Transcript of remarks by Secretary for Education

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, at a media session after attending the Foreign Correspondents' Club luncheon today (November 5):

Reporter: You are talking about the international school, right? Is that the IMS (International Montessori School) you are referring to and that will be saved?

Secretary for Education: As I mentioned, actually my colleague from the other department already mentioned, we have no intention to change, to suggest or to support the change of the purpose of that particular piece of land. That means, I understand that the NGO and that particular institute also realise this situation. Therefore, based on my understanding, I actually do not see the threat of that particular lease for that particular school. Of course, this is the private deal between the two parties of the rental arrangement. I hope that, actually when being asked, we did suggest that there are vacant schools the school can apply for, and also the greenfield sites as well. I believe that we have already received the letter of intent. I hope that things will move on along that direction.

Reporter: ... the Government's plan to cope with the expected decrease in students in relation to the class size issue?

Secretary for Education: As I mentioned earlier, we recognise that this is the factual situation. Today we've got about 61,000 eligible Secondary One students. In three years' time, it is going to drop down to around 50,000. In that three-year period, you are talking about a drop of 11,000 students. That's quite significant. However, four years later, the population will go as high as 69,000. We are talking about a valley situation, a transitional and temporary problem we need to face together with the schools, and then principals, leaders, teachers, students and parents, of course. The best way to do it is, I mentioned and I want to repeat that as well, and our main purpose is, for this transitional period, to protect the schools. We would like to support and protect the teachers. We would like to make sure the quality of education will be maintained. Not the least, we would like to make sure the whole capacity and competence level of our education system, the Secondary One level, will be maintained as well. These are the main principles.

     In order to do that, we have some administrative arrangements. As far as the protecting school aspect is concerned, we cut down the number. If you have 76 students, you can still keep four classes. If you have 51 students, you can still run three classes. If you have 26 students, you can still run two classes. Of course, these are administrative numbers. More importantly, we need to make sure that we provide sufficient variety and choices of subject and curriculum for the students to take in order to maintain the quality of education. This is the immediate one in terms of protecting the schools. We are still working on, and we will be doing a lot more consultations this week and early next week as well, in order to make sure all key stakeholders, like schools, leaders, principals, teachers, professional bodies, school sponsoring bodies and parents and so on, will be properly consulted as well. I want to make sure I talk to all of them within this period to get the maximum understanding and consensus.

Reporter: You said that there are only to be 4,000 more primary school places in international schools in 2016. Are you confident that the supply will meet demand by then?

Secretary for Education: The 4,200, sort of a gap, is the initial estimation. The consultant is going to come back with a more solid one by the end of the year of the exact assessment of the demand gap. I believe that the number might embrace some of the double counting as I mentioned, because parents are so nervous about their kids' education and might be registering with more than one, two or even three schools. So for that one, we need to make more accurate assessment of the number of seats in the gap.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, November 5, 2012
Issued at HKT 18:18