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Opening remarks by SED at press conference on support for youth initiatives in 2014 Policy Address (with photo/video)

     Following are the main points of the opening remarks by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, at the press conference on support for youth initiatives in the 2014 Policy Address today (January 16):

     Without abundant natural resources in Hong Kong, our key to success is talents. In this connection, the Government has all along attached great importance to education and the nurturing of the next generation, and devoted substantial resources to the relevant policy areas. As a result of the concerted effort of the education sector in implementing education reform, the education standard of Hong Kong has steadily risen. In recent years, Hong Kong was ranked very high in various education studies and assessments worldwide.

     However, in the face of a fast changing world, we must take a step forward. From kindergartens to schools and from post-secondary education to continuing learning, we must provide timely and proper resources in accordance with different stages to support the next generation so that young people can not only learn successfully but also apply what they have learnt.

     Here the Secretary for Home Affairs and I will introduce a series of new measures on support for the youth:

Kindergarten Education

* The Education Bureau (EDB) will increase the voucher value of the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) by $2,500 per year in the 2014/15 and 2015/16 school years to benefit about 140 000 to 150 000 students, whereas the fee thresholds will also be adjusted upward. The fee remission ceiling under the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme will be lifted from the weighted average fees of PEVS kindergartens to the 75th percentile of the school fees of the respective kindergartens.

School Education

* With effect from the 2014/15 school year, the EDB will provide public sector primary schools with a recurrent cash grant equivalent to the salary of a Clerical Assistant for employment of staff to cope with the additional administration and clerical work in implementing education and poverty alleviation initiatives.

* As for secondary schools, the EDB will strengthen the support for life planning and career guidance services. The Bureau will expand its Career Guidance Team and provide each public sector school operating senior secondary education levels with a recurrent grant equivalent to the mid-point salary of a graduate teacher to strengthen such service elements. The EDB will also allocate additional resources to non-governmental organisations to enhance life planning and career guidance services for secondary students and promote the Business-School Partnership Programme.

* The Government will provide Wi-Fi facilities for all public sector schools and schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme to enhance learning effectiveness through the use of mobile computing devices.

* The Government will provide enhanced support for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students to learn the Chinese language. Some 15 000 NCS students will benefit from the initiative directly. From the 2014/15 school year, the EDB will provide primary and secondary schools with the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework and supporting teaching materials, and enhanced funding support with an increase of about 200 per cent for schools to implement the new learning framework. The Bureau will step up school-based professional support to assist schools in developing school-based curriculum and teaching materials, and promoting the professional development of Chinese language teachers. It will also provide an Applied Learning (Chinese Language) subject at senior secondary levels which will be pegged at Qualifications Framework (QF) Levels 1-3, and develop Vocational Chinese Language Courses as recognised under the QF to assist NCS school leavers.

* The EDB will enhance the support for students with special educational needs (SEN), including the increase of the Learning Support Grant by 30 per cent in the 2014/15 school year so that the schools will receive an annual subsidy of $13,000 or $26,000 for each SEN student, depending on the tier of support required, as well as the provision of additional teacher assistants for special schools and an additional grant for boarding sections for better care for students.

Post-secondary Education

* The EDB will provide more higher education opportunities for young people. From the 2015/16 school year, the Bureau will progressively increase the annual intake of senior-year undergraduate places in the University Grants Committee-funded institutions from 4 000 to 5 000 per annum.

* The Government will work on a new subsidy scheme to subsidise up to 1 000 students per cohort to pursue self-financing undergraduate programmes in selected disciplines to meet Hong Kong's manpower needs. The three cohorts of students in the 2015/16 to 2017/18 academic years will benefit from the scheme.

* The EDB will introduce a new scholarship scheme in 2015/16 to support up to 100 outstanding students per cohort to study in renowned universities outside Hong Kong. All awardees will receive a non-means-tested scholarship up to $250,000 per annum and financially needy students may receive an additional bursary up to $200,000 per annum. Three cohorts of students will benefit from the scheme.

* The EDB will roll out the Mainland University Study Subsidy Scheme in 2014/15 so that needy students pursuing studies under the Scheme for the Admission of Hong Kong Students to Mainland Higher Education Institutions may receive a means-tested bursary of up to $15,000 per year. The scheme will be tried for three cohorts of students without a quota.

* In addition, the Government will ensure that no student will be denied the opportunity to fully experience diversified post-secondary student life due to a lack of means. The EDB recommends that from the 2014/15 school year, a means-tested subsidy of up to $15,000 be provided for needy students pursuing full-time locally accredited undergraduate degree or sub-degree programmes and receiving student financial assistance to participate in exchange programmes outside Hong Kong. This initiative will benefit around 9 800 post-secondary students per year. The EDB will invite the Community Care Fund to consider providing a hostel subsidy for needy undergraduate students and increasing the academic expenses grant for needy students pursuing eligible self-financing post-secondary programmes. The Bureau will also regularise a measure to give student loan borrowers an option to start repaying their student loans one year after completion of their studies, benefiting about 23 000 student loan borrowers each year.

Vocational Education

* The Government recommends that a Task Force on Vocational Education be set up to map out the strategy for promoting vocational education and the Vocational Training Council (VTC) be invited to draw up a strategic development plan for its campuses in order to enhance synergy and provide state-of-the-art facilities which are pivotal to enhancing the image and quality of vocational education.

* The VTC will launch a pilot training and support scheme for industries with keen demand for labour. The students concerned will be offered an allowance and be employed upon their graduation with clear career progression. The scheme is expected to benefit 2 000 students.

* The EDB will provide funding support for the VTC to offer industrial attachment to all students of its higher diploma programmes and some of the students pursing Diploma in Vocational Education programmes. This initiative will benefit over 9 000 students.

Qualifications Framework

* The EDB will establish a fund of $1 billion and use its investment income to provide long-term support for the sustainable development and implementation of the Hong Kong QF, benefiting various stakeholders such as students, practitioners, employers, education and training providers and quality assurance bodies.

     Through the above-mentioned initiatives, we will be able to nurture more young people with diversified skills and international horizons. A stronger pool of talents can help Hong Kong maintain its competitiveness in the world in the long run.

Ends/Thursday, January 16, 2014
Issued at HKT 20:00


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