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LCQ11: Pre-primary education

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (April 16):


     It has been reported that some education experts in the United Kingdom have pointed out that children aged under six should not pursue any formal learning activities but should develop their social skills and learn to control their emotions through a lot of games, because too much emphasis on knowledge construction may not be conducive to their long-term development and may even hamper their healthy development. It has also been reported that Germany has, by way of legislation, prohibited pre-primary education so as to prevent children's brain from becoming computer hard disks, thus leaving more room for imagination and enabling natural growth for children's brain, as well as nurturing their imagination. Yet, some principals have relayed to me that the enrolment rate of Hong Kong kindergartens is as high as 103% because quite a number of parents, in their bid to boost their young children to "win at the starting line", arrange the children to attend not only various interest classes but also both morning and afternoon sessions at two kindergartens concurrently, hoping that the children will achieve excellent academic results and obtain more certificates and awards in extra-curricular activities, thereby increasing their chances of being admitted by their favourite primary schools in future. As a result, the daily schedules of children during their pre-primary education stage are so closely packed that they hardly have any breathing space. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it will make reference to overseas practices and formulate guidelines to require that primary schools, when admitting Primary One students, must not take into consideration applicants' certificates or awards in extra-curricular learning activities and the number of such certificates or awards should not be taken as a selection criterion, so as to avoid parents boosting their children during the pre-primary education stage, which may adversely affect their study and growth; if it will, of the details and implementation timetable; if it will not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether it has compiled statistics on the current number of children across the territory who are attending two kindergartens concurrently; if it has, of the number of such children, together with a breakdown in table form by the District Council (DC) districts in which the children reside; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of children attending pre-nursery classes in Hong Kong in the past five years; if it has, of the number of such children, together with a breakdown in table form by the DC districts in which the children reside; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) whether it has compiled statistics on the monthly expenditure of Hong Kong families on children's studies (including school tuition fees and expenses on extra-curricular learning and other activities) in the past five years; if it has, of the average amount of expenditure and its percentage in the average monthly family expenses, together with a breakdown by learning stage (including pre-school, kindergarten and primary stages); if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) whether it has collaborated with academic institutions in conducting longitudinal study to compare the differences in learning abilities at various developmental stages in future between children who learn through memorising a lot of information and those who learn purely through play before they are six years old; if it has, of the study results; if not, the reasons for that?



(1) The Education Bureau (EDB) has implemented the Primary One Admission (POA) System since the 1982/83 school year with a view to allocating public sector primary one places in an orderly manner so as to prevent using children's ability as an admission criterion and reduce the incentive for drilling children in early childhood education. All schools, including private primary schools, are not allowed to select applicant children on the basis of their academic results, including other certificates and awards from extra-curricular learning activities.

     The POA System is divided into two stages, namely the Discretionary Places Admission stage and the Central Allocation stage. At the Discretionary Places Admission stage, if a school is not oversubscribed for its discretionary places, it should accept all the applicant children. If it is oversubscribed, it should admit applicant children according to an objective Points System which does not consider any academic results (including other certificates and awards from extra-curricular learning activities). At the Central Allocation stage, places are allocated based primarily on parents' prioritised choices through a computer programme.

(2) The EDB does not collect data about the number of children attending two kindergartens concurrently and hence cannot provide the required information.

(3) As activities offered by classes for pre-nursery children (e.g. playgroups aiming at fostering childrenˇ¦s mental development or developing their physical and social skills) do not fall under the Education Ordinance, the EDB does not have the statistics about pre-nursery classes as mentioned in the question.

(4) According to the five-yearly Household Expenditure Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department from 2009 to 2010, the average monthly household expenditure in education which included purchase of textbooks, tuition fees and other educational charges for 2009/10 is set out in the Annex for reference. Further breakdowns in terms of different education stages are not available.

(5) The Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum (2006) issued by the Curriculum Development Council aims at developing, for young children aged from two to six, a curriculum framework which is focused on nurturing children to attain all-round development in the domains of ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics, as well as stimulating children's interest in learning and cultivating in them positive learning attitudes, in order to lay the foundation for their future learning. The core of the framework is the four developmental objectives for young children, namely "Physical Development", "Cognitive and Language Development", "Affective and Social Development" and "Aesthetic Development". These objectives need to be achieved through six learning areas, which are "Physical Fitness and Health", "Language", "Early Mathematics", "Science and Technology", "Self and Society" and "Arts". It should be noted that, at this stage, young children's knowledge acquisition involves mainly the development of basic concepts, rather than the study of specific subjects. Pre-primary institutions should adopt the following principles for designing the curriculum: (a) Be child-centred - meeting children's developmental needs and abilities and relating to children's experiences and interests; (b) Be comprehensive and well-balanced - catering for the four developmental objectives for young children and fostering their knowledge, skills and attitudes in different learning areas; and (c) Adopt play as a learning strategy - incorporating play activities into different learning areas and adopting an integrated approach which enables young children to learn in a self-motivated, committed, pleasurable, relaxing and effective manner.

     According to the guiding principles set out in paragraph 4.2 of the Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum (2006), the EDB firmly believes that "no matter which learning and teaching strategy is adopted, play is an indispensable and important tool for facilitating children's learning" and "play is also considered to be the best activity for promoting children's physical and mental development". Excessive rote-learning which will only dampen children's interest in learning and hinder their development is not an effective learning method. Hence, we consider it unnecessary to conduct the comparison study in question.

Ends/Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:20


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