Transcript of remarks by SED

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, at a media session after attending a meeting today (January 23) between the Chairman of the Committee on Home-School Co-operation (CHSC), Mr Henry Tong, and representatives from District Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations and the primary education sector:

Reporter: Secretary, basically you are saying that there is no option for schools to opt out even if they have unsolvable troubles and difficulties. And there have been so many questionnaires and so many studies saying that even though some 50 schools participated in the revamped version, they are still over-drilled, the problems are not solved. How would you respond to these criticisms?

Secretary for Education: Thank you for the question. I would respond in two different dimensions. Point one, the over-drilling of school homework. Do not equate that together with TSA or TSA equivalent or the new 2017 P3 Basic Competency Assessment Research Study. They are two different things. So, first of all, make sure we separate the two. And all the principals of schools, particularly the 50 schools participating, verified that scientifically already. Secondly, relative to whether a school has the option, as I said, this is part of the daily routine of teaching and learning. Therefore, as far as schools are concerned, we are extending the invitation to all to participate. I genuinely believe if there is really such a situation of a school having a difficulty, I would be more than happy to have my colleagues to discuss with them to see how we are going to help. So that would be the response. I would not dictate one way or the other the potential result of it, but let's do it, address it in a professional way. Thank you.

Reporter: What measures will be taken against individual schools if they are found out to continue to drill their students? Is there a monitoring system or countering mechanism in place?

Secretary for Education: Thank you. Very good question. First of all, as I mentioned before, on October 30, 2015, I did send out a memorandum to all primary schools, copied to their school management committees (SMCs), suggesting that we should try very hard to have an annual, very transparent school homework policy, to be discussed at the SMC level every year and uploaded to all the websites of the school so that parents, students, teachers, principals and (school) sponsoring bodies are all aware of the position of that. Last week I visited one primary school randomly. And actually they did it, with a new annual transparent school (homework) policy as an example. I did talk to the parents of that school randomly on the spot, and they actually had a lot of knowledge of it. This is one of the good practices to have the school recognising it as a team together. So this is the first one. Second one: if, as I said, there is any particular situation or incident of over-drilling, for example, I believe a couple of things would happen. First of all, let's trust our parents. They will lodge a complaint. Let's trust our current school ecology. The teachers and principals will address it right away.

     Let me just track back a little bit. One Saturday morning there was a public hearing organised by the Education Panel. Some of you might remember, four cases were raised on the spot: two primary school students and two kindergarten students. It was raised during that occasion. I said at the meeting, "I am going to follow up on that personally." And I did. Let me update you on the result of it. It is about over-drilling, right? First, one of the parents - I am referring to the kindergarten student having faced up to the problem of over-drilling. We followed up the case and the parent responded positively, and we discussed it and my colleagues worked together with the school, and they explained and demonstrated furthermore on the subject. Therefore the parent was actually satisfied, according to my understanding. So that is the communication part. (As for) the other three, we did manage to contact the parents and they declined our follow-up. So I have got to be very careful with the situation that we need to be working on evidence-based and be factual. If you have a problem, if you really want us to follow up, you should co-operate with us and we will follow up. So that is part two, as to follow up. If I really have the situation in the first place as I mentioned in the first incident, schools need to follow up on that one first. If continuously we see that one, we would be going to the SMC. But trust me, principals and teachers and parents all together with students, they will be able to manage. Thank you.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, January 23, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:12