All our educators share a common goal, that is, to provide the best quality education to our students. We are all willing to take on and work hard towards this goal.All sectors in our community place great importance on the quality of human resources in Hong Kong, and are willing to invest in our future.
In October last year, I made a statement in this Council to introduce the consultation exercise on Reforming the Academic Structure for Senior Secondary & Higher Education (3+3+4). During the consultation period, we received about 3,300 written submissions and also listened to and exchanged views through various channels.
We are deeply encouraged by the clear and overwhelming support for the new academic structure and for the broad direction of changes in curriculum and assessment. This reflects the consensus among the Hong Kong community to continuously invest in our young people through providing them with a better education system.
The "3+3+4" academic structure we are going to implement is a major development in the history of education in Hong Kong. The new academic structure provides opportunities for all students to receive six-year secondary education and promises to infuse our students with a broadened knowledge base, balanced development, sound language and other generic skills and a propensity for life-long learning.
We hope we can cater for diversified learning needs of all students through curriculum and assessment changes, allowing students with different aptitudes, interests and competencies to excel. Moreover, the new academic structure will provide smoother articulation for further studies or work in Hong Kong and be better connected with other major education systems in the world.
For university education, the four-year undergraduate programme will allow more balanced and comprehensive development of our university students.
Setting the future direction of education development
The changes in the academic structure will involve extensive human resource and financial investment.
The resource commitment is nonetheless essential for investing in our future.We are pleased to see that after years of preparation and discussion, most people now have stopped asking why we need the new academic structure.
They are now focusing more on what we need to do, when and how and at what pace we can put the new academic structure smoothly in place.
I must express my deepest appreciation and thanks for the support and valuable views the education sector and other stakeholders in the community have sent to us.
Their feedback has helped us decide how to implement the new academic structure. Having considered the views expressed by various sectors, we have modified the original proposals.
Today, we will publish the report titled 'The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education & Higher Education - Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong". The report not only summarises the results of the consultation, it also consolidates the consensus reached on the broad direction and the roadmap for proceeding with the new senior secondary and higher education arrangements.
New academic structure to be implemented in 2009
Many stakeholders, including those from the university sector, want to see early implementation of the new academic structure. However, we also hear voices from some stakeholders, particularly those from the school heads and teachers, who wanted more time to get fully prepared for the changes.
Building the new academic structure involves substantial and far-reaching changes. To ensure a smooth transition, we see the need for schools, teachers and concerned parties to be professionally and psychologically prepared for the changes.
Taking into account the views of all parties and having balanced various considerations, we have now decided to introduce the new academic structure in September 2009. Current Primary Five students will be the first cohort to benefit from the new senior secondary education. The first cohort of students in the four-years undergraduate programme will begin in September 2012.
Developing students' full potential, catering for diversity
On curriculum changes, a great majority of views support the curriculum framework for the new senior secondary, which includes four core subjects and two to three electives or career-oriented studies, as well as other learning experiences.
The vision and curriculum objectives of the new subject Liberal Studies are also generally agreed by all sectors. However, having taken into account concerns and views from the educators, we have decided to reduce the number of core units of Liberal Studies from nine to six, so that students will have ample time to study thoroughly the relevant issues.
We will also provide additional resource and support measures to schools, including a Senior Secondary Curriculum Support Grant which schools can use to arrange small group teaching for Liberal Studies, and a web-based resource support platform to be launched in mid-2005 for reference of teachers.
We also plan to provide all Liberal Studies teachers with training of no less than 100 hours, according to their needs.
In order to take due care of the different learning needs and interests of students, we will develop the career-oriented studies alongside the elective subjects to provide students with more diversified learning experiences and choices. Career-oriented studies will also be connected to pathways for further studies and work.
The Education & Manpower Bureau will establish a quality assurance mechanism in collaboration with the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation to ensure the credibility and recognition of career-oriented studies qualifications. Moreover, we will provide a Diversity Learning Grant for schools to offer diversified curriculum.
We are committed to caring for students with special educational needs, and to ensure that these students will have the opportunity to receive six years of secondary education like other students. Since the competencies of students with special educational needs are very diverse, the Education & Manpower Bureau will cater for their different abilities in the curriculum and assessment arrangements.
We have taken into account views already given to us, we will continue to consult the stakeholders with a view to finalising future arrangements and details by end of this year.
Assessment, examinations to lead to global recognition
On the assessment and examination front, there is significant support for a single examination leading to a new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education. School-based assessment will be adopted flexibly with changes made in scope, weighting, and timetable in accordance with feedback from frontline teachers.
The status of the new HKDSE has attracted considerable concern. The Hong Kong Examinations & Assessment Authority is already making progress in negotiating with overseas universities for direct recognition of both the current examinations and the HKDSE. The Hong Kong Examinations & Assessment Authority will continue to work on ensuring international recognition of the new HKDSE.
The University Grant Committee and Heads of Universities Committee have expressed support for the new academic structure and curriculum changes, and have indicated that the four subjects of Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies will be considered as mandatory requirements for university entrance.
I am confident that the higher education institutions will be ready to announce the planned general admission criteria soon in mid-2005 as well as detailed requirements at the faculty/programme level by mid-2006. This will provide a clear picture of university admission criteria for schools and parents.
Enhanced resources, strengthened support
We fully understand that sufficient support and detailed planning in implementation is the key to successful implementation of the new academic structure. Having taken into account views from all quarters, we recommend allocating more resources to create space for teachers and school leaders, improve teacher provision, provide more diversified professional development opportunities, and strengthen support for schools, so that schools would be fully equipped for the implementation of the new senior secondary curriculum and assessment framework.
In our previous consultation document, we recommended allocating $6.7 billion to meet the capital and other non-recurrent costs for the implementation of the new academic structure in the school and university sectors. The Government is now prepared to increase the investment to $7.9 billion, of which $3.5 billion is for the capital costs for schools and the universities, and the remainder $4.4 billion for meeting other non-recurrent costs.
On the non-recurrent funding, the Government plans to provide $1.7 billion to support schools for the implementation of the new senior secondary in the run-up to 2009. For the university sector, it is estimated that $550 million will be provided for the start-up of the new undergraduate programme.
Moreover, we last estimated in the consultation document that we would need an additional recurrent funding of $1.1 billion. In order to further strengthen the support for schools, we now estimate that upon full implementation of the new academic structure, we have to spend $2 billion on a recurrent basis.
About $1.1 billion of the recurrent cost is to meet with the additional funding requirements for implementing the four-year undergraduate programmes.
Schools to get grant for learning diversity
For the school sector, when the new senior secondary academic structure is in full operation, we will provide schools with the Senior Secondary Curriculum Support Grant, the Diversity Learning Grant, support for students with special educational needs, and enhanced teacher provision for senior secondary classes after the double cohort year, involving altogether a recurrent expenditure of $900 million.
The Government will review the student financial assistance schemes, including the assistance level, and the loan and repayment arrangements, to ensure that no student will be deprived of the opportunity of education due to lack of means.
Detailed support measures we plan to provide to schools include those in the following areas:
* provision of a Teacher Professional Preparation Grant during the four school years from September 2005 onwards, for schools to provide teacher relief for serving teachers to receive professional training, and to get fully prepared for the new curriculum and assessment changes;
* provision of recurrent cash grants including the Diversity Learning Grant and Senior Secondary Curriculum Support Grant to enable schools to offer more diversified learning opportunities including career-oriented studies, programmes for gifted students and for students with special educational needs, and to enable schools to arrange flexible groupings of students in Liberal Studies or in other subjects as needed; and
* improvement to the teacher provision for senior secondary classes from 1.9 to 2 teachers per class when the new senior secondary academic structure is fully implemented. In addition, the Senior Secondary Curriculum Support Grant equivalent to the salary of 0.1 teacher per class will be disbursed in the form of a cash grant to provide schools with more flexibility for schools in making appropriate arrangements for implementation of the new academic structure.
Joining hands for a better future
The outcomes of the consultation have shown a high degree of community consensus on the new academic structure. We have also set the roadmap and direction of work for the future development of senior secondary and higher education. We will proceed shortly to a second round consultation on the detailed design of the curriculum and assessment frameworks for the new senior secondary subjects.
Besides, we will continue our dialogue with the relevant sectors on a number of areas where we need future investigation and development. Implementing this reform will inevitably bring about many challenges, and it involves complicated issues that will have lasting implications. Successful implementation will hinge on the close cooperation among all the key stakeholders.
Before us is a major and important step forward in refining our education system. The proposed academic structure will provide a landmark development opportunity for upgrading the quality of our education as well as our people, especially the younger generation.
The proposal has secured widespread support from our community which demonstrated a common vision for bringing forward the changes. For our goals to be accomplished, we need the partnership of teachers and the education profession.
We need the full understanding and support of students and parents in order to have a curriculum that will bring our children more joy and benefits of learning. We need to further the consensus of the wider community in bringing forward the necessary reform that would nurture the talents that make Hong Kong a world city.
Last but not the least, we need the support and funding approval of this Council for the Administration to join hands with our stakeholders in smoothly implementing the new academic structure.
Secretary for Education & Manpower Prof Arthur Li gave this statement, "The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary and Higher Education íV Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong", in the Legislative Council.