LCQ14: Education allowances payable to eligible civil servants
Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Miss Denise Yue, in the Legislative Council today (January 19):
I have recently received complaints from members of the public that the Government has spent huge amounts of public money on subsidising children of civil servants to study abroad or in local international schools, yet it has refused to put in more resources to enhance the quality of local education. According to the 2010-2011 Budget, the funds earmarked for providing education allowances (including the Local Education Allowance, Overseas Education Allowance (OEA) and School Passage Allowance) for civil servants amounted to nearly $1 billion, among which, the estimates for OEA amounted to $300 million, benefiting around 3,000 students. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
(a) how many directorate civil servants, who at present are receiving various education allowances, have arranged for their children to study in schools overseas or in local international schools; and
(b) whether it has conducted any study to find out the reasons why the senior government officials in (a) have not arranged for their children to study in local mainstream schools, and whether it is directly or indirectly related to the authorities' lack of drive to actively enhance the quality of local education as alleged in the aforesaid complaints; if such a study has been conducted, of the conclusions?
Overseas Education Allowance (OEA) and Local Education Allowance (LEA) were introduced in 1964 and 1972 respectively to eligible officers as part of their terms of employment. The Government conducts reviews on allowances payable to civil servants from time to time to ensure that these allowances are in line with present day circumstances. Following detailed reviews, we have ceased the payment of OEA and LEA to new recruits from 1996 and 2000 respectively.
According to existing policy, only those eligible civil servants who were offered appointments to the civil service on local terms before August 1, 1996 may claim OEA for their children's education in the United Kingdom. Those appointed on overseas terms may claim OEA for their children's education in their countries of origin. An eligible civil servant may claim OEA from the beginning of the term in which his/her child reaches the age of nine up to the end of the term in which the child becomes 19.
Eligible civil servants who were offered appointment to the civil service before June 1, 2000 may claim LEA for their children's primary and secondary education in a school included in the Approved Schools List issued by the Permanent Secretary for Education(Note 1). LEA is payable to the end of the accounting period in which the child reaches the age of 19.
Our reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:
(a) In 2010-11 Financial Year, up to December 31, 2010, there are 3,317 eligible civil servants who have claimed OEA, with 125 of them being directorate officers. For LEA, there are 16,238 eligible civil servants who have claimed the allowance, with 295 of them being directorate officers. Among those directorate officers, 64 have children studying in local international schools.
(b) We have not conducted any survey on civil servants claiming LEA and OEA to ascertain the reasons why they are arranging their children to receive education abroad or in Hong Kong. As Hong Kong is an international metropolis, it is natural for some parents in Hong Kong (including civil servants) to arrange their children to study or pursue further education abroad or in local private schools, direct subsidised schools or international schools, etc. This should not be taken as a lack of confidence by parents in the quality of education in Hong Kong. The fact that Hong Kong students are admitted by schools overseas reflects that the education standard in Hong Kong is recognised by overseas education institutions.
The Administration always values the views of different stakeholders, and has regularly and systematically collected feedback on the education reform (including the new academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education) so that improvements can be made, such as reforming the curriculum of mainstream schools in Hong Kong in line with the global trend of curriculum development. As reflected in relevant survey findings, parents and members of the public generally support the direction and initiatives of the education reform since its implementation. With the support of the community, the new academic structure has been implemented at Secondary Four since September 2009, which indicates the beginning of a new chapter of the education system in Hong Kong. Through a broad and balanced New Senior Secondary curriculum with diversified choices, students could develop their potential to the full, with a smooth articulation to multiple pathways for further studies and employment. Indeed, Hong Kong students have demonstrated outstanding performance in a number of international education researches in recent years, which reflects that our education reform is bearing fruit. In the "Programme for International Student Assessment" (PISA) in 2006 and 2009, "Progress in International Reading Literacy Study" (PIRLS) in 2006 and "The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study" (TIMSS) in 2007, Hong Kong students excelled in reading, mathematics and science, and their performance was consistently well above the international standards.
Note 1: The Approved Schools List is available at the Civil Service Bureau homepage (www.csb.gov.hk/english/admin/benefits/81.html).
Wednesday, January 19, 2011