LCQ6: Liberal Studies Curriculum Support Grant

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (May 2):


     Quite a number of principals and teachers have relayed to me that they are not satisfied with the Education Bureau ceasing to disburse the Liberal Studies Curriculum Support Grant (LS Grant) at the amount of $320,000 per school with effect from this September.  They have pointed out that as LS Grant is mainly used for hiring teaching assistants (TAs) to develop school-based teaching materials, etc., it is anticipated that around 1 000 TAs who are conversant with school practices on Liberal Studies (LS) will be laid off, affecting the effectiveness in teaching achieved by schools through their utilisation of LS Grant, and in turn further increase the workload of LS subject teachers.  They have also pointed out that as LS has been introduced for just a short period of time and without a solid teaching foundation, LS subject teachers are still exploring and adapting to the scope or level of difficulty of the curriculum, and are very much in need of manpower support.  They worry that reduction in or cessation of LS Grant right at the beginning of the 2012 academic year will further add to the already heavy workload of teachers.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) how the authorities address the demand of principals and teachers for LS Grant; whether they have assessed the impact on schools and subject development to be brought by the cessation of LS Grant at the critical moment when the New Senior Secondary (NSS) academic structure has just completed its first cycle of teaching and assessment; whether they will consider extending LS Grant or providing additional recurrent funding or permanent teaching posts, so as to enable the healthy development of LS and relieve the workload of LS subject teachers;

(b) apart from LS Grant, whether the authorities have provided any recurrent or non-recurrent funding or grant for other core subjects newly created under the NSS academic structure; and

(c) of the respective names, uses, years of first disbursement, annual amount received by each school, as well as each item of government expenditures incurred in respect of the various recurrent or non-recurrent funding or grants provided by the authorities for the implementation of the NSS academic structure; among them, the non-recurrent funding or grants of which the authorities plan to cease or reduce, or have at present already ceased to disburse or reduced the amount provided, when the cessation or reduction in amount provided will be or have been made, as well as the rationale for ceasing to disburse or reducing the amount provided in the particular year concerned; the anticipated impact on the manpower of teachers or supporting staff; whether any comprehensive assessment and consultation with schools will be conducted in the light of teachers' current workload, the actual teaching needs and impact on students' study before ceasing to disburse or reducing the amount of the funding or grants concerned?


Acting Madam President,

(a) The Education Bureau (EDB) provided a one-off Liberal Studies Curriculum Support Grant (LSCSG) of $320,000 to each government-aided secondary school in the 2010/11 school year for a period of two years to enable schools to create, at the initial stage of implementing the new academic structure, favourable conditions for the introduction of Liberal Studies (LS) so as to lay a sound foundation for its future development.

     Schools can decide for themselves allocating various financial resources and manpower to any subject, including LS subject. We understand that the utilisation of the LSCSG by schools is much lower than expected.  As at April 2012, among the 294 aided secondary schools which submitted the annual accounts for 2010/11, 92 (about 31%) recorded an unspent balance of 70% or above in the 2010/11 school year while 33 (about 11%) did not use any of the grant.

     As most schools do not fully utilise the LSCSG, the EDB has proposed to extend the grant for a year till August 31, 2013 so that schools which have unspent balance will have more time to use the grant.  If necessary, schools may also apply for additional LSCSG for use before August 31, 2013.  The EDB will consider the applications in the light of the situation of individual schools, including their use of the LSCSG and financial position.

(b) Apart from LS, the EDB has not provided any recurrent or non-recurrent funding or grant for other New Senior Secondary (NSS) core subjects under the new academic structure.

(c) The report The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education íV Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong (Education and Manpower Bureau, 2005) set out the plan for implementing the new academic structure in senior secondary education in 2009.  The EDB provided additional resources to enable schools to adequately plan and prepare at an early stage for the implementation of the NSS curriculum.  In addition to improving the teacher-to-class ratio, we also introduced a series of support measures including various grants (please see Annex for details).

     Of the grants mentioned, the Teacher Professional Preparation Grant, the NSS Curriculum Migration Grant and the LSCSG are non-recurrent in nature.  While the first two grants, which ceased to be disbursed after the 2008/09 school year, aimed to help schools prepare for the implementation of the NSS curriculum and meet the start-up expenses, the one-off LSCSG aimed at providing additional resources at the initial stage of introducing the LS curriculum thereby helping to lay a sound foundation for its future development.  

     In addition, as reflected from the audited annual accounts, schools in general have adequate financial resources.  They may flexibly deploy other grants.  We stress that should schools have difficulty meeting their learning and teaching needs from school funds or operating reserves, they could contact the EDB which would consider their situation on a case by case basis.  Moreover, the EDB will continue to provide a wide range of professional development programmes, learning and teaching materials and school-based support services to facilitate the smooth implementation of the NSS curriculum.

Ends/Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:01