SCMP May 8, 2000

Reform of schools may cost billions

GARY CHEUNG


Taxpayers may have to pay billions more for school reforms to be announced in detail by the Education Commission today.

The commission's report has not worked out the exact financial implications or stated explicitly the new costs required under the proposals. But the strategy to secure enough resources is likely to emerge as the thorniest issue in the third phase of consultation, which starts today and runs until July, a source said.

"The community and individuals will have to share the burden if the goals of education reform are to be accomplished," he said.

The costliest elements will be the extension of secondary school from five to six years and university from three to four years. The new proposal would mean all Form Five students would get to study an extra year. Currently, only about one in three continues to Form Six.

A secondary school student currently costs $41,000 a year in a government school and $30,000 in a subsidised school. It costs an average $230,000 a year to educate an undergraduate.

Under the new proposals, much of which have been leaked to the media, 85 per cent of Primary One places will be filled by central allocation and the remainder at the school's discretion. At Secondary One, 70 per cent will be filled by central allocation, with 30 per cent at the school's discretion.

A new public examination will replace the Hong Kong Certificate of Education and Advanced Level Examination. Community colleges will be set up for the first time.

The Education Department said it hoped universities would use existing funding to expand degree education to four years.

An interactive Web site will be set up this month to provide help in choosing schools and jobs for Form Five students waiting for exam results. The service, to be set up by Caritas Hong Kong, will suggest which schools to apply to and centres to go to for job referrals.

Results of the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination are due to be released on August 9.