Govt to forge ahead on free preschool education: Ng

Updated: 2012-11-13 07:03

By Kahon Chan (HK Edition)

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Expenses will never be cut back even in tough time: Edu secretary

Education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim has reaffirmed the administration's commitment to offer three years of free preschool education, one of the election promises of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Ng made the remarks at a forum hosted by the Hong Kong Management Association on Monday morning, which focused on ways of "sustaining growth in a dynamic world".

"I've personally spent a lot of time meeting a lot of groups. I visit one kindergarten every week in order to understand what's going on out there, in order to make sure Hong Kong will be able to develop the best (and) most competitive kindergarten education policy," said Ng.

Referring to a Chinese proverb, Ng said, it was believed personality was already formed by the age of three, "and how the personality is formed is critical".

The pledge to offer free preschool education "as soon as possible" was dated back to the electoral manifesto of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. The promise was promptly affirmed by Eddie Ng just one week after he took up his post, as he began to meet unions and sector representatives of preschool education.

The free preschool education demand has long been advanced by unions, but Mary Tong Siu-fun, president of the Hong Kong Kindergarten Association, warned that the administration should not underestimate the challenge to cater to the needs of kindergartens of different natures under a universal regulatory framework.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union has been aware of the technical difficulties, but it said in an earlier article that while they have not underestimated the challenges, they will not exaggerate the challenges as well.

"We believe once the goal is concrete and widely recognized - provided that the government will make reasonable financial commitment - it absolutely is possible to establish and optimize the funding and regulatory framework progressively," the union stated.

Leung's manifesto also promised to form a taskforce under the Education Commission and a specialized platform to gather expertise before rolling out the reform. Eddie Ng said earlier that the platform will be created by the end of this year.

At the Monday forum, the education chief also set an objective to expand enrollment of young people into tertiary institutes. The prevailing enrollment rate is 24 percent with self-funded programs included - Ng said they aimed to boost the figure to 33 percent in three years.

Eddie Ng added that the government is spending one Hong Kong dollar on education for every five dollars spent in the entire budget, as he promised education expenses will never suffer a cut even under a rough economy.

kahon@chinadailyhk.com

(HK Edition 11/13/2012 page1)