Attempts to radically reform the school curriculum, begun under British rule, are losing momentum under Hong Kong's new administration.
The Target Orientated Curriculum challenges the traditional emphasis on rote learning, frequent examinations and teacher-centred education. Its creators studied education in Britain, Australia and New Zealand before coming up with a blueprint to make teaching more lively, relevant and creative. But the reform, introduced in primary schools from 1995 and to be extended to secondary level by 2001, is having little impact.
Dr John Clark, the project leader who drew up the original framework, said: "This is a licence for schools to do exactly what they want. That, more often than not, leads them to do very little."
But Yeung Yiu-chung, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers and a member of the Provisional Legislative Council, said schools could not implement TOC without a reduction in class sizes and workloads, and more resources.
He said the new government's attention had shifted to implementing whole-day schooling at primary level and mother tongue teaching in secondary schools.
The fact that competitive exams to determine secondary school placement have not been adapted to TOC has increased reluctance among schools to change.
Teachers also say that the three days training for TOC that most received was not adequate.