International Forum on Kindergarten Education held today

The following is issued on behalf of the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education:

     Education is a long-term commitment and the current-term Government has promised to take practicable steps to provide free kindergarten education, the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, said today (October 24) at the International Forum on Kindergarten Education in Hong Kong.

     Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Forum, Mr Ng noted that the Government had set up the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education (the Committee) this April and five sub-committees to comprehensively review different issues concerning free kindergarten education, so as to make practicable recommendations.

     He said, "Under the effective and proactive leadership of the Committee Chairperson, Dr Moses Cheng, the Committee and the various sub-committees are now looking into these related issues. We are confident that the Committee can complete this important task within two years."

     Mr Ng described the International Forum hosted by the Committee today as a platform for studying Hong Kong's kindergarten education from an international perspective, and to exchange views on its sustainable development.

     On the recent concerns about the kindergarten admission arrangements and the supply and demand of kindergarten places in certain areas, Mr Ng said that according to the projected data available to the Education Bureau, the supply of kindergarten places in various districts in Hong Kong is adequate.

     He added that even in North District where the situation is a bit tight, the supply and demand is more or less balanced.

     "But we understand the concerns of parents and members of the community. In fact, the Education Bureau has the responsibility to play a monitoring role. We have therefore drawn up some special measures after discussions with the kindergarten sector.

     "With the co-operation of the sector, relevant procedures have been enhanced and we will request the kindergartens in the district to provide more places for use in case of need," he said.

     Also speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Moses Cheng said he believes that the experts' opinions will assist the Committee in formulating recommendations for the practicable implementation of free kindergarten education in the context of 15-year free education.

     He also said the talks will raise awareness among stakeholders about international good practices in early childhood education, and provide insights on how these good practices are applicable in the local context.

     The Dean of the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong, Professor Stephen Andrews said, "Kindergarten education is one of the burning issues in Hong Kong. This timely and important event will be a significant milestone in our community's efforts to address the challenges and opportunities in providing kindergarten education for all."

     Under the theme "Investing Early and Wisely", today's forum was organised by the Committee, with the support from the Education Bureau and the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong.

     Five overseas experts on early childhood education from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Korea and Singapore, as well as three local academics shared with participants their valuable insights and experiences regarding kindergarten education from different perspectives.

Ends/Thursday, October 24, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:25