Speech by CS at OMEP Asia Pacific Regional Conference


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the opening ceremony of the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) Asia Pacific Regional Conference 2017 today (May 18):

Dr Amelia Lee (President of OMEP-Hong Kong), Professor Roland Chin (President and Vice-Chancellor of the Hong Kong Baptist University), Dr Hazel Lam (Vice President of OMEP-Hong Kong), Mr Eddie Ng (Secretary for Education), distinguished speakers, guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. I am very delighted to welcome you all to this year's OMEP Asia Pacific Regional Conference.

     For Hong Kong, this is a truly auspicious year - a year of special significance. First, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the Motherland and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in 1997. Today's conference features as one of the series of major events celebrating this important occasion.

     Second, this year also celebrates the 25th anniversary of OMEP-Hong Kong. Established in 1992, OMEP-Hong Kong has gone from strength to strength, supporting the well-being and education of our young children while promoting the professional development of early childhood educators.

     Third, this year will witness the launching of the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Policy in Hong Kong from the 2017/2018 school year onwards. This new policy represents an important milestone and a great step forward in our kindergarten education development. In fact, this will extend the duration of free education in Hong Kong from 12 to 15 years.

     Education tops the policy agenda of the current-term Hong Kong SAR Government.

Over the past five years, we have increased education recurrent expenditure by some 30 per cent. Education now accounts for 21 per cent of government recurrent expenditure - the lion's share of all policy areas. I must add that in Hong Kong we see education spending as investment in our next generation and in Hong Kong's long-term future for that matter.

Indeed, every child counts.

     As we all know, kindergarten education lays the vital foundation for life-long learning and whole-person development. The aim of kindergarten education in Hong Kong is to nurture children to attain all-round development in the domains of ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics; to develop good habits so as to prepare them for life; and to stimulate children's interest in learning and cultivate in them positive learning attitudes. Our goal is to lay the foundation for their future learning.

     I am delighted that this Conference, with the theme of "Enhancing the Quality of Early Childhood Education: Policies, Pedagogies and Parent Engagement", has brought together experts in kindergarten education from various regions and countries to share professional views and successful experiences.

Let me take this opportunity to share with you all the notable progress made in Hong Kong in the field of kindergarten education - policy, in pedagogy and parent engagement. These are the key areas of today's conference.

     First, policy. Our kindergarten sector is characterised by a high level of flexibility, diversity and vibrancy.

Capitalising on these strengths, the Hong Kong SAR Government will implement the free quality kindergarten education policy from the coming school year. This new policy, created to provide quality and affordable kindergarten education for all eligible children, will be a very important milestone in our kindergarten education development. Under the policy, government expenditure on pre-primary education will rise from about HK$4 billion a year to HK$6.7 billion in the 2017/18 school year, up by a very significant 68 per cent.

About 80 per cent of our subsidised half-day kindergarten places will be free. School fees of whole-day places will be set at a low and affordable level. More importantly, we will boost the quality of our kindergarten education.

These include revising the kindergarten curriculum, enhancing quality assurance, strengthening professional development of teachers and catering more effectively to the diverse needs of our children.

     Turning to pedagogy, the revised Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide, released this February, ties in with the free quality kindergarten education policy. The Guide emphasises whole-person development of children, as well as teaching, according to children's interests and needs. Moral development, learning through play and free exploration in play will be highlighted as major learning activities, helping to inculcate a love of learning among our children.

We will also promote a smooth transition from kindergarten to primary-school education and help our teachers implement the revised curriculum through professional development programmes.

     Moving on to parent engagement, parental support and collaboration with kindergartens are crucial for consolidating what children learn at school. For parents, the key lies in understanding the development needs of children. To this end, we have implemented various outreaching programmes including broadcasting videos on new kindergarten education policies, parent-child relations and fitness programmes for children through television channels and social media for use by our parents.

Seminars with different themes such as child growth and development, quality kindergarten education and admission arrangements for kindergartens are also organised.

     I am pleased to note that this two-day conference will be followed, this Saturday, by a half-day seminar just for parents. This will afford parents a good opportunity to stay up-to-date on educational knowledge and how best to support and nurture their children.

     Let me close by paying warm tribute to OMEP-Hong Kong and the Education Bureau for organising this timely and important conference. It provides a most useful platform for professional exchanges among educators from overseas, the Mainland and local kindergarten sector on the latest development of early childhood education.

     My sincere thanks go to all educators for their unflagging dedication to early childhood education and the well-being of our children. I am sure that you will all come away from this conference with good food for thought and much better equipped.

     Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.



Published on: 2017-05-18

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