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LCQ3: Education of children from low-income families

     Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (January 5):


     With regard to the education of children from low-income families, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the policies that the authorities have put in place to support the education of children from low-income families to facilitate the upward mobility of these children in today's knowledge-based society; of the details of such policies;

(b) whether the Government has compiled statistics on the numbers and percentages of children from families of various income groups who received university education for the past five years; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the Government will consider flexibly reducing the teacher-to-student ratio of schools in districts with more low-income families (such as Tin Shui Wai) or schools with more students from low-income families; if so, of the details; if not, the reason for that?



     My reply to the Hon Eu's questions is as follows:

(a) The Government's student financial assistance policy is to ensure that no student is denied access to education due to lack of means.  At present, the Student Financial Assistance Agency (SFAA) administers various means-tested and non-means-tested financial assistance schemes to provide assistance to pre-primary children, primary and secondary students, post-secondary students and other people pursuing continuing education.  In the 2009/10 school year, SFAA disbursed over $3.5 billion of means-tested financial assistance and $1.2 billion of non-means-tested loans.

     At the pre-primary education level, the Government introduced the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme in the 2007/08 school year to provide parents of children attending eligible local non-profit-making kindergartens with non-means-tested fee subsidy.  Families with financial difficulties may also apply for additional fee remission under the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme.

     As for primary and secondary education, apart from the provision of 12-year free education since the 2008/09 school year, primary and secondary students from needy families may also apply for assistance under relevant means-tested financial assistance schemes to meet various education-related expenses.

     At the post-secondary education level, the Government has in place two means-tested financial assistance schemes, i.e. "the Tertiary Student Finance Scheme íV Publicly-funded Programmes" and "the Financial Assistance Scheme for Post-secondary Students", to provide eligible students pursuing publicly-funded and self-financing, locally-accredited post-secondary programmes respectively with non-repayable grants to cover tuition fees and academic expenses as well as low-interest loans to meet living expenses.  In addition, SFAA administers Non-means-tested Loan Schemes to provide these students and other students pursuing continuing education with non-means-tested loans to facilitate their academic pursuits.  The Financial Assistance Scheme for Designated Evening Adult Education Courses and the Tuition Fee Reimbursement for Project Yi Jin Students administered by SFAA also offer fee assistance in the form of tuition fee reimbursement.

(b) The Government does not enumerate the number of persons enrolled in degree courses by household income.  However, we have attempted to estimate the number and percentage of persons enrolled in degree courses in and outside Hong Kong by monthly household income in the past five years, based on the General Household Survey of the Census and Statistics Department.  Details are tabulated at Annex.

(c) All along, having regard to the different needs of students, we have been providing schools with additional resources and teachers to improve the quality of education.  We have provided additional teachers for those schools which admit Bottom 10% and Band 3 students.  Schools can, based on their own needs, deploy flexibly the additional teachers to facilitate a whole-school approach to supporting the academically less accomplished students and, with a view to providing early intervention, arrange for small group teaching of core subjects.

     We do not consider it appropriate to adjust across-the-board the teacher-to-student ratio of individual districts according to the proportion of low-income families.  This would not only fail to target schools in need but would also cause uneven allocation of resources and create labelling effect on the districts concerned.  In fact, the teacher-to-student ratio of public sector primary schools has gradually improved from 1:22.0 in the 2000/01 school year to about 1:15.2 in the 2010/11 school year, and the teacher-to-student ratio of public sector secondary schools has also gradually improved from 1:18.5 to about 1:15.4 during the same period.

Ends/Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:38


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