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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 radio programme this morning (February 26):

Reporter: You have just said during the programme that you are planning to retire. How would you evaluate your performance as the education chief, especially in light of so much criticism? And also a second question, about student suicide: do you still stand by the Government's position that it is not related to stress from schoolwork?

Secretary for Education: The Government never said that the student suicide cases had nothing to do with education, we never said that. We said that this was an important subject, a very complicated subject with a variety of reasons and a combination of reasons. For that reason, at least from the education perspective we will address it. At the same time we will address it together with other professions and bureaux. That was what we said. I just clarified that point.

     Coming back here in terms of my announcement of my official intention to retire. Indeed my whole commitment to these five years’ Secretary for Education's mission has been made since July 1, 2012. My whole commitment is basically focusing on the five years. There are still a lot of things I need to address before end of June this year, and that is what I am focusing on right now. If you look back for an evaluation of my performance, I will leave to whoever the stakeholder groups are to address it because somebody needs to give you feedback. However, from my own perspective, I have been trying to work on a few things. One is the whole commitment made in the election manifesto of the current Chief Executive that made very clear the various aspects of education to be achieved. On that particular account, an example is Free Quality Kindergarten Education. We made it. We made it.

     The whole sector has been telling me that throughout the whole last 10, 20, 30 years they had been trying to make it happen, and we said, "Let’s do it together". And then with everybody participating and supporting, including my colleagues together, the resources required being given, we are now making it happen. So this is an example.

     There are a lot of new initiatives. We believe that education is something in which whatever you do, you will only be able to see the effect several years later. However, if you do not do it now, you will not notice it today, but then you will notice it a few years later and at that time, you may not be able to recover. For that reason, looking back at the last five years, we had a lot of initiatives being created, so to speak, together with the sector, with teachers, with principals and with professional bodies, like career and life planning education. That is for the future of all students, and we would like them to be able to manage it earlier in the cycle during their secondary school education rather than after getting into the universities. So the whole career and life planning education is one example. The other one is the enhancement of opportunities for going into university education. As I said, 10 or 15 years ago people complained about Hong Kong's lacking opportunities for secondary school leavers for university dream. Today we hit it - already 46 per cent. And then I’m proudly presenting it together with the sector, not just the Secretary for Education. Not only that. (According to) this year's Policy Address, as well as the Appropriation Bill, next year we are going to add 3 000 more places to be subsidised for specific professions and specific human resources areas. This is an additional one. So this is one example of offering more opportunities for our students.

     As for some of the old universal problems, like teachers' loading, if you look at the teacher-student ratio, we have made quite a number of improvements, from 19.1 to 14.6 for primary schools, and then for secondary schools, we actually have been moving today to 12.4 - one to 12.4. That is quite a lot of improvement.

     Not only that, in these five years, in terms of resources for the education sector, despite the drop in the student population, we have been able to enhance it from $60.4 billion in recurrent expenses in 2012 to become $78.6 billion. It is quite an achievement, despite a lot of competing claims from welfare services and medical services. That is another one. So for old problems, we addressed them upfront, and for new positions and new initiatives, we have been addressing them. On top of that, some of the stabilisation of the sector; we have seen the number of secondary school students drop, and then the threatened closure of secondary schools. We will not make the closure of schools happen.      

 (Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Sunday, February 26, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:28
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