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LCQ17: The Continuing Education Fund
     Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (November 23):
     The Government set up the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) in 2002. Upon completion of a course on the "Reimbursable Course List" (the List), a CEF applicant may be reimbursed 80 per cent of the course fee, subject to a lifetime maximum subsidy of $10,000 per person (subsidy ceiling). It has been reported that the results of a survey show that only 27.4 per cent of Hong Kong people are pursuing continuing education, a percentage lower than those of other countries and places. Some members of the public have pointed out that as the scope of the courses covered by the List is not comprehensive and the subsidy ceiling is too low, CEF is ineffective in encouraging members of the public to pursue continuing education. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) since CEF's establishment, of (i) the annual numbers and successful rates in respect of the applications for fee reimbursement, (ii) the average amount of subsidy for each successful application, and (iii) the number to-date of people to whom the cumulative amount of subsidies granted has reached the subsidy ceiling;

(2) whether it will raise the subsidy ceiling for CEF so as to encourage more working people to pursue continuing education; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) of the criteria currently adopted for deciding whether or not to include certain types of courses in CEF's scope for subsidies; whether the Government will consider including driving courses and courses on ethnic minority languages (including Urdu, Tagalog, Indonesian, Thai and Nepali) on the List; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) whether the Government will increase the flexibility of the application procedure for CEF, such as relaxing the existing requirement that an application must be lodged before the commencement of a course; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Government attaches importance to the continuing education of Hong Kong residents and set up the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) in June 2002. Hong Kong residents aged between 18 and 65 who have successfully opened CEF accounts and completed CEF reimbursable courses (CEF courses) may apply for reimbursement of 80 per cent of the course fees, subject to a ceiling of $10,000. When CEF was launched in 2002, it received Government financial injection of $5 billion. With a further Government financial injection of $1.2 billion in 2009, the total funding provision for CEF was increased to $6.2 billion.

     My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Jeffrey Lam is as follows:
(1) The numbers of claims for reimbursement received, success rates and the average amounts of reimbursement per successful claim since the establishment of CEF in 2002 are tabulated as follows:
Year Number
of claims for reimbursement
Success rate
Average amount of reimbursement per successful claim ($) [Note]
2002-03   1 879 98 5,074
2003-04 21 570 99 5,672
2004-05 47 981 99 6,344
2005-06 69 674 99 6,728
2006-07 73 138 99 6,927
2007-08 65 637 99 7,337
2008-09 57 857 97 6,951
2009-10 52 972 99 6,554
2010-11 45 136 99 7,017
2011-12 34 850 99 7,212
2012-13 29 283 99 7,352
2013-14 26 007 99 7,618
2014-15 22 570 99 7,762
2015-16 20 539 99 7,577
(up to October 31, 2016)
11 949 99 7,849

Note: From the establishment of CEF to November 30, 2007, each applicant who had successfully opened a CEF account might submit a maximum of two claims for reimbursement within two years. Since December 1, 2007, each applicant who has successfully opened a CEF account may submit a maximum of four claims for reimbursement within four years. The average amount of reimbursement per claim is based on the amount of each claim for CEF submitted by an account holder.

     Since the establishment of CEF in 2002 (up to October 31, 2016), a total of 272 486 applicants have claimed the maximum subsidy of $10,000, accounting for 42.6 per cent of the total number of holders (around 638 500) whose CEF accounts were closed (i.e. the validity period of account has expired or the maximum subsidy was claimed).
(2) At present, there are nearly 8 000 CEF courses offered by around 300 course providers. The fees of around 70 per cent of these courses fall below $10,000. As set out in part (1) above, more than half of CEF account holders did not use up the subsidy of $10,000. We shall keep the subsidy ceiling under review.
(3) At present, training courses under eight specified domains (i.e. Business Services, Financial Services, Logistics, Tourism, Creative Industries, Design, Languages, and Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Skills for the Workplace) can be registered as CEF courses by application, subject to the assessment by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications and approval by the Labour and Welfare Bureau. Besides, courses designed in accordance with the Specification of Competency Standards (SCSs) drawn up by the respective Industry Training Advisory Committees under the Qualifications Framework of the Education Bureau and registered as SCS-based courses under the Qualifications Register may also apply for registration under CEF.
     At present the CEF language courses covers English, written Chinese, Putonghua, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Italian, Russian and sign language. We will consider and consult the relevant stakeholders on the suggestion of including ethnic minority languages and driving courses as CEF courses.
(4) Under the existing application procedure for CEF, after an applicant has enrolled in a CEF course and before the course commences, the applicant has to submit the application (together with proof of course enrolment and fee payment) for opening an account. We will consider and consult relevant stakeholders to explore if there is room for relaxing this requirement.
Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:35
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