Sunday, December 17, 2006

2006 education news highlights

Here are the highlights of education news from Hong Kong this year by the SCMP. 2006 is a really bumpy year...what about 2007?

January 9: A comment by then Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun over two unrelated teacher suicides within days of each other sparks outcry in the education community, bringing discontent over reforms to crisis point.

January 11: Education secretary Arthur Li Kwok-cheung unveils HK$1.65 billion package to help teachers, widely seen as a move to make amends for Mrs Law's comments on suicide.

January 22: Upwards of 7,500 take part in the largest teacher protest, calling for Mrs Law's resignation and a rethink on reforms. The following day, Professor Li unveils an independent commission to study teacher stress and workload.

February 28: Professor Li reveals package of nine measures to relieve teacher stress, days before a mass meeting of the Professional Teachers' Union to discuss the pace of reforms.

March 20: Two government secondaries ordered to cease Form One admissions, leading to fears secondary school closures may follow.

March 29: English Schools Foundation unveils first fee hike in five years: 8.9 per cent at primary, 5.1 per cent at secondary, despite cutting staff pay last year.

April 1: Hong Kong Institute of Education launches campaign for university title within six years.

April 11: Examinations authority scales back school-based assessment for Chinese and English HKCEE in face of teacher resistance.

May 8: Mrs Law slams Council on Professional Conduct in Education for failing to uphold a single complaint for the fourth consecutive year.

June 8: ESF's ruling body votes in favour of draft ordinance that will bring in sweeping management reforms and replace the foundation with a smaller board of governors.

June 28: EMB rules out developing Chinese curriculum for second-language learners.

July 6: McBeath report says Hong Kong leads the world in school self-evaluation, but gap between schools is still too large.

July 19: EMB publishes careers handbook that describes Form Five graduates with mid-range HKCEE scores as an "embarrassed group" who would be "deemed hopeless" by good schools. Gaffe later blamed on a mistranslation.

September 1: New primary school in Tin Shui Wai left vacant after sponsoring body decides it no longer wants it.

October 11: Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announces kindergarten vouchers scheme in policy address - welcomed support for preschools but also criticised for number of exclusions.

October 11: Catholic diocese begins request for judicial review of government's school management reform. Rejected in November as religious freedoms "not a veto".

October 16: Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen says goods and services tax could help fund smaller classes, but fails to win support from educators.

October 17: EMB pledges to roll out "workplace Chinese" campaign within one year.

October 28: Renowned late economist Milton Friedman condemns the vouchers scheme.

November 10: Mrs Law moves to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, after eight years. She is replaced by Raymond Wong Chiu-hung.

November 24: HKIEd governing council delays decision on whether to reappoint president Paul Morris, following a controversy-laden consultation and rumours of official pressure for a merger with Chinese University.

December 7: Professor Li bows to pressure and submits voucher scheme to Finance Committee but ruffles feathers with thinly-veiled attack at critics in "patronising" parable about an uncle's gift of apples to ungrateful children.