Carrie Lam targets education first, may reopen Civic Square

July 04, 2017 17:13
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she expects fast action on the education proposal since many parties have expressed their support for it. Photo: HKEJ

Moving to fulfill a campaign promise on the first working day at her new job, Chief Executive Cheng Yuet-ngor said she would fast-track her proposal to increase the recurrent allocation for education by HK$5 billion in the Legislative Council.

The amount, however, will not be appropriated in one go and priority will be given to measures that can be adopted in the new school year, Apple Daily quoted her as saying on Monday.

She stressed there is no need to worry that she will back away from her campaign promise.

It is understood that the first batch of funding will amount to between HK$3.6 billion and HK$3.9 billion, Sing Tao Daily reported.

Sources said the allocation aims to cover at least three measures: raising the class-teacher ratio by providing for about 2,000 contract teachers with permanent posts; turning special educational needs (SEN) coordinators into regular positions; and offering subsidies to students who meet the basic entrance criteria but cannot secure a seat in government-funded colleges to study under self-financed undergraduate programs.

But setting salary scales for kindergarten teachers, a longstanding suggestion in the education sector, is not one of them.

Lam said she expects the funding measure to be passed by Legco "historically fast" since many parties have expressed support for the proposal.

Lam also stressed that she will ask the Education Bureau to review the controversial Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) scheme, which has been denounced by parents for overburdening their children.

In addition, the chief executive said she will "proactively" explore the possibility of reopening the east wing forecourt of the government headquarters, including the so-called Civic Square that served as a venue for protests but was closed in 2014, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Keeping the area closed gives people a negative impression and it is a dignity issue for the administration as officials should be able to come in and out of the complex in an upright manner, Lam said.

Legislator Nathan Law Kwun-chung of the pro-democracy party Demosistō said the closure of Civic Square is a political issue and not just due to security concerns.

He said it is good to see it reopen but that does not mean social rifts will be healed immediately.

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