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LCQ18: Duty travels outside Hong Kong undertaken by the Secretary for Education

     Following is a question by the Hon Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):


     According to clauses 6.3 and 6.4 of the Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System (the Code), principal officials and the Director of the Chief Executive's Office (DCEO) shall, when travelling on duty outside Hong Kong (duty travel), travel on first class at government expense, and shall be granted a subsistence allowance for the period of the journey at the same rate and manner as those applicable to the highest-ranking civil servants. Clause 6.8 of the Code also provides that if a flight award is not expected to be used for subsequent duty travel before the expiry date of the award, the politically appointed official may seek approval from the Chief Executive (CE) to use the award for private purposes. Regarding the situation where the incumbent Secretary for Education (the Secretary) undertakes duty travels, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of duty travels made by the Secretary since his assumption of office, as well as the following in respect of each duty travel (set out in a table): (i) the date, (ii) the destination, (iii) the purpose and main itinerary, (iv) the number of accompanying officials, (v) the number of accompanying non-official personnel, (vi) flight mileage awards earned, (vii) the class of hotel accommodation, (viii) accomplishments and (ix) total expenditure incurred;

(2) of the total mileage awards for which the Secretary has been given approval under the Code to use for his private purposes since his assumption of office, and the percentage of this number in the total mileage awards earned by the Secretary from duty travels;

(3) how the number and total expenditure of duty travels undertaken by the Secretary compare with those of CE, other principal officials and DCEO, and how he ranks among them;

(4) of the details of the duty travels scheduled to be undertaken by the Secretary, including (i) the date, (ii) the destination, (iii) the purpose and main itinerary, and (iv) the expected accomplishments of each duty travel (set out in a table); and

(5) whether it has assessed how the accomplishments/expected accomplishments of the various duty travels undertaken and scheduled to be undertaken by the Secretary can help the authorities solve the various existing education problems in Hong Kong; if it has made such an assessment, of the outcome?



     In the light of the latest educational developments and priorities of Hong Kong, the Secretary of Education (SED) has to make duty visits to other countries/places in order to learn from their successful experience for us to formulate new policies in an efficient and effective manner. To consolidate Hong Kong's role as a regional education hub, we have to strengthen our ties in education with other places to facilitate exchange of talents. Following the successful launch of the New Senior Secondary academic structure two years ago, the SED has to make duty visits overseas to promote the international recognition of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education in order to facilitate local students' pursuit of further studies abroad.

     Furthermore, the SED is invited from time to time to attend international education forums and seminars held in various countries/places to exchange views on education policy, discuss the future developments in education policy/teaching profession, and explore possible cooperation opportunities with education officials as well as educators from around the world. The SED has also led delegations of the education sector and students for overseas visits in his official capacity from time to time in support of their overseas activities and to open up for them more opportunities for cooperation. During these visits, the SED will take the opportunity to meet students and community members from Hong Kong to brief them on Hong Kong's latest developments in education and to understand their needs.

     We have provided information about the incumbent SED's duty visits outside Hong Kong on a number of occasions in response to questions from special meetings of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council and from the media. The reply to the five-part question is as follows:

(1) and (5) Details of duty visits outside Hong Kong by the incumbent SED from July 1, 2012 when he assumed office to December 7, 2014 are tabulated at Annex.

     Duty visits outside Hong Kong by the SED and his entourage are in strict compliance with the relevant Government requirements and have delivered results. Through in-depth exchanges with local education officers, academics and the education sector, we have gained better understanding of the good practices and valuable experience of other places, which have served as a useful source of reference when formulating major education policies, such as the 15-year free education, vocational education and e-learning, in recent years. On the other hand, the SED has also showcased internationally Hong Kong's achievements in education, broadened and strengthened international ties and cooperation, and succeeded in bringing in some education experts to Hong Kong. For example, the SED's visit to Indonesia in December last year succeeded in restarting the process of formalising the cooperation agreement between the two places; the several visits in respect of 15-year free education enabled us to successfully invite overseas educational experts to attend an international forum on kindergarten education we organised. Duty visits to the Mainland also serve to enhance cooperation in education. For example, the SED's visits to Shenzhen had led to the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Shenzhen authorities under which the admission eligibility of the Scheme of Classes for Hong Kong Children was extended to cover children whose parents were both non-Hong Kong permanent residents so that these children could choose to pursue their studies in Shenzhen and hence relieve Hong Kong's pressure in handling cross-boundary students; the SED's visits to Ningbo and Hangzhou contributed directly to the forming of several pairs of sister schools between the Mainland and Hong Kong. Moreover, in almost all his duty visits outside Hong Kong, the SED has had extensive exchanges with and listened to the views of students from Hong Kong, which helps ensure that the Mainland University Study Subsidy Scheme and the Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme launched in the year best meet the needs of the students.

(2) The SED has never travelled on first class in his duty visits nor used flight mileage awards for his private purposes since assumption of office.

(3) Depending on their different portfolios, the Chief Executive and other principal officials have different needs and modes for making duty visits. We have not made any comparison on duty visits among different officials.

(4) As regards scheduled duty visits, the SED will visit Malaysia for two days in January 2015 to exchange views on education policy and cooperation with Malaysian education officials and agencies, and seek to sign a memorandum on education cooperation with the Malaysia government. Opportunity will also be taken to promote Hong Kong as a regional education hub to students from member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Details of other duty visits of the SED in 2015 are not available at the moment.

Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:01


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