes office.
While I agree that an extra HK$5 billion every year will undoubtedly help resolve a lot of issues and ease shortages in our schools, I must say that this action alone won’t be enough.
The extra funding should be just a first step in a series of moves, given that the education sector is facing a lot of fundamental issues for which solutions require more than just money.
In my opinion, the incoming administration needs to achieve two main goals concerning our schools over the next five years.
As far as the first goal is concerned, the new government must introduce policies to stabilize the education system, which has had a bumpy ride over the past decade due to the reckless and volatile reform programs initiated by previous administrations.
To do that, the new administration must boost the morale of our teachers by addressing the deep-rooted issue of unequal pay between short-term contract and permanent teachers and by increasing the number of permanent teaching positions in our public and subsidized schools so that more young and qualified teachers will have job security.
In the meantime, the government should also implement the long overdue master pay scale in our kindergartens as soon as possible.
Also, the new administration must address the pressing issue of overwhelming workload facing our teachers by freeing them from the burden of excessive day-to-day administrative duties (such as student recruitment), so that they can concentrate on teaching rather than paperwork.
The second main task the incoming government must accomplish is to set out visions for local education, so that five years from now we can measure the progress in our education against these visions.
The visions should include that every student in Hong Kong can truly enjoy high-quality education five years from now, that our teachers will become more professional, that our schools will no longer over-drill their students for exams, and that our secondary school students will have more choices when it comes to choosing subjects and pursuing further education.
The new administration should work aggressively to realize these visions.
Given our huge government reserve and abundant public resources, we could have in fact done substantially better with regard to the education sector.
All it takes is good planning, a new mindset, and above all, the eagerness of our decision-makers to cooperate and find common ground with members of the education sector.
I sincerely hope the incoming administration led by Lam can open a new chapter in our education policy.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 7
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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