Generation 40s – 四十世代

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脫貧路漫長 高教縮差距

信報財經新聞
教育講論
2017-03-11

何偉倫

究竟,貧窮是什麼呢?如果要推本溯源,引發貧窮問題似乎是由一系列錯綜複雜的因素導致。顯而易見,絕對不會是三言兩語可以交代清楚。所謂的脫貧則是一條漫長道路,教育彷彿是其中一個最有影響力的途徑,讓莘莘學子能夠有向上流動的機會。然而,坊間卻出現發人省思的問題──香港教育制度是否依然能夠作為向上流動的階梯呢?

近年,我們不難發現當今的年輕群組成長後,好像較上一兩個世代的年輕人更憤世嫉俗。作為一個新生代的一分子,積極參與社會及政治活動,以及表達對社會制度的不滿,似乎是無可厚非的。尤其是我們明白到青少年終究會對本港社會穩定性和政治發展的道路上,發揮中流砥柱的作用。然而,值得一提的問題是,近年年輕人起了的變化並非單單是本地問題。觀乎鄰近地區,即使我們曾經發生過佔領事件,在權衡輕重之間,刻下年輕人的反動意識似乎仍然算是相當克制。為什麼年輕人會反動呢?如果他們對自己的將來有一定的願景,又會否有截然不同的趨向呢?有為數不少的研究指出,資本及勞力是政經社發展的重要因素。只是,政經社的發展過程中有一些因素必須由下而上作出推動才能夠取得成就,教育則是當中的佼佼者。無可否認,教育投資能夠大幅度地改善人力質素,對經濟發展有着正向的影響。

在眾多的教育環節中,尤其以大學教育對一個人成年後經濟地位的改變,所產生的正面能量最為明顯及受到重視。接受大學教育對一個人未來的身價影響很大,只是要想提高自己的經濟地位其實非常困難。然而,倘若能夠考上大學,則個人的身價便可以提高,而且其牽引出來的可能性就可以倍加。

早年,香港教育大學的一項研究發現香港的大學學額即使已經持續增加,只是貧苦家庭子女接受大學教育的機會,反而相對於富裕家庭的子女,更有明顯差距。不堪的是,差幅似乎日益擴大。

一直以來,我們都深信教育是改善階層流動的最有效途徑,只是因為各種不同的因素導致教育未能真正地發揮應有的脫貧功用。值得留意的是,隨着近年學歷貶值愈趨嚴重,社會上已經出現了一些聲音,他們開始質疑到底教育是製造貧窮還是解決貧窮。尤其是近年的社會研究均指出,完成一個學位課程的回報率,似乎及不上早一點投身社會的影響……

成立於1916年,總部位於華盛頓特區智庫布魯金斯研究所(Brookings Institution)是華盛頓學術界的主流思想庫之一,他們曾經就教育是否能夠改變美國貧窮家庭的政經地位進行《向前還是落後:在美國改變人生的機會》(Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Mobility in America)的研究。研究結果發現,貧窮家庭子女的政經地位沒有顯著的改變,其研究結果與剛才提到的香港教育大學的結論頗具類近性;原來海外社區都出現了富裕家庭子女在接受高等教育方面的機會及選擇權,相對於貧窮家庭存在愈來愈大的差距。

高樓價怨氣

其實年輕人對求學充滿熱忱是一個值得慶幸的事情, 只是高等教育學額數目的增長,似乎未能及時追上高等教育學額的需求,再加上不同的社會問題,諸如樓價高企令年輕人走上街頭抗爭。比方說,以往面對樓價的飛升,年輕人或許只有「買不起就算了」的心態。可惜的是,單純以樓價的瘋狂發展而言,已經不只「買不起」,而是「租也租不到」,因而怨氣日深。

部分年輕人甚至情願長期「炒散」,也不希望找到一份收入穩定、有晉升機會的工作,因為他們情願保持低薪一族的身份,以便留在輪候公屋的名單之上。筆者曾經在一個研究工作的訪談部分中,認識一位畢業於專業範疇的空中服務員,他情願每個月替更三數次,也不願意投入全職部隊。最為令人咋舌的是,這位空中服務員的家人及朋友也認同和理解這樣的決定。

我們當然不可能歸咎於政府政策,因為樓價飛升某程度和全球性的經濟發展有着不可分割的關係。只是,雖然政府無法扭轉這種令人透不過氣的社經轉型趨勢,又是否可以檢討一下現行的制度及政策,務求以人為本和訂定明確的規劃,以回應年輕人對未來不穩性的不安感呢?

試想像,當政府願意在年輕人修畢高等教育課程的一定年期後,願意把一定份額的學費回撥予他們作為置業基金,將會是一個多麼振奮人心的動力。再者,為針對年輕族群的散漫心態,以及鼓勵他們盡早投入社會服務,不至於浪費從學術旅程中所汲取的知識及技能,政府當局亦可考慮一些鼓勵性的措施,諸如當年輕人在投身社會後所需要繳交的薪俸稅愈多,政府部門則回撥更高百分比的金額,用以鼓勵年輕人更積極的投身社會,相信很大程度上能夠改變年輕人對未來出路的消極態度。

然而,政府在實施此等措施之前,也必須顧及部分弱勢族群。比方說,大部申請專上課程學費補助減免及貸款的申請人皆來自弱勢社群,他們在過去所得到的教育資源,以至文化培養,已被富裕家庭比下去,在學術上的能力及適應性也有一定的差距,因為不同原因休學、退學的人數明顯較多。相對於部分學子在中途休學後,能夠在父幹的影響下即時投身其他課程,較為處於弱勢的群組則需要先解決如何退回補助……

由此可見,脫貧路漫長,高等教育的機會固然可以縮減差距;只是真締還是在於一個完善的全方位補助方案。

撰文:何偉倫
香港高等教育科技學院語文及通識教育學院特任導師、新力量網絡研究員


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失去靈魂的舍堂文化

信報財經新聞
教育講論
2017年6月24日

梁亦華

早前,香港大學接連發生性欺凌的醜聞。3月下旬,港大一名退選幹事遭同學按住,強行向其下體滴蠟。事發不久,李國賢堂亦傳出短片,另一男生遭按在床上,被同學以下體拍打頭部。欺凌事件震驚全港,校方隨即表示事件已交由「副校長領導的小組跟進調查」,並報警處理,聖約翰學院舍監亦發表聲明,指「不接受任何形式欺凌,學院對此持毫不含糊立場」……

表面看來,校方看似嚴肅處理事件,但事實上跟進結果是如何呢?據報道,校方對23名涉事者的裁決結果僅是「3人被取消宿位,19人被暫停入住宿舍,一人被書面警告」。在繼後訪問中,校長不痛不癢地回應:「(校方)希望從組織上的變革,避免不當行為發生……(校方)無意令學生停止他們已進行多年、覺得有意思的活動。」副校長則指即將9月推出非強制性網上預防性騷擾課程,而所謂課程則只是看短片,填寫回饋問卷,以作回應,而傳媒跟進亦到此而止,可是對教育工作者而言,這事件不禁令人反思:為何如此令人髮指的性欺凌,會出現在雲集全港頂尖精英的最高學府?新生營即將於暑假開始,社會和學校的回應與跟進,又能否預防類似事件再次發生?

法不施於尊者?

一直以來,每所學校多少也存在着青少年的欺凌行為,這些欺凌行為的原因很多。心理學的觀點認為,人們在潛意識中存在內心不安,性與暴力則是人們平衡心理衝突的重要媒介。對此,佛洛依德的心理分析學說已詳細詳述;社會學的觀點則認為,如此強制而不人道的性欺凌,只是洗腦儀式,而這往往涉及摧毀對方自尊心及其他防衞機制,旨在更好地嵌入舍堂文化。學者侃侃而談,都有道理,不過兩類觀點都有一共通點:性欺凌者是情有可原的。前者視性暴力為一種恢復心理正常的正當手段,加害者往往被嚴密家庭和學校監控,過度抑壓,無法處理內心充滿衝突「受害者」;後者則視他們為宿生身份建構的過程,加害者往往被描繪成過於盡責,「過火」而不自知的無辜搞手。

筆者並非心理學專家,對學者的理論亦無意否定,但站在教育工作者的角度,只想起特首年前的一句說話:「守法與犯法之間沒有灰色地帶」。如果被按在床上的受害人是女性,學校會否同樣以玩得「過火」輕輕帶過?如果這是一群無業青年當街鬧事,而非港大學生,社會又將如何報道?可見,社會大眾的處理方式並非視乎行為的本身,而是加害者與受害者的身份而定。一言蔽之,便是「刑不上大夫,法不施於尊者」,以及「男性不可能受到性欺凌」的偏執情結。

大學託兒所化

這是因為學生對性欺凌認知不足嗎?性教育課程能預防性欺凌問題嗎?在大學中,直接的暴力攻擊並不多見,更多出現的是社交排擠,又或取花名、嘲笑樣貌身材等為主的言語欺凌。近年關於青少年欺凌的心理研究指出,這並非因為欺凌者有一絲善心,而是因為施暴者會估計社會容忍的底線,了解師長通常低估這些行為的破壞性,一般不會作出干預而作的理性選擇。從這觀點看,犯事學生並非無知。相反,他對事後社會反應的預計其實相當準確。

再者,教授性教育是否大學的職責?據哈佛大學前校長Harry Lewis在其著作《失去靈魂的優秀》(Excellence Without a Soul)一書便指出,「愛」與「關懷」已佔據大學的價值觀中,而規範(Regulation)以及自我效能(Self-efficacy)則往往被擠到一旁,這直接令大學「託兒所化」,一些本應由家長進行的德育輔導(如性教育),逐漸成為大學的職責,而學生(包括加害者)均被視為「無力控制發生在自己身上的事」,如此職能和觀念,這實在是有違大學之道。

正如作家Eldridge Cleaver所言:「如你不是答案的一部分,便是問題的一部分」(You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem)。各方的「冷處理」,到底是解決問題,還是製造與縱容問題?如果被按在床上的是閣下兒女,你還會覺得這23名犯事者只是「過火」而不自知,又或抱着憐憫之心,認同他們是無力處理內心衝突的「受害者」?

筆者認為,真正的教育並非對着一眾精英講解「何謂性騷擾行為及如何處理之認知」,而是幫助學生成長,灌輸學生為自己行為負責的思想。對加害者而言,比起吸取知識,也許他們更需要被教導如何當一個勇於承擔責任的成年人。

撰文:梁亦華
香港教育大學項目主任


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教育新資源與教育市場化

信報財經新聞
教育講論
2017-05-13

梁亦華

特首選舉塵埃落定,作為教育工作者,筆者自然關注候任特首林鄭月娥的教育政策。回顧她在3月初發表的政綱,提出「教育新資源」的口號,把焦點放於增加教育資源,提出增加50億元的經常性開支,以用於訂立幼師薪級表、讓合約教師轉成常額教席等。相對起以往歷屆特首,如曾蔭權力倡的幼教學券制(2007年)、12年免費教育與小班教學(2008年),以及梁振英的15年免費教育(2012年)等只重學生的政策,林鄭月娥政綱以改善教師工作環境為主,無疑顯示了她對教師團隊的尊重。

可以預計的是,派糖派錢的保守措施,比追求嶄新發展,把人們推出舒適區(Comfort zone)的教育政策更受認同,阻力亦更少,可是近年社會上卻少有人提起,當初這些「問題」究竟從何而來:幼師為何被取消薪級表?為何會出現合約教師?事實上,兩大聘任問題的源頭,皆源於政府的教育市場化理念。

2006年,小學剛經歷了嚴峻的殺校潮,教育局為方便彈性安排人手(或曰隨時削減人手),容許學校以合約方式聘請新教師,並推出不同類型一筆過撥款,予學校聘請各類非恒常教席;2007年,政府藉推行學券計劃,取消沿用多年的「建議的幼稚園教學人員標準薪級表」,讓幼稚園直資化,幼師薪酬從此被喻為「海鮮價」。此兩項措施,反映着政府一改回歸前的管理焦點,從以往每分錢也牢牢控制的監察投入(Monitor input)改為更具彈性的監察產出(Monitor output),以各種績效指標與服務使用者的滿意度來分配資源,提升教學質素,而這亦是九十年代起政府公營部門改革(Public Sector Reform)的延伸理念。

優點顯而易見

市場化的優點是顯而易見的。在市場壓力與競爭洗禮下,教師必須回應市場需要,更關注家長所思所想,為此,近年家校溝通、社區推廣等已相繼成為各校重點工作;為保持個人競爭力,合約教師(尤其是新入職者)必須自費進修,從碩士、語文基準、到各類音體美證書等,均成為個人職場增值的比併指標。幾年之間,教師學歷在幾乎不費政府分毫的狀況下迅速提升。可以說,市場化政策在解決家校缺乏溝通、教師發展動力不足、辦學成效低下等問題上,得到空前成功。可是,這亦同時帶來一些今天耳熟能詳的新問題。

對學校而言,學校成績是績效表現的最重要指標,而TSA成績便是其一。儘管教育局多次強調TSA只作協助學校改善學與教之用,但經歷多次殺校潮後幸存下來的學校,又能否輕易相信此說法?

為了爭取最佳績效指標,一眾學校不得不把競爭壓力轉嫁至學生身上,盲目操練者有之、犧牲寒暑假補課者有之、勸退成績稍遜者告假避考有之……事實上,我們能否只向學校以績效問責,卻同時要求學校不要催谷孩子呢?此兩難正是TSA操練禁之不絕,學生壓力有增無減的原因之一。

專業角色走樣

對教師而言,社會過度重視市場需要,助長消費者至上(Consumerism)文化,已漸漸令教師與家長間的權力失衡。教師從以往專業角色,淪為教育服務提供者,部分家長則以問責姿態參與、質問、乃至干涉教師決定,並催生出「怪獸家長」的新概念。儘管這只是個別例子,但熟悉香港教育者均知道,香港教師在「市場」面前,早已無甚權威可言。

教者,上施下效也;育者,養子使作善也,教師權威的崩壞,影響的不只是學與教,而是整體社會失範(Anomie),令傳統價值、社會規範與價值觀遭到削弱、破壞乃至瓦解,這個責任是需要整個社會共同承擔的。畢竟教師救不了,便歸家長負責;若家長也教不了,便歸警察和懲教署管了。

面對現時兩大教育問題,新特首能否透過增撥教學資源予以解決?這些問題到底源於教育資源多寡?還是教育資源的分配?這也許需要更慎重的討論。儘管如此,筆者十分認同穩定教師團隊的重要性。畢竟教師是以「生命影響生命」的專業,當教師自身也朝不保夕,靈魂被市場競爭壓榨殆盡,又如何教出樂善勇敢的下一代呢?


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Opinion: Hong Kong’s science students shouldn’t be strong armed into liberal studies

Business
COMMENTARY
2017-05-03
‘The inclusion of liberal studies might have stemmed from noble intentions to train critical thinking, but the skills learned are more compatible with non-science than science electives’

The recent report on “Science, Technology and Mathematics Education” (or the Tsui Lap Chee Report) issued by the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong finds our secondary school curriculum and university admissions criteria have under-emphasised science education, and that this will hamper prospects in the new economy.

Another education failure, not the subject of the Tsui Report, is the underinvestment in senior secondary and tertiary education for at least two decades. This has been the leading cause of our lacklustre economic performance.

Both failures should be corrected at the same time for the sake of Hong Kong’s economic future.

Domestic and foreign investments are attracted to localities where they can recruit the necessary skilled manpower. For a small open economy like Hong Kong, an abundance of science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) graduates is absolutely necessary for attracting business investments in the new innovative technology economy.

Many commentators and even economists blame our failure to develop new innovative and technology industries on the government’s misguided belief in positive non-interventionism.

Much of this criticism is ideologically motivated rather than evidence based. It is not obvious that facilitating institutions and a pro-active policy to correct market failures and capital market imperfections, and provide preferential tax treatments and land subvention advantages for innovative and technology industries, can compensate for the lack of skilled manpower. The latter is a prerequisite for attracting investments in the new economy.

I subscribe to what I call the “Gobi Desert” narrative. Adopting the best institutions and policies in the middle of the Gobi Desert will not spawn new industries because no one is willing to go there to live. It will remain empty and desolate.

In Hong Kong, among the population aged 25 to 34 in 2012, only 34.7 per cent had university degrees versus 49.3 per cent in Singapore. Among those aged 35 to 44, the corresponding figures were 24.8 per cent and 40.4 per cent. Is it at all surprising that Hong Kong has lagged behind Singapore in new economy activity given our inability to attract educated and skilled workers and our failure to invest in education?

This does not mean that everyone will become a scientist, engineer or technologist. But it does mean more and more jobs will require workers to possess scientific and technological know-how. Workers in the new economy must possess an understanding of the fundamentals and principles of science and technology to engage in lifelong learning.

Government policy can address the problems of attracting skilled workers to Hong Kong but it must also address the greater challenge of developing home-grown talent.

In this regard, curriculum reform in the schools and admissions criteria of the universities should be revisited.

Nearly half of senior secondary students have no exposure to a science subject. Moreover, students taking advanced mathematics have dropped from 23 per cent in 2012, when the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) was introduced, to 14 per cent in 2016.

Moreover, over two-thirds of the students sitting the HKDSE examinations took only two electives due to overemphasis on the four core subjects—English, Chinese, mathematics, and liberal studies. Before 2012, students took on average four elective subjects outside three core subjects. The dominance of the four HKDSE core subjects crowd out electives and effectively stream students away from science.

The Tsui Report recommends trimming the core HKDSE subjects to achieve better balance between science and non-science subjects. It does not recommend which ones to trim, but liberal studies is an obvious target, which could either be dropped or changed into a pass-fail subject. This would create room for more students to pursue a balanced choice of elective subjects between science and non-science subjects.

Students showcase their all-weather electricity generator prototype during the 35th Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair held in Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Xinhua

It very sensibly recommends module flexibility for science subjects to cater for a range of aptitudes among students, and greater recognition of advanced mathematics to encourage its inclusion as a core subject.

It also calls for universities to review their admissions criteria to redress the imbalance between core and elective subjects to achieve a better balance between science and non-science subjects.

The inclusion of liberal studies might have stemmed from noble intentions to train critical thinking, but the skills learned are more compatible with non-science than science electives. The large majority of students, especially those with self-doubt about abilities, have chosen non-science subjects in a bid to improve their public examination scores as they compete for heavily-subsidised scarce university places.

Liberal studies is often mistaken for a “liberal arts” education, which it is not. The latter is a conception of university education that covers a balance of humanities, social and natural science subjects, and generally refers to studies not relating to professional, vocational or technical education. Given this, dropping liberal studies from the HKDSE core will better prepare students that wish to pursue a “liberal arts” education.

Richard Wong is the Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy at the University of Hong Kong


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The links between global integration, technological advance, and economic performance in a liberal world order

South China Morning Post
Business
2017-05-10

China sees itself as still rising economically and a beneficiary of a liberal economic order, while America worries about economic decline and being a victim of the open global economic order it once championed

The emergence of outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in last year’s US presidential election reflects the rise of right and left wing populist reaction to poor economic performance – both low productivity growth and high economic inequality.

Economic factors may not be the only reason for the rise of populism in the US and around the world, but it is certainly a major part of the explanation.

It is not without irony that the president of communist China is now championing a liberal world economic order and telling the president of capitalist America the benefits of free trade.

The irony is perhaps not surprising, since China sees itself as still rising economically and a beneficiary of a liberal economic order, while America worries about economic decline and being a victim of the open global economic order it once championed.

Since the 2008 financial market meltdown, it has been customary to blame global economic integration and free market capitalism for failed economic performance. This accusation has gained widespread popularity in the media and public policy debates. But is it justified?

I don’t think so, and here is why: the wave of global economic integration and free market capitalism did not really start until after 1980, and mostly towards the latter part of the 1980s.

But economic performance in the West, particularly in the US, started to weaken in the 1970s. The forces behind this slow weakening have remained in place up to the present time.

Research by Professor Kevin Murphy shows that the real wage rates of men grew by 19.4 per cent in the 1940s, 29.7 per cent in the 1950s, 24.1 per cent in the 1960s, and only 5.0 per cent in the 1970s and -7.8 per cent in the 1980s.

In other words, labour productivity growth had started to decline rapidly in the 1970s and turned negative in the 1980s.

Robert Gordon’s work The Rise and Fall of American Growth (2016) reconfirms these results and shows that US labour productivity was at its peak during 1920-70, but fell off significantly during 1970-2014.

Gordon shows that the change in labour productivity is due mainly to changes in total factor productivity, which represents innovation and technological change.

Honda Motor Co’s famed humanoid robot Asimo descends a long staircase during its press unveiling for rental business at the Japanese automaker’s headquarters in 2001. Since then technological advances have been huge. Photo: AP

Most technological advances since the 1970s have tended to be channelled into a narrow sphere of human activity involving entertainment, communication, and the collection and processing of information.

This explains why the latest advances have not had a big economy-wide impact in lifting productivity. They have benefitted only a small number of industries and a limited, highly-skilled fraction of the workforce.

The economic slowdown in the US preceded the shift to ‘right of centre’ pro-market economic policies advocated by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School by more than a decade.

Global economic integration and free market capitalism in all likelihood prevented productivity growth from declining faster.

Could the concentration of technological advances since the 1970s in a small number of sectors have worsened inequality? In the period 1979-90 when global economic integration had barely taken off, the wage premium for college graduates over high school graduates increased from 42 percentage points in 1979 to 71 percentage points in 1990. Consequently, overall wage inequality for men grew dramatically between 1979 and 1990.

As with wages, Professor Murphy has showed how the pattern of economic inequality in the US has changed due to technological advances.

During the 1970s and 1980s, technological advances demanded more skilled workers so labour markets paid them a premium, thereby increasing wage inequality.

In the 1940s, technological advances demanded more unskilled workers so they received the premium, thereby decreasing wage inequality. In the 1950s and 1960s, technological advances did not favour either skilled or unskilled workers so wage inequality remained stable.

The changing pattern of technological advances provides a more convincing explanation for the patterns of wage inequality and productivity growth over the past five decades than blaming it on global economic integration.

Failure to appreciate the true forces at work will lead to the adoption of wrong policies that will not solve the problems society faces. They may even worsen them.

It is unlikely we can control the bias of technological advances. So the best policy is to influence the supply of skilled versus unskilled workers to support productivity growth and mitigate the effects of wage inequality.

The ideological debates will continue, but it is important we bring scientific analysis and empirical evidence to illuminate the questions we wish to resolve.

In the age of social media, where communications channels are echo chambers for the convinced and converted, shouting matches add no value and only reinforce prejudice.

Richard Wong is the Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy at the University of Hong Kong