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LCQ12: review of the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (December 9):


     The Panel on Education of this Council passed a motion on March 20 this year, urging the Government to establish a committee whose members include representatives from the pre-primary education sector and parents to review the kindergarten (KG) fee subvention system, as well as to establish a remuneration system that is linked to teachers' training and qualifications.  It has been reported that the Education Commission indicated that a working group (WG) had been established to review the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the membership of the WG includes parents of children, KG teachers, representatives from school sponsoring bodies, academics, official representatives and members of the public;

(b) whether the WG's scope of review includes:

    (i) studying the Government's future role in early childhood education (ECE), as well as how it ensures that the problems of a fully market-driven ECE will not occur;
    (ii) examining the mode of operation of different schools so that whole-day nursery schools will receive fair subsidies;
    (iii) determining the recognised salary level for teachers, and directly providing subsidies according to the salaries of teachers;
    (iv) examining the work of teachers and the pressure they encounter when pursuing further studies;
    (v) enhancing support to children at different learning stages and the corresponding support to parents; and
    (vi) formulating a long-term development blueprint for ECE to optimise the articulation of ECE and primary education; and

(c) of the review timetable of the WG, as well as what consultation mechanisms and methods are in place to obtain the views of the various ECE stakeholders; how it ensures that the WG's operation is transparent and will report its work to the various stakeholders and the public?



     My reply to the above three-part question is as follows:

     In response to calls from the public and the Legislative Council (LegCo) for an early review of fee subvention under the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) and relevant policy measures, the Government has started from this school year to adjust the fee remission ceilings for kindergartens (KGs) annually on the basis of the respective weighted average fees (WAF) of the non-profit-making half-day and whole-day KGs eligible for PEVS.  Currently, the maximum amount of fee remission plus the voucher value for half-day and whole-day KGs has been raised to $18,000 and $29,300 per student per annum respectively.  The mechanism for adjusting the fee remission ceilings annually according to WAF has provided more choices for needy families.

     Furthermore, following discussion between the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Education Commission (EC), it has been decided to establish a working group (WG) under the EC to take forward the PEVS review.  Chaired by Professor Edmond Ko Inq-ming, the WG comprises members from different sectors of the community who are experienced in their respective fields, including Miss Gloria Leung Chi-kin, Ms Shirley Marie Therese Loo, Professor Lee Wing-on, Professor Wong Po-choi and Mr Tang Kwai-tai. The terms of reference of the WG include collecting the views of stakeholders on the implementation of PEVS and making recommendations to the Government for the improvement of PEVS.

     The WG will review the effectiveness of PEVS having regard to its background, policy objectives, implementation strategy and current operation, and will make recommendations on the way forward. The WG is aware of the concerns and requests of the public and LegCo regarding PEVS-related issues, including subsidies for whole-day nursery school places, and teachers' salaries, workload and pressure encountered when pursuing further studies.  It will conduct focus group discussions to gauge public views when necessary.  The WG plans to submit a report to the EC by the end of next year, after which recommendations would be submitted to the Government.

Ends/Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:19


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