Following is a question by the Hon Dennis Kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (October 15):
According to sections 74 and 78 of the Education Ordinance (Cap. 279), where it appears to the Permanent Secretary of the Education Bureau (EDB) that a child is not attending primary school or secondary school without any reasonable excuse, the Permanent Secretary may, after making such inquiries as he considers necessary, serve upon a parent of the child an attendance order requiring him to cause the child to attend regularly as a pupil the primary school or secondary school named in the attendance order; and any parent who without reasonable excuse fails to comply with an attendance order shall be guilty of an offence. The Ordinance has not specified how parents may lawfully home-school their children and the related application procedure. However, it is learnt that legislation to regulate home-schooling for children has been enacted in developed places like Taiwan and Singapore. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current number of school-age children who have been approved by EDB to be home-schooled, and the details of the relevant vetting and approval procedures; whether it has any plan to upload such statistics as well as such vetting and approval procedures onto EDB's web site, and to promote the learning mode of home-schooling; and
(2) since some members from the education sector have pointed out that as Hong Kong's current education system is very rigid, holding examination results as the teaching goal, and coupled with teachers being overloaded, students tend to learn by rote and the needs of individual students cannot be met, whether EDB will consider putting in place a home-schooling system for children and setting up a task force to formulate the relevant policies so as to provide an additional option on learning mode for students to choose; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The consolidated reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:
The Government provides nine years of free and universal basic education to children aged between six and 15. According to sections 74 and 78 of the Education Ordinance (Cap. 279), parents have a legal responsibility to ensure that their children within these ages attend school regularly. When cases involving school-age children failing to attend school regularly are found, officers of the Education Bureau (EDB) will contact the parents concerned or make home visits to see if the educational needs of the children have been properly addressed. The cases will also be assessed and followed up regularly. If the parents insist on keeping their children at home without valid reasons, the Permanent Secretary of the EDB may issue an attendance order under the Education Ordinance, requiring the parents to send their children to school.
The EDB holds that school education provides children with a broader and more structured formal curriculum as well as rich learning experiences, and creates an environment where students can interact and exchange ideas among peers and with teachers. All these are essential for the all-round development of children in the areas of ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics. Hence, the EDB does not encourage home-schooling in place of formal school education.
The curriculum framework for both primary and secondary levels is designed to provide students with structured learning experiences. Generally speaking, schools have a more comprehensive range of hardware and software compared with family settings and they are better positioned to cater for the individual needs of students. Whilst students differ in maturity, personality, ability, interests and socio-economic backgrounds, their differences may also be resources for learning and teaching. Through appropriate school-based curriculum, teaching strategies and assessment methods together with interaction among fellow students at the same or different class levels, students will have their perspectives enriched. Also, students can gain a more balanced development both as a unique individual and a member of a group.
Based on the above, the EDB is of the view that it is not necessary to set up a task force on home-schooling. While we would not as a rule disallow home-schooling, for the interest of the children, we would examine it case by case taking into account relevant factors on whether the family is likely to be able to provide children with all-round education. Currently, there are 25 such cases. Parents who wish to home-school can write or email to the EDB seeking an assessment.
Ends/Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Issued at HKT 11:05