Speech – Improving the implementation of the education policy and allocating additional funding for education (Abraham Shek)

Deputy President, Secretary, if I may just quote a famous saying by a British gentleman: “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” Another French philosopher said, “Education made us what we are.” We are today for what education made us. Mr IP Kin-yuen brought out the very essence of today’s motion, as he highlighted in his speech that he is worried our children would not be as educated as we are, as our society is going backward because our education policies are hampering them for that particular quest of betterment. I thank him for raising this motion for debate which I think touches the heart of every parent and very citizen of Hong Kong.

We are actually searching for an opportunity to remind the Government of how pathetic it has been in the formulation of an education policy from the pre-primary level up to the tertiary level, particularly regarding the implementation of 15 years of free education and small class teaching, the provision of public-funded university places, the support to non-Chinese speaking students and students with special educational needs ― all have failed to live up to expectations. We expect something better.

Today’s motion poses an interesting question: Is more funding the answer to tackling our education problems? After all, education is such an important investment for nurturing talents and preventing inter-generational poverty that we cannot over-emphasize its importance. I am a product of good education. I am able to overcome inter-generational poverty. I do hope that students who are suffering poverty can better themselves and secure a proper place in society through education.

However, while the Government’s annual spending on education is on the rise in nominal terms, it has actually shrunk as a percentage of total public expenditure ― we should be ashamed of that ― and as a percentage of the GDP. If I may quote: education spending was 21.8% of total public expenditure in 2012; 21.1% in 2013; and 20.7% in 2014. This means that education suffers.Moreover, public spending on education has been equivalent to approximately 3% of the GDP in recent years ― we are lagging behind many developed economies, which spend around 5% of their GDP on education annually. 

Alongside the de facto dwindling government investment in education, the Government’s lack of vision in principles in promoting equal opportunities in education are also to blame. I just read what the English poet Alexander POPE said, “Tis education forms the common mind; just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined”. So, if we have a bad policy, we would not be able to educate our children. I think that is the very essence of Mr IP’s motion.

Since the Government is not resource-stricken ― thanks to the colossal fiscal reserves ― why does the Administration not increase the number of public-funded undergraduate places, so that our young people who are qualified for subsidized undergraduate programmes can be given the opportunity directly, instead of having to sustain the costly sub-degree or self-financing degree programmes ― it is a shame for the Bureau to perpetuate this suffering of the students ― or even being completely deprived of the opportunity for any kind of tertiary education due to economic hardship? Why does the Administration not seize the opportunity of the decline in Secondary One student population to implement small class teaching in secondary schools? What is the problem? A small class learning environment is not a privilege limited to the private schools and the DSS schools. It is the right of every child, rich or poor, to receive quality education.

Similarly, the Director of Audit’s Report No. 60 revealed that school fees in most Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme Kindergartens are approaching the fee ceilings set by the Education Bureau, and the significant miscellaneous fees charged by them are beyond their means to pay.

My time is coming up, but I would also like to speak on behalf of the non-Chinese speaking children. They are being deprived of an opportunity for the education which our children are having. Because of this, they cannot survive in a society which caters for the educated. Lastly, the students with special needs are also deprived. They also need your kindness, care and love for them for being deprived by nature. We should, by way of nurturing, help them get an education that society wishes them to have.

I do not like to criticize you personally  but I hope you can do something for them. Thank you.


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