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LCQ18: Hong Kong students studying overseas

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse Wai-chun and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (November 18):


     It has been reported that quite a number of parents in Hong Kong have expressed grave dissatisfaction with the local education system, and there are quite a number of civil servants sending their children to schools overseas for studies.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of dependent children and amount of public money involved in respect of claims for Overseas Education Allowance (:OEA;) by civil servants in each of the past three financial years;

(b) whether in the past three years, it had carried out any survey to find out the reasons why those civil servants who claimed OEA had sent their children to school overseas for studies, whether it had explained to the public why it spent huge amounts of public money on the payment of OEA, and whether it had consulted the parents in Hong Kong on the local education system so as to review the areas where improvements are needed; if it had conducted such survey and consultation, of the results; if not, whether it can conduct such survey and consultation expeditiously; and

(c) whether it has looked into the reasons why some parents are still dissatisfied with the local education system and send their children to school overseas for studies even though the education system had undergone reforms year after year; whether it had, in the past three years, thoroughly examined the fundamental problems of the local education system, and formulated specific proposals; if it had, of the results; if not, whether it will conduct such examination expeditiously?



(a) According to existing policy, an eligible civil servant who was offered appointment to the civil service before 1 August 1996 may claim OEA for his/her child・s education in the United Kingdom if he/she was appointed on local terms, or claim OEA for his/her child・s education in the civil servant・s country of origin if he/she was appointed on overseas terms.  An eligible civil servant may claim OEA from the beginning of the term in which his/her child reaches the age of 9 up to the end of the term in which the child becomes 19, and for up to four of his/her children at any one time.  The number of children (Note) in respect of claims for OEA by eligible civil servants and the actual expenditure in the past three financial years are set out in the table below:

No. of children Actual Expenditure ($000)
4,458 544,058

No. of children Actual Expenditure ($000)
3,996 499,542

No. of children Actual Expenditure ($000)
3,224 369,246

(b) The OEA scheme was introduced in 1964.  At that time, there were insufficient educational facilities to meet the demand of English-speaking children in Hong Kong and the OEA scheme was introduced to enable children of expatriate civil servants to continue their education in their countries of origin.  The scheme was extended to local civil servants in 1972 on parity grounds.  In the past three years, we have not conducted any survey on civil servants receiving OEA to ascertain the reasons for their sending their children to study abroad.
     Since the 1960s, there have been gradual improvements in educational facilities and increasing education opportunities in Hong Kong.  Accordingly, there was less justification for the Government to continue to provide OEA to children of civil servants.  Following a review of the OEA scheme in 1993, the Government decided to cease the provision of OEA to civil servants who were offered appointment on or after 1 August 1996.

     The Government always values the views of different stakeholders (including parents) on the education system.  Since the implementation of the curriculum reform in 2001, the Education Bureau has conducted a number of major surveys to collect the views of school leaders, teachers, parents and students.  In 2004 and 2006, questionnaires were sent to different groups of stakeholders encompassing school sponsoring bodies, school management committees, principals, teachers, students, parents, early childhood educators and teacher educators to gauge their perception of the education reform and major education initiatives (including the new academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education).  These were complemented by the Thematic Household Surveys coordinated by the Census and Statistics Department in the same years, where face-to-face interviews were conducted with a random sample of households to gather the public・s perception of the education reform and major initiatives.  These quantitative surveys have further been complemented by a series of structured focus group interviews (including parents) in order to gain additional insight into their views.  The findings indicated that parents and the community generally supported the direction of the education reform and major education initiatives.

(c) Hong Kong parents sending their children to study abroad is not a new phenomenon.  In the Thematic Household Survey conducted by Census and Statistics Department in 2002, it was found that some 60 900 households (2.9%) had members aged 25 and below studying outside Hong Kong.  As Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city, it is natural for some parents to send their children to study abroad.  This should not be taken as a reflection of a lack of confidence in the Hong Kong education system on the part of both parents and students.  On the contrary, it indicates a smooth interface between the local and overseas education systems as Hong Kong students are admitted by overseas secondary schools, post-secondary institutions and universities.  The curriculum reform of Hong Kong is also in line with the global trend of curriculum development.  

     We always value the views of different stakeholders, and have regularly and systematically collected their feedback on the education reform (including the new academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education) so that improvement can be made.  As reflected in the survey findings, parents and members of the public support the direction of education reform and major education initiatives.  Moreover, we have adopted a multi-stage approach in conducting a series of consultation exercises on the new academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education in 2004, 2005 and 2006. With the support of the community, the new academic structure has been implemented in September 2009.  During the implementation of the education reform, we have maintained close communication with parents through different channels (e.g. focus group interviews and district-based parents・ seminars) in order to understand their needs and concerns.  The implementation of the curriculum reform can help to enhance the quality of Hong Kong education and student learning.  Through a broad, balanced and diversified New Senior Secondary (NSS) curriculum, students could be helped to develop their potential to the full, and have smooth articulation to multiple pathways for further studies and employment.

     Indeed, Hong Kong students have demonstrated outstanding performance in a number of international education researches in recent years, which is a reflection of the positive outcome of our education reform.  In the "Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006", "Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006" and "The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007", Hong Kong students excelled in reading, mathematics and science, and their performance was consistently well above the international standard.

     Education is our long-term mission, and it takes time to bear fruit.  Its success hinges on the concerted efforts and participation of the community, including the support from parents.  The positive effects of the education reform are already emerging. With the implementation of the NSS academic structure in the 2009/10 school year, we are confident that the quality of the Hong Kong education will progressively improve.

Note: The number of children is calculated by dividing the total number of claims for the allowance by three (i.e. the number of terms in a school year).

Ends/Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:00


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