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Lam set to present HK$5b education plan

By Willa Wu in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-04 07:26

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday she would unveil detailed plans to raise recurrent education spending during a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday. She called for support for the plan from lawmakers, saying she wants to address such issues in the next couple of months.

During her election campaign, Lam said education would be one of the most pressing issues she would have to tackle, if elected.

"I am the one most responsible for leading Hong Kong to a glorious future in the next five years. It is a long-term and an arduous task," Lam told reporters on Monday, her first day in office.

She reiterated her election promise to increase recurrent spending on education by HK$5 billion ($640.3 million) annually. Lam said she would table a proposal for the Executive Council to examine on Tuesday, adding that after ExCo approval, she would discuss details of the plan at Wednesday's LegCo meeting.

The ExCo, comprising principal ministers and 16 nonofficial members, assists the chief executive in policymaking. Members function on the principles of confidentiality and collective responsibility.

She emphasized that the plan would not be to spend the HK$5 billion at once.

Lam set to present HK$5b education plan

The plan prioritizes areas needing urgent support, such as programs for the coming semester, which starts in September. Prioritized items had received broad support in discussions with different political parties and education stakeholders in the past three months.

"I am cautiously optimistic that we should be able to get this through before the summer recess at the LegCo. So when it comes to the 2017-18 school year, new resources will be injected into the education system," Lam said.

The LegCo summer recess starts in late July and lasts three months.

Lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king said it was "highly possible" that the plan would be approved before the break.

Lee is chairwoman of the city's biggest political party in terms of LegCo seats - the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. She has also suggested Lam first deal with issues Hong Kong people care about the most - such as housing, health and economic development - to win people's trust.

Lam vowed to review the current Basic Competence Assessment for third grade pupils in a bid to return the tests (criticized for being "too stressful" for pupils) back to their original purpose - to assess their academic competence without requiring specific drills for pupils.

The BCA is the revamped version of the Territory-wide System Assessment, which was launched in 2004. The TSA influences allocation of education resources. The test drew controversy from parents as it encouraged excessive exercises and extra tutoring.

Meanwhile, Lam also delivered another election promise on mending relations between the government and legislature. She said she would be "very willing" to arrange more meetings with lawmakers to explain future government policies during her five-year term.

(China Daily 07/04/2017 page5)

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