Opening remarks by SED at LegCo Finance Committee special meeting
Education is the key to nurturing talent, and the expenditure on education is the most meaningful investment for the future. The 20th National Congress has highlighted the strategy of "invigorating the country through science and education and developing a strong workforce for the modernisation drive". The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government should, given the opportunities brought about by the latest development of the country, make development plans for education from an overall and long-term perspective, and build on our unique status and advantages under "one country, two systems" to nurture quality talents. The Government attaches great importance to education and will, along with the broad direction of invigorating the country through science and education, keep on devoting resources to further enhance the quality of education and strengthen our education system on three fronts: unleashing the potential of students, improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning, and creating strong impetus for growth. The estimated total expenditure on education in the 2023-24 financial year is $114.7 billion. Major initiatives include stepping up the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education, enhancing the professional development of teachers, vocational and professional education and training (VPET) and post-secondary education, strengthening national education, as well as enhancing the education system, etc. Of this, the recurrent education expenditure increases by $6.3 billion to $104.0 billion, accounting for 18.6 per cent of the estimated total government recurrent expenditure. The recurrent expenditure on education has, over the past 10 years (i.e. from 2014-15 to 2023-24 financial years), increased by 53 per cent with an average growth rate of about 4.9 per cent per annum. This demonstrates the Government's long-term commitment to investment in education.
By providing quality kindergarten, primary, secondary and special education, and diversified post-secondary education, the Education Bureau (EDB) caters for the learning needs of students at different stages and helps them become lifelong learners who are virtuous and able, with knowledge and insights, a sense of responsibility, a global perspective, positive values and attitudes, love for the country and the city, as well as being ready for future challenges and opportunities. Since 2017-18 financial year, a total of over $15.7 billion additional recurrent expenditure has been allocated to enhance the quality of education.
In the 2023-24 financial year, we keep on taking forward a number of measures to continuously enhance the education system. Measures for VPET and higher education include:
(a) Through the strategy of fostering industry-institution collaboration and diversified development, we will actively promote the development of VPET. As a pathway parallel to conventional academic education, VPET provides diversified pathways for young people with different aspirations and abilities, with a view to nurturing talent required for the development of Hong Kong.
(b) Starting from the 2023/24 academic year, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) will launch a two-year pilot project for secondary schools, offering an early opportunity for senior secondary school students to pursue VPET-related programmes embedded in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) curriculum and be awarded a VPET Diploma at Qualifications Framework Level 3, alongside the HKDSE qualification, upon graduation. The pilot project can enable students to gain an early exposure to VPET and explore their interests, with a view to broadening their VPET articulation pathways. The VTC will review the effectiveness of the project in two years' time.
(c) To take forward the initiatives in the 2022 Policy Address, we will expand the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors (SSSDP) to cover top-up degree programmes, and increase in phases the numbers of subsidised places (3 000 per cohort) subject to the progress of the review of the Post Secondary Colleges Ordinance (Cap. 320), as well as rationalise the implementation details of the SSSDP and the Non-means-tested Subsidy Scheme for Self-financing Undergraduate Studies in Hong Kong to benefit students from different backgrounds, with effect from the 2023/24 academic year.
(d) We will launch the Diploma of Applied Education Programme on a regular basis in the 2023/24 academic year in place of the existing Diploma Yi Jin Programme, in order to continue to provide an alternative pathway for Secondary Six school leavers as well as adult learners to obtain a formal qualification for the purposes of employment and further study; and introduce the Learning Management System to support the enhancements to the teaching and learning of the programme.
(e) We will continue to review the implementation of the Pilot Project on the Development of Applied Degree Programmes and will launch the second batch of applied degree programmes under the Pilot Project, so as to review and foster the development of applied degrees in Hong Kong, and to further enhance the VPET progression pathway at the post-secondary education level. We will focus on industries with keen manpower demand and select programmes with stronger industry elements, and will accord priority to those industries not covered by the existing applied degree programmes.
(f) To take forward the initiatives in the 2022 Policy Address, we will gradually increase the number of research postgraduate places for the University Grants Committee-funded universities from the existing 5 595 to 7 200 in the 2024/25 academic year.
For primary and secondary education, the EDB will make an additional injection of $600 million into the Gifted Education Fund to enhance the support to the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education and promote more and wider activities for gifted students. We will also further promote Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics education in primary and secondary schools. The EDB will continue to roll out small class teaching (SCT) in public sector primary schools, further to the plan to implement SCT at 31 schools from the 2023/24 and 2024/25 school years, the EDB will arrange to implement SCT at seven additional schools from the 2024/25 school year. The percentage of public sector primary schools implementing SCT would increase to over 90 per cent by then, one year ahead of the schedule mentioned in the 2022 Policy Address. We will also launch the Business-School Partnership Programme 2.0 with more business partners covering more industries to widen students' exposure and enhance life planning.
For kindergarten (KG) education, we have progressively implemented the support measures in the 2022 Policy Address, which include provisions to all KGs joining the Kindergarten Education Scheme (the Scheme) in March 2023, comprising about $58 million as the Grant for Promotion of Chinese Art and Culture, about $57 million as the "Smart Kindergarten" Grant, and about $28 million to assist KGs' creation of "Healthy Schools", etc. With effect from the 2023/24 school year, we have simplified the application procedures for joining the Scheme and will provide a subsidy to facilitate the organisation of experiential learning activities outside classrooms for students. We will also introduce an additional provision to KGs for employment of supply teachers as temporary relief due to illness.
For parent education, the EDB will provide funding of around $100 million to assist primary schools to kick-start structured programmes to tie in with the curriculum framework on parent education, with a view to strengthening parent education.
In addition, the Government will pay the examination fees for school candidates sitting for the 2024 HKDSE Examination. The estimated number of beneficiaries is 43 200 school candidates.
In conclusion, we will continue to make good use of education resources to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning, unleash the potential of students, and strengthen the strong impetus of growth in Hong Kong. Mr Chairman, my colleagues and I will be happy to answer further questions from Members. Thank you.
Ends/Monday, April 17, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:43
Issued at HKT 12:43