Boost­ing ex­pen­di­ture on ed­u­ca­tion a wise in­vest­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

It is a very wel­come, if long-ex­pected, move by Hong Kong’s new ad­min­is­tra­tion to in­ject an ad­di­tional HK$5 bil­lion in re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture into ed­u­ca­tion. Such a huge sum can cer­tainly fund many im­prove­ments and comes on top of the al­ready-hefty ed­u­ca­tion bud­get. Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor rightly points out that en­hanc­ing ed­u­ca­tion means we im­prove the knowl­edge and skills of the com­ing gen­er­a­tions of Hong Kong peo­ple, lead­ing to a bet­ter fu­ture. Who could pos­si­bly doubt that this is a very worth­while ob­jec­tive?

The com­ing HK$30,000 an­nual sub­sidy to sup­port lo­cal ter­tiary stu­dents who un­der­take self-funded cour­ses is wel­come. The pro­pos­als also in­clude of­fer­ing HK$5,000 a year to Hong Kong cit­i­zens at­tend­ing uni­ver­si­ties on the Chi­nese main­land. Per­haps it would be fairer to set the level of sub­sidy for them at HK$30,000 a year, too? Many thou­sands of uni­ver­sity stu­dents — and their sup­port­ing par­ents — would much ap­pre­ci­ate th­ese new ben­e­fits, which may also en­cour­age young­sters from poorer fam­i­lies to con­tinue longer in full-time ed­u­ca­tion.

While the raft of ed­u­ca­tional im­prove­ment mea­sures pro­posed do in­deed rep­re­sent con­crete im­prove­ments in many ar­eas, let us still be mind­ful of some as­pects of ed­u­ca­tion that re­main a cause for deep con­cern.

In this wealthy city, gov­ern­ment schools have need­lessly very large class sizes — that would more com­monly be ex­pected to be seen in poor de­vel­op­ing coun­tries; there are sim­ply too many pupils in each class. This lim­its the at­ten­tion given to each child by the teacher and thereby po­ten­tially hin­ders stu­dents’ full de­vel­op­ment, some­times pre­vent­ing them from reach­ing full po­ten­tial. The pro­pos­als do ad­dress this need, with the re­cruit­ment of sev­eral thou­sand ad­di­tional teach­ers — of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (1,000), for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion (840) and reg­u­lar teach­ers (2,350). How­ever, to greatly re­duce class sizes across the board — as is clearly re­quired — will need even more than that.

At uni­ver­sity level, too, tu­to­rial sizes are of­ten too large, with the same ef­fect as in our schools. Money would be needed to re­duce class sizes by half, much of it for the re­cruit­ment of many more lec­tur­ers. Uni­ver­sity stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ence is en­hanced if they do not com­mute to col­lege from the fam­ily home but in­stead (likely for the first time) dwell away, in uni­ver­sity-pro­vided ac­com­mo­da­tion. This would re­quire fund­ing for build­ing more uni­ver­sity hos­tels. Cam­pus liv­ing will, of it­self, help en­cour­age more par­tic­i­pa­tion in stu­dent so­cial and sport­ing so­ci­eties, adding to all-round de­vel­op­ment of the young­sters.

The fu­ture work­force of Hong Kong will need peo­ple who can think for them­selves, col­lab­o­rate with oth­ers and gen­er­ally be more ver­sa­tile in their aca­demic and so­cial life, and later in the work­place. It is well-noted that many of The writer has lec­tured at many uni­ver­si­ties around the World. He is also a vet­eran colum­nist and sup­porter of NGOs for the un­der­priv­i­leged.

our smart­phone-ad­dicted gen­er­a­tion are rather chal­lenged in their in­ter­per­sonal skills. This can be reme­died by of­fer­ing them more cam­pus ac­tiv­i­ties that help broader in­ter­ac­tion. The long-es­tab­lished gen­eral ap­proach at the school level of con­tin­u­ous drilling for spe­cific public ex­ams does not do enough to de­velop crit­i­cal re­view skills or in­de­pen­dent think­ing. That ap­proach needs to un­dergo a sea change, to­ward more task-based learn­ing which can be achieved with more cam­pus-based ac­tiv­i­ties.

Too few Hong Kong young­sters have ac­quired the habit of read­ing books by the time they end their full-time ed­u­ca­tion, and that sad fact even in­cludes uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates. Wide read­ing can help young peo­ple ex­pand their imag­i­na­tion and con­trib­ute also to more gen­eral in­tel­lec­tual de­vel­op­ment, both dur­ing full-time ed­u­ca­tion and well be­yond. That needs to change and the Ed­u­ca­tion Bu­reau has been rightly tasked with de­vis­ing new meth­ods to build up our young­sters’ read­ing habits.

Pro­vid­ing bet­ter job se­cu­rity to younger school teach­ers is also planned, and is a move in the right di­rec­tion. A funded short-term work­place­ment scheme, giv­ing younger school teach­ers com­mer­cial work ex­pe­ri­ence, would help to ex­pand their hori­zons, and through it, the hori­zons of their stu­dents too.

Al­most ev­ery Hong Kong young­ster is be­sot­ted with near-con­stant smart­phone use. Gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion that easy way may be ben­e­fi­cial but many other uses of th­ese por­ta­ble elec­tronic de­vices may fairly be re­garded as a com­plete waste of time. The near-to­tal dis­trac­tion from pay­ing at­ten­tion to any­thing else — such as walk­ing safely — that they pro­vide may be mildly en­ter­tain­ing to the user but his or her brain may be­come be­numbed by con­stant re­course to flick­er­ing im­ages and texts on the lit­tle screen. Find­ing a way to en­cour­age com­ing gen­er­a­tions to limit their smart­phone use (and in­stead to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in real so­cial, sport­ing and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties) rep­re­sents a ma­jor chal­lenge to all ed­u­ca­tion­al­ists here in Hong Kong, and in­deed around the world.

So, while de­ploy­ment of ad­di­tional bil­lions to fund th­ese planned ed­u­ca­tional en­hance­ment mea­sures is wel­come in­deed, still more could be done to put Hong Kong’s com­ing gen­er­a­tions on the right track.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.