Education lawmaker blasts 2015 Policy Address

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Ip Kin Yuen, FC legislator of Education, criticised CY Leung’s third policy address for politicising education and failing to reflect the sector’s aspirations. Photo credit: ipkinyuen.org.hk


 

“The whole report was very political, including the chapter on Education.”

That was FC legislator of Education, Ip Kin Yuen’s first reaction to the policy address.

After the Occupy Movement, much was said about how Hong Kong’s education was behind the youth’s democratic movement against CY Leung and Beijing. Oft cited, was a lack of understanding or misconception of what has actually been happening up North. Many feared the controversial National Education might be revived.

Revisionist?

While the patriotic curriculum did not make a return, a few policies on education raised eyebrows.

“The EBD will renew the curriculum content of Chinese History and World History and enrich the learning experiences of students. The training of teachers will also be enhanced. The objectives are to reinforce students’ interest in and understanding of Chinese history and culture and broaden their global outlook.”

“For Chinese History and World History, naturally we would review whether the curriculum is appropriate and what kind of results it has achieved, then if there are things that are less than desirable we carry out the corresponding adjustments,” explained Ip, “But if you’re not evaluating it according to the purpose of the curriculum, but instead base the review on the goal to change students’ political orientation, that worries us.”

if “the goal [is] to change students’ political orientation, that worries us.

On whether there are any indications that might be the case, Ip said,  “At the moment we don’t know the details, but I believe its on a lot of people’s minds and we’ll stay alert to such things.”

Come home, brand new

One thing Ip said he’s quite sure about, is that the proposed subsidies for Mainland exchange programmes were added for political reasons.

“Our country is developing rapidly. We plan to provide a subsidy for students to join at least one Mainland exchange programme each in the primary and secondary stages.”

“A lot of money has already been poured into exchange programmes like this in Hong Kong. This school year alone has seen a hundred and twenty million Hong Kong dollars spent to facilitate these tours,”  Ip explains, “So the Government being so adamant about adding more money solely for Mainland exchanges, makes me quite sure it is solely due to political considerations.”

Teachers will effectively be part time tour guides

The policy address also reveals the Government’s plans to “launch a pilot scheme to provide financial and professional support for local public sector schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools in a bid to progressively double the number of primary and secondary sister schools in Hong Kong and the Mainland to about 600 pairs within the three years from the 2015/1026 school year.

Part-time Tour Guides

Beyond concerns of political manipulation, Ip worries that these trips will be an unnecessary burden for responsible teachers .

The focus of the policy address was not a genuine response to the aspirations of the educational sector, neither did it respond to the most important issues

“When on these trips, teachers have to lead large groups of students abroad, take care of transport, accommodation, and the students’ learning. They also have to consider and worry about all sorts of safety problems and such. All of this is on top of their original duties. There will also be a lot to follow-up on afterwards, Teachers will effectively be part time tour guides, and in turn they won’t be able to focus on their teaching duties. This is the completely opposite of the education sector’s calls to facilitate rest for teachers from daily duties,” laments Ip.

The policy address insists the subsidies will also “relieve teachers from some of the administrative work”. Ip disagrees.

“They still need to design the trip and liaise with all parties. Even if someone is hired to deal with the administrative work, the teaching, management, and care of the students will still lie on the teacher’s shoulders,” says Ip.

“On any study tour, it’s impossible for teachers to keep a distance and not get involved.  At the end of the day students are their to learn, and it is the duty of the teacher to teach. They can’t just hand off the work to tour guides.”

Verdict

Ip does admit that certain items on the policy address reflects what has been asked for by the education sector. Increasing the graduate teacher ratio in public sector primary school is something the education sector has always asked for; adding a co-ordinator for special educational needs is another one. Yet, Ip still thinks the proposed execution plans are still lacking.

Ip does admit that certain items on the policy address reflects what has been asked for by the education sector.

“The plans in the address to deploy a Special Educational Needs co-ordinator, is to temporarily designate the position to a teacher, which is merely a stop-gap solution instead of introducing a long term position. The increase in graduate teachers is still only up to 65%.”

“The focus of the policy address was not a genuine response to the aspirations of the educational sector, neither did it respond to the most important issues, which is to help teachers rest and actively assist them,” Ip says.”A lot of these items are still being done behind closed doors without consulting the education sector.”