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Transcript of remarks by SED

Following is a transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, at a media session today (November 9):

     I will just give a very short brief about the content of the meeting just taken place a while ago. First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise and to thank all the principal and teacher representatives coming over this morning for this very important meeting.

     It is important to recognise it. First, we are faced with a very important but short-term problem that the S1 (Secondary one) student population will drop for the next few years. But then the trend will revert and eventually, a few years later, the population will be even higher and bigger than today's. So we have a short-term problem to face and to deal with altogether.

     Second, I would like to thank particularly the Chief Secretary for coming over and attending the meeting upon my invitation. It is important that the principals have sent an invitation letter and a letter of request for meeting the Chief Executive. Given all the priorities and so on, we do not want to miss this opportunity for communication.  That's why I invited and am very pleased that the Chief Secretary has agreed and turned up for this morning's meeting.

     Here I would like to make a very special announcement recognising our three major focuses of this short-term problem. These are, to protect and support the schools, to protect and support the teachers, and to protect and support the educational capacity of Hong Kong. I've been talking a lot already about how to protect the schools, including bringing down the number of the class size and so on. I would like to mention a bit more in terms of how we are going to deal with protecting and preserving the capacity of teachers.

     I am very pleased that in order to stabilise the school sector, in particular the teaching force, I hereby announce that we are going to extend the transitional period for surplus teachers from the current practice of one year to three years in order to allow stability in the teaching force. We hope that this particular provision will give time for teachers to be able to stabilise and be at ease, and to focus on the quality of teaching and education. My goal is that not a single teacher holding a permanent post will be laid off as a result of the drop of the S1 student population. That is something I really want to emphasise. I am very glad to report that this particular announcement received overwhelming support from people who were attending the meeting this morning.

     I must emphasise that the problem is short-term. Therefore we would like, in particular for teachers, to set aside extra time for this particular few years of opportunities to attend more training and to address some of the work they would not have been able to do due to very heavy workload. I think this is important. For students with special educational needs, they (teachers) will be able to set aside more time in order to raise the quality of teaching.  

     There are a number of other items which have been discussed today, in particular talking about how to bring down the size of S1 classes. Realising the recommendations and concerns of the principals, we agreed that we need to share more intensively some of the forecasting information, like we announced earlier that we are going to bring down the class size and numbers and so on. Therefore we anticipate, with this provision, that less than five schools will be assigned less than 26 students, and then we would allow (the schools) to have flexibility. With 76 students assigned, we will give them four classes to maintain. With 51 students they will still be able to run three classes.

     Other than that, some principals this morning expressed concern about the difference in calculation and forecasting.  In order to ease their minds, I would urge the working group, comprising members from both the principal groups as well as the EDB (Education Bureau), to work closer together in order to share more information and work out more specific measures. We are very serious and sincere in giving consideration to the idea of reducing class size. This is something we need to be careful with. In the next week or two, we will continue to consult all the major stakeholders, like parents and others, in order to ensure all the concerns have been captured before finalising our position and policy.

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

Ends/Friday, November 9, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:27


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