Make good on $5B education vow, union urges Lam

Local | Phoenix Un 21 Apr 2017

Hong Kong's biggest teachers' union wants Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to prioritize spending the extra HK$5 billion education budget she promised on various must-haves ranging from the salary scale for kindergarten teachers to improving teacher- student ratios.

Lam proposed in her manifesto to increase annual education recurrent expenditure by HK$5 billion during her campaign in February. The 2017-18 budget proposes HK$78.6 billion for education.

She suggested measures such as converting teaching posts on short-term contracts to permanent terms, and a salary scale for kindergarten teachers.

The Professional Teachers' Union surveyed more than 3,000 members about how the HK$5 billion should be spent and revealed their wish list yesterday.

The 1,060 kindergarten teachers rated their salary scale as the most important, while the 865 primary school teachers want pay parity with secondary school counterparts.

An improvement in the class- teacher ratio is the most important among 1,176 secondary school teachers, while the 93 special education teachers want to increase their pay scale and lower class size.

The 97 university teachers want the institution to increase permanent posts.

PTU president Fung Wai-wah explained that improving teachers' salaries will cost about HK$1.23 billion.

In addition to steps such as subsidizing each self-financing bachelor degree student to the tune of HK$30,000 and switching contract teacher posts into permanent ones, Fung said the measures should be done in the first month Lam assumes office.

A HK$5 billion increase would mean the education expenditure ratio to GDP will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent. Fung said the ratio should be 4.5 percent for education in the long- term.

Education-sector legislator Ip Kin- yuen, who is also PTU vice president, criticized the current administration for suppressing education expenditure.

"I believe the new government won't arrange difficulties to hinder themselves. As people have a consensus on how the money is used, I am optimistic that the appropriation can be easily approved."

Ip also said Lam had communicated with Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to put the extra appropriation into the July agenda for a quick approval.

Meanwhile, a survey of 1,717 representatives by the Federation of Education Workers found that the most important issues are improving class- teacher ratio, turning contract teacher posts into permanent jobs, and improving life education.

Its president Wong Kam-leung said the class-teacher ratio in Hong Kong is still worse than in Taiwan and Macau.

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