Hong Kong Christian Service

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Issue 008
2015 July

An Inclined "Free kindergarten Education"

The long-awaited report by the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education finally came out in May, however it was a big disappointment, the so-called “fully subsidy” is in fact a half-day (3 hours) one, there is no qualification assurance framework for kindergarten teachers, no appropriate manpower establishment for schools of different sizes nor academic structure. Debating issues about the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) all these years are still unresolved!

Core value of kindergarten education is an all round development on ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics. The daily schedule of a whole day (WD)/long whole day (LWD) mode include social skills, self-care abilities, eating, grooming, these are parts of learning, of which “education” and “care” are not that clear-cut, they are also the foundation of an all round development for children.

The report has left out the need from low income and middle income groups. It is only when there is 100% subsidy can it responds to the needs of society and in line with the population policy. However, the Committee only recommends an additional 25-30% resources for WD/LWD school, using existing half day (HD) and WD kindergarten school fees ratio(1:1.6) to calculate, parents still need to pay school fees if not more, in order to cover the extra expenses outside that free three hours, full subsidy is merely empty words.

The government is still indifferent to the childhood education field’s quest for a qualification assurance framework for teachers. The Report recommends that salary for teachers is same as the lump sum grant approach for social service, using mid-point as basis for calculation, and school has to apply for additional grant if the salaries of experienced teachers exceed mid-point. This would create higher operating cost and undue pressure to schools for a competitive remuneration package. It only creates uncertainties of career paths for teachers and also competition among schools at the expenses of small scale schools.

Furthermore, if the size of a school is based on the number of students and staff establishment, this would adversely affect the quality of education. Using one of our nursery schools as an example, we provide 100 students at LWD mode, excluding un-subsidised classes for those aged 2-3, the school would permanently be losing one-fourth of the required resources under the new system, if implemented. However, one must not forget that teaching time for HD is half of WD and one-third of LWD. All these require more input from teachers but depriving them of a career path and professional development.

This inevitably causes a brain drain and is detrimental to school’s survival while children of different academic structure cannot enjoy free and high quality kindergarten education.

The government has the responsibility to rectify uneven distribution of resources. It has to monitor and fine-tuned the subsidy mode to ensure that different academic structure and sizes of schools could receive fair resources distribution otherwise parent’s choices and children’s development would be strangled by an unfair and withering mechanism.

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