NEWS AND EDUCA EDUCATION TION POLICY IN HONG KONG Volume I Main Text
Thesis submitted to Master of Public Affairs (Honours) Government Governme nt and International Relations The University of Sydney 2005
Grateful thanks to my thesis supervisor, Associate Professor Rod Tiffen, for his instructive teachi tea ching ng that guide guided d me through through the difficu difficult lt but enjoya enjoyable ble study. study.
Heart Heartfel feltt thanks thanks to my
beloved wife, Irene, for looking after of our little son well and giving me the time and space to work in peace. Also, thanks to my mother for her great help in caring caring our son in the first year of his life. Thanks to Barbara Hasslacher Hasslacher for editing editing my thesis in a very tight time frame. Thanks to all journalists and educators who participated in my rresearch. esearch.
Table of Content
Abstract.....................................................................................................................I Chapter 1 Introduction .........................................................................1 Chapter 2 Research Design...........................................................22 Chapter 3 Education News And Public Policy In Hong Kong.........................................................................31 Chapter 4 The Instruction Medium Issue.....................................61 Chapter 5 University Funding 2001 to 2004...........................81 Chapter 6 Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers.....................................................................96 Chapter 7 Sexual Discrimination Discrimination in the School Place Allocation System........................................................110 Chapter 8 Conclusion................ Conclusion .................................. ................................. ................... ....122
NEWS AND EDUCATION................................ EDUCATION....................................................... .............................................. .............................................. ...............................I ........I POLICY IN HONG KONG........................................................... KONG.................................................................................. ......................................... ...........................I .........I HAN LIAO.......................................... LIAO................................................................. .............................................. .............................................. ...............................................I ........................I Acknowledgments.................. Acknowledg ments......................................... .............................................. .............................................. .............................................. ....................................II .............II Abstract................................... Abstract............ .............................................. .............................................. .............................................. .............................................. ..................................VI ...........VI Chapter 1 Introduction................................. Introduction........................................................ .............................................. ...........................................................1 ....................................1 POLITICAL SYSTEM IN HONG KONG.............................................................. KONG..............................................................................2 ................2 CHANGING MEDIA-POLITY RELATIONS IN HONG KONG.........................................5 STUDYING NEWS AND POLITICS IN HONG KONG.................................................... KONG....................................................13 13 EDUCATION ISSUES IN HONG KONG............................................ KONG............................................................... ............................... ............18 18 THESIS STRUCTURE................................ STRUCTURE....................................................... .............................................. .............................................. ............................20 .....20 Chapter 2 Research Design.................................. Design......................................................... ............................................... .................................................22 .........................22 RESEARCH QUESTIONS................................... QUESTIONS.......................................................... ................................................................ .........................................22 22 CONTENT ANALYSIS...................................... ANALYSIS............................................................. .............................................. ........................................... ....................23 23 INTERVIEWS.................................. INTERVIEWS........... .............................................. .............................................. .............................................. ....................................... ................30 30 Chapter 3 Education News And Public Policy Policy In Hong Hong Kong............................. Kong.................................................... .......................31 31 NEWS COVERAGE OF EDUCATION AND ITS SCHOLARLY STUDY.......................31 UNDERSTANDING EDUCATION EDUCATION NEWS IN HONG KONG..........................................36 KONG......................................... .36 NEWS, AGENDA-BUILDING AND EDUCATION POLICY IN HONG KONG........................................ KONG............................................................... .............................................. ................................................... ............................50 50 Chapter 4 The Instruction Medium Issue................................... Issue................................................................................... .................................................62 .62 THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS.................................................. STAKEHOLDERS.........................................................................62 .......................62 POLICY DEVELOPMENT ON THE LANGUAGE ISSUE........................................... ISSUE................................................65 .....65 NEWS REPORTING AND POLICY PROCESS.................................... PROCESS................................................................ .............................67 .67 PRESS COVERAGE OF THE INSTRUCTION MEDIUM ISSUE....................................69 WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE INSTRUCTION MEDIUM ISSUE.......................................... ISSUE.............................................................................. ....................................72 72 ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE............................................. COVERAGE....................................................................75 .......................75 Chapter 5 University Funding 2001 to 2004............... 2004...................................... ........................................................... .........................................82 .....82 THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS.................................................. STAKEHOLDERS.........................................................................82 .......................82 NEWS REPORTING AND THE POLICY PROCESS.................................................... PROCESS........................................................84 ....84 PRESS COVERAGE OF THE UNIVERSITY FUNDING ISSUE......................................85 WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE UNIVERSITY FUNDING ISSUE.......88 ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE............................................. COVERAGE....................................................................91 .......................91 Chapter 6 Language Proficiency Assessment Assessment for Teachers.................................. Teachers.........................................................97 .......................97 THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS.................................................. STAKEHOLDERS.........................................................................97 .......................97 NEWS REPORTING AND POLICY PROCESS.................................... PROCESS............................................................ ...........................100 ...100 PRESS COVERAGE OF THE BENCHMARK ASSESSMENT ISSUE...........................101 WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE BENCHMARK ASSESSMENT ISSUE ............................................ ..................... .............................................. .............................................. .............................................. ..................................... ............................ ..............104 104 ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE............................................. COVERAGE..................................................................106 .....................106 Chapter 7 Sexual Discrimination in the School Place Allocation System................................110 System.......................... ......110 THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS.................................................. STAKEHOLDERS.......................................................................110 .....................110 NEWS REPORTING AND POLICY PROCESS.................................... PROCESS............................................................ ...........................113 ...113 PRESS COVERAGE OF THE SCHOOL PLACEMENT ISSUE......................................113 WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE SCHOOL PLACEMENT ISSUE.......115 ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE............................................. COVERAGE..................................................................117 .....................117 Chapter 8 Conclusion............................. Conclusion.................................................... .............................................. .............................................. ......................................122 ...............122 NEWS COVERAGE AND POLICY PROCESS.................................... PROCESS................................................................123 ............................123 WHOSE AGENDA?.................................... AGENDA?........................................................... .............................................. .............................................. ..........................126 ...126 ４
INTERPRETATION OF EDUCATION ISSUES........................................... INTERPRETATION ISSUES...............................................................129 ....................129 POLITICAL IMPACT OF EDUCATION NEWS................................................. NEWS..............................................................132 .............132 English References............................. References.................................................... .............................................. ............................................................. ...........................................135 .....135 Chinese Reference............................... Reference...................................................... .............................................. ................................................................. ..........................................141 141
Abstract This thesis examines the press coverage of educational issues and the making of education policy in post-transition Hong Kong. Education is of great importance importance to Hong Hong Kong. After the ha hand ndov over er of so sove vere reig ignt nty y from from Brit Britai ain n to Chin Chinaa in 1997 1997,, Hong Hong Kong Kong’s ’s new new gove govern rnme ment nt introduced a thorough thorough educational reform. As educational educational issues had a high priority on the new new government’s agenda, agenda, media coverage coverage of these issues increased increased dramatically. In addition, there was much speculation about how Hong Kong’s media would develop after the reversion to Chinese rule. A case study of of news coverage coverage of education issues issues in contemporary contemporary Hong Kong holds great interest not only for studying news and education policy but also because of the insights it gives into Hong Kong’s press and politics. The present study draws on the newsmaking and agenda-building literatures to develop an anal analyt ytic ical al frame framewo work rk th that at gu guid ides es th thee re rese sear arch ch..
By empl employ oyin ing g cont conten entt anal analys ysis is,, and and
supplementing it with interview data from journalists and educators, the thesis examines the press coverage coverage of four educational educational issues. The four issues were were the compulsory mo mother-tongue ther-tongue teac teachi hing ng in se seco cond ndar ary y sc scho hool ols, s, a pr prop opos osed ed la lang ngua uage ge benc benchm hmar ark k test test fo forr teac teache hers rs,, sex sex discrimination in the Secondary School Places Allocation System, and cuts to university funding between 2001 and 2004. 2004. In total the content analysis included 1,385 item itemss from four newspapers on these four issues. The research found, firstly, that the press is more interested in primary and secondary education than in tertiary education issues; secondly, that the news coverage of educational issues concentrated on conflicts, and while these could occur at all stages of the policy process, th they ey were were most most frequ frequen entl tly y in th thee la late terr pa part rts; s; thir thirdl dly, y, th that at jo jour urna nali list sts’ s’ ju judg dgem emen entt of th thee newsworthiness of individual events and news source activities strongly influenced the press cover coverage age of educat education ion issues issues;; and fourth fourthly, ly, that that educat education ion covera coverage ge is domina dominated ted by few ６
po power werful ful news news so sourc urces es but the domina dominatio tion n did not necess necessari arily ly secure secure the source sourcess positi positive ve coverage. So press coverage coverage tended to reflect when policy policy development generated generated conflicts and public events, and reflected the publicity strategies of the strongest and best organised groups.
Chapter 1 Introduction This thesis examines examines the press coverage coverage of educational issues issues in contemporary Hong Kong. Kong. This topic is of great importance to those who are interested in the contemporary performance of Hong Kong’s newspapers, and especially to the interactions between press and politics in posttransition Hong Kong. More generally the the thesis is a contribution to the the scholarly literature literature on the relationship between news coverage and policy processes, and particularly on the influences on press coverage of educational issues and how that coverage interacts with policy processes. Education is of great interest to Hong Kong residents, and one that has become a higher priority within government policy-making, and therefore also an area that has acquired a stronger media focus. Hong Kong’s education education system started started to change in the second half of the 1 1980s. 980s. After the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997, the new government introduced a thorough thorough educational educational reform, reform, which involved involved a great great deal of policy policy change. As educationa educationall issues had a high priority on the new government’s agenda, media coverage of these issues increased dramatically. dramatically. Newspapers were not not only having more educational reports in their their local news pages, some some also launched launched new education pages. pages. An editor who was interviewed interviewed for this thesis said that education reform brought an unprecedented opportunity for covering education ne news. ws.
So po postst-tra transi nsitio tion n ed educa ucatio tion n policy policy in Hong Hong Kong Kong presen presents ts a fascin fascinati ating ng setti setting ng to
studying news and public policy formation. The rest of this chapter provides the context for better understanding the research results and the reasons reasons for undertaking undertaking the study. It begins by looking looking at the peculiar peculiar nature of Hong Kong’s politics, both as a British colony and now as a Special Administrative Region within China. Chin a. Despite Despite never having been a represent representative ative democracy democracy,, policy-mak policy-making ing in Hong Kong still pays attention to public opinion and often involves considerable public dialogue, which is 1
carried carri ed out in newspape newspapers rs and other other media. To understand understand the contemporar contemporary y nature of presspresspolity relations in Hong Kong, one needs to grasp how dynamic the relationship has been between betw een the two institutions institutions.. Therefore Therefore,, the second second section section of the chapter chapter reviews the four phases of press—polity relations, and the third section tries to locate the current study within the rich scholarly scholarly literature literature on news and politics politics in Hong Kong. The final substan substantive tive section section considers the rising importance of educational issues in Hong Kong.
POLITICAL SYSTEM IN HONG KONG The Executive—led Government Hong Kong has never been a normal representative democracy with the government elected by, and responsible to, to, its people. In the colonial period the Governor, Governor, appointed by by the Queen of England, was constitutionally the most powerful powerful person in Hong Kong. Kong. The Executive Executive Council, which is the executive authority of the colonial government, comprised the three top officers, that is the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Attorney General, and other members who are mainly influential businessmen and some leading citizens appointed by the government with the approval approval of the United Kingdom Secretary of State. State. This Council rema remained ined the highest authority auth ority of public public policy-mak policy-making ing in Hong Kong after China regained regained its sovereign sovereignty ty in 1997. 1997. The Chief Executive Officer of the post-1997 Hong Kong Government is elected by an Election Committee composed of 800 members who are appointed by the Chinese Government. The legislative authority authority is the Legislative Legislative Council. The Council started started having indirectly indirectly elected legislators based on functional constituencies (representatives for different industries and profession categories categories including education) education) in 1985. In the early 1990s, the colonial colonial government
brought democratic reform to Hong Kong. 1 Since then, party politics started in Hong Kong.2 Thee Legi Th Legisl slat ativ ivee Coun Counci cill be beca came me a full fully y el elec ecte ted d legi legisl slat atur uree in 19 1995 95..
Howe Howeve ver, r, th thee
democratisation process process halted but did not stop fully after the sovereignty sovereignty transition. The first term of the Legislative Council formed in 1998 retrograde to a less representative composition with only 20 out of the 60 legislators being directly elected, but this number increased to 24 in the second term term in 2000 and was was further increased increased to half of the membership membership in 2004. Under the Basic Law, in 2007, Hong Kong could determine its own method for the election of the Chief Executive Officer of the government. 3 However, even even though over five hundred hundred thousand thousand Hong Kong people rallied for a full democracy in 2004, their demand was turned down by the Chinese Gover Go vernme nment. nt.
The develop developmen ments ts of de democ mocrac racy y in Hong Hong Kong Kong is largel largely y de depen pende dent nt on the
political developments on the mainland. Within the Hong Kong Government, the Education and Manpower Bureau (previously ca calle lled d ‘Branc ‘Branch’ h’ rather rather than than ‘Burea ‘Bureau’) u’) inside inside the Govern Governmen mentt Secret Secretari ariat at is respon responsib sible le for developing and reviewing reviewing educational policies. policies. Agencies and departments departments under the Education Education and Manpower Bureau, Bureau, such as the Education Education Department, are its executive executive arms. The Bureau is staffe sta ffed d by profes professio sional nals, s, who who make make their their career career inside inside the educat education ion field, field, and genera generalis listt administrative officers.
The Hong Kong Government issued two Green Papers (consultative document) in 1984 and 1987 to propose democratisation of the government by introducing indirectly elected and directly elected members of the Legislative Council. In February 1988, the government published the White Paper, ‘The De Development velopment of Representative Government: The Way Way Forward’, which decided in 1991 that ten directly elected Legislative L egislative Council seats would be introduced. Further reform projects were announced by the las lastt Governor, Chris Patten, in 1992 and the Legislative Council became a fully elected legislature in 1995. 2 The three main political parties are: The Pro-Hong Kong Democratic Party, The Pro-China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, and The Liberal Party which, represents the local business interest. 3 Depending on the interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong could have a direct Chief Executive Officer election in 2007. However, the writing writing of the initiatives related to constitutional dev development elopment in the Basic Law was deliberately ambiguous. 2003, academics. the interpretation of the Basic Law triggered a p political olitical debate in Hong Kong and between Hong Kong and In China’s
The Legitimacy Problem As Lee (1994:59, cited by Ahmed et al., 1997:13) indicated, in Hong Kong’s executivedomina dom inated ted politi politica call system system in the coloni colonial al period period,, the senior senior civil civil servan servants ts of the coloni colonial al government were were ultimate policy-makers. policy-makers. This remains the same after the 1997 handover. In his first annual annual policy policy address address in 1997, 1997, the Chief Executive Executive of the Hong Kong Government Government stated clearl cle arly, y, “[T]he “[T]he Hong Hong Kong Kong SAR (Speci (Special al Admini Administr strati ative ve Region Region)) has an execut executive ive-le -led d governmen gove rnment” t” (Policy Address Address 1997, section section 148). The system system ensures ensures the state has enough power to implement policies the government prefers but it does not guarantee a smooth operation of policy process. process. Instead, Instead, the influence influence of other political political forces forces cannot be disregarded disregarded nor underestimated. As mentio mentione ned d in the previous previous part, the number number of direc directly tly electe elected d membe members rs of the Legislat Legi slative ive Council Council was increased increased..
In addition, addition, establish established ed public public institutions institutions,, professiona professionall
orga organi nisa sati tion ons, s, and and gr gras assr sroo oott gr grou oups ps ar aree acti active ve poli politi tica call acto actors rs be bear arin ing g pr pres essu sure re on th thee governmen gove rnmentt to make policy policy decisions decisions in their interest. interest. With regard regard to education education,, important important organisations include the tertiary institutions, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, the Education Convergence (a teachers’ group) and the associations associations of school headmasters headmasters and parents. More interestingly, case studies studies done by Sweeting and Morris (cited by Sweeting, 1995:242) found that there was “strong prevailing influence of exogenous influences such as international organisations (e.g. the Organisation for Economic Econ omic Cooperatio Cooperation n and Developm Development) ent) on educational educational policy in Hong Kong.” Therefore Therefore Hong Kong educational policies have been shaped by endogenous and exogenous forces. This inclusion of political forces in Hong Kong’s policy process is always interpreted as a result of an apprehension apprehension of the manifest manifest legitimacy problem problem confronting the government. government. The government has a clear idea of how important an inclusive policy-making process is to the
success of public public policies. As the Chief Executive Executive of the Hong Kong government government stated in his maiden policy address:
To lead, we must listen carefully and explain clearly what we intend to do…we want to assure the community that your Government remains committed to listening to community views and responding responding by setting setting out clearly clearly how we plan to meet our long term objective objectives. s. We remain committed to debating publicly issues of importance to the community, so that all have the opportunity to take part in the process (Policy Address 1997, section 148). A consequence of the legitimacy problem is that the political system in Hong Kong is “sensitive to crises which are considered capable of escalating into threats to the status quo” (Sweeting, 1995:237). 1995:237). Therefore, justification justification of policy decisions decisions and recommendations made by appointed advisory bodies are a prerequisite for the smooth implementation of public policies (Cheng, 1987, cited cited by Pun, 1996:66). 1996:66). To establish its legitimacy, legitimacy, the Hong Kong Government Government has a long-standing long-standing institutional institutional establishment. establishment. The government government created networks networks of advisory advisory bodies to correspond correspond to different policy areas. areas. Public consultation consultation is the most common process process used to engage engage the public public in the policy-making policy-making process. Concerning education, education, the Education Education Commis Com missio sion, n, which which comple completed ted three three rounds rounds of publi publicc consu consulta ltatio tions ns and recomm recommen ended ded a blueprint of system-wide educational reforms to the government in 2000, is on the top of the hierarchy of advisory bodies (See Table 1.1). The above briefly briefly introduces introduces Hong Kong’s political political system system and its characte characteristic ristics. s. The following will discuss Hong Kong’s press from a historical perspective.
CHANGING MEDIA-POLITY RELATIONS IN HONG KONG Mass communication system in Hong Kong is predominantly a commercial system consisting of all types of electronic and print print media. What make the press an an important and interesting subject subject for research are firstly, newspapers are important information sources of public affairs in Hong Kong, and secondly, news media has become more politically significant because the democratic reform has been brought into Hong Kong since the early 1980s. 5
In general, newspapers are ranked as the second most important information source of public publ ic affairs in Hong Kong. Despite Despite most people people obtaining obtaining political political informatio information n from the television, the press was given a more favourable evaluation in terms of clear and comprehensive comprehensive reporting, helpfulness in forming one’s opinion on public affairs and in understanding other people’s peop le’s concern, concern, and thought-provo thought-provoking. king. Televisio Television n is perceived perceived primarily primarily as a vehicle for enter entertai tainme nment. nt.
Electr Electroni onicc media media are subject subject to str strict ict regulat regulation ion and are monitor monitored ed by the
government due to their huge reach and influence (note the 1985 study of the ethos of the Hong Kong people, as cited in Kuan and Lau, 1988:17; Chan, 1992b:114,123; So and Chan, 1999:3). Compar Com pared ed with televi televisio sion n channe channels, ls, the press press enjoys enjoys more more freedo freedom. m.
This This implie impliess that that
newspapers newspape rs could have more diverse coverage of public issues. In the last half of the 20 th century, the newspaper landscape and the relations between the presss and local politics pres politics have seen some rema remarkab rkable le changes. changes. The developme development nt of the Hong Kong press system system in the last 50 years can be divided divided into three phrases (Ch (Chan, an, 1992b:106). The first phase, the period before the late 1960s, is marked by a weak relationship between the press and local politics. politics. In the second phrase, phrase, the period from the mid-1960s to the early early 1980s, the Hong Kong press press mainly performs performs as public relations relations agents agents for the governmen government. t. The third phrase, from the mid-1980s to 1997, is the most colourful period marked by the unprecedented sovereignty transition. transition. In the sovereignty sovereignty transition period period itself, the press press enjoyed the the greatest freedom it ever had, and since since July 1997 development development is still continuing. As news media per media per se are social institutions rooted in particular social, political and economic context, to illustrate the change of the media-polity relationship in Hong Kong, the following discussion discussion will describe the press pre ss str struct ucture uress of each each phase phasess an and d the historic historical al conte context xt in which which the Hong Kong Kong press press flourished.
The First Phase (up to the late 1960s) Chan (1986) noted that the press structure in Hong Kong before the late 1960s was a result of the interaction among three political powers: the Chinese Communist Party, the Kuo-Ming-Tang (some writers prefer to use Nationali (some Nationalist st Party), and the British colonial colonial government. government. Based Based on political ideology and partisan allegiance4 of the press, Lee and Chan (1986) categorise Hong Kong’s press into four types: ultra-leftist (party press), centrist (commercial press), mainstream rightist right ist (commercial (commercial press), and ultra-righti ultra-rightist st (party press) (Chan, 1986). 1986). This categorisa categorisation tion emphasises political ideology as the most prominent feature of Hong Kong’s press. In this stage, the relationship between the local Chinese press and the polity in Hong Kong was weak. Studying Hong Kong politics politics in the colonial period, Lau (198 (1982:18, 2:18, 25) asserted that “the political system of Hong Kong was a secluded bureaucratic polity” which had successfully maintained its political autonomy “by limiting its functions, by preventing the emergence of otherr autonomous othe autonomous political political actors and by depoliticisin depoliticising g the Chinese Chinese society” society”..
Lau (1982) (1982)
maintained that Hong Kong’s social-political system was a “minimally-integrated social-political system” in which the bureaucratic polity and the Chinese society coexisted with limited linkages and exchang exchanges es between between them. In a later study, Kuan Kuan and Lau (1988) (1988) utilise utilised d the concept concept of minimal-integrated system to characterise Hong Kong’s media–political system. The notion notion of “minimall “minimally-inte y-integrate grated d system” system” suggests suggests both the individua individuall interactio interactions ns between the media and the political elites and the structural linkage between media and political institution were weak; interaction between the mass media and the local political institutions was restricted (Kuan and Lau, Lau, 1988:2-5). Kuan and Lau, nevertheless, nevertheless, emphasised emphasised that the media– political system in Hong Kong is neither the transmission-belt journalism in a totalitarian regime, nor the development development journalism of Third World nations. nations. Under British rule, the press enjoyed a 4
Four criteria were used by Lee and Chan to determinate the political ideology and party allegiance: (1) source of financial support and party affiliation; (2) place of registration; (3) choice of national day celebration and calendar; and (4) ways of addressing the Beijing and the Taipei regimes.
high degree of press freedom. freedom. This mainly resulted from the exercise of self-restraint self-restraint by both the governmen gove rnmentt and the press (So 1999:106). 1999:106). As Ku (1999) pointed pointed out, although there are over thirty “very strict” ordinances to restrain press freedom and secure ultimate control over mass media, medi a, they had been rarely enforced enforced..
Instead, Instead, the colonial colonial government government had maintaine maintained d a
minimum intervention policy toward local cultural and customary matter provided that the press did not challenge challenge the legitimacy of British rule. This had been been a tactical understanding understanding between the press and the government, government, and this long-standin long-standing g practice practice contributed, contributed, to a great great extent, extent, to the development of the press system in Hong Kong that is dominated by commercial papers. Another important factor which contributed to the weak relationship between the media and politics politics is the China-orient China-orientation ation of the press. press. During During 1960s, over over fifty per cent of Hong Kong population were refugees who fled from mainland China, 5 and a majority of these people hoped to either leave leave Hong Kong for elsewhere elsewhere or to return to China. In contrast to their apathy towards local affairs in Hong Kong, they were eager for information about the development in mainland China. Responding to the market, market, coverage about about China was given priority over loca locall affairs by the mainstream rightist (non-party) press. 6 Consequently, Consequently, the China-orientation made the press irrelevant to local politics (Kuan and Lau, 1988).
The Second Phase (from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s) Since the late 1960s, the party press had gradually declined due to the commercialisation of the Hong Kong media, the inhibitive policy of the colonial government over the political activities in Hong Kong and the change in demographical structure—the second generation of the Chinese refugees who were were Hong Kong born born became the majority majority of media consumers. consumers. To replace the 5
Chan (1992b) mentioned that, between 1945 and 1951, there were over 1,500,000 refugees, who fled from mainland China in the wake of the Communist Communist takeover, and and entered Hong Kong. By 1961, the proportion of the non-native born in the whole population was still over 50%. 6 Comparing the circulation data of the years 1956 and 1966, So and Chan (1999) found that the rightist (non-party) papers, Wah Kiu Yat Pao, Pao, Wah Kiu Man Pao and Pao and Kung Kung Sheung Daily News were News were ranked the first, second and third in 1956. In 1966, the rightist (non-party) Sing Tao Wen Pao was Pao was ranked the first, with the centrist Sing Pao Daily second and Ming and Ming Pao third.
party press, the commercial press whose political stances were either independent or apolitical (Chan et al., 2000:532-535; Lee and Chu, 1998) became the main players in the print media market. mark et. So (1999) demonstr demonstrated ated,, in his study of news treatment treatment of government government news, that the commercia comm erciall imperative imperative was as important important as political political ideology in shaping shaping the press structure structure in the context context of advanced advanced capitalist capitalist societies. societies. He categorised categorised Hong Kong newspapers newspapers into four types: leftist-political, rightist-political, popular-commercial, popular-commercial, and elite-commercial. The interaction interaction between between the press and the government government increased increased during this period. period. A growing proportion of of native-born gave rise to a variety of pressure pressure groups. Reflecting the social social change, increasingly, increasingly, local news news appeared on the the front pages of newspapers. newspapers. There were strong social movements movements against the government government on local local affairs. The government government also started to pay more attention on controlling information after a dramatic social crisis. As Kuan and Lau (1988) and Chan (1992b) pointed out, the 1966 riot, which was triggered by the rise of five cents cents in ferry fares by a franchise franchised d company, company, was a remarkab remarkable le event which marked mark ed the passing passing of the refugee refugee society society and the rise of the local identity. identity. It fundamentall fundamentally y changed the media–politics media–politics relationship in Hong Hong Kong. The government government realised the need for inform inf ormati ation on control control in the wake wake of the riot. riot. The inquir inquiry y report report into the event event expresse expressed d a communication gap between the government and the public, and that mass media needed to be managed to close close this gap (Hong Kong Kong Government, Government, 1967). A series of new mechanisms mechanisms were erecte ere cted d to str streng engthe then n the informa informatio tion n manag manageme ement nt of the governm government ent..
The Governm Governmen entt
Information Service (renamed as Information Services Department after the 1997 handover) was expa expand nded ed..
The The Gove Govern rnme ment nt In Info form rmat atio ion n Se Serv rvic icee sent sent in info form rmat atio ion n of offi fice cers rs to st staf afff al alll
go gove vern rnme ment ntal al de depa part rtme ment ntss and and it al also so st star arte ted d pu publ blis ishi hing ng th thee Daily News Bulletin Bulletin and disseminating it to all media outlets through electronic means on a daily basis. There are different views about the roles of the news media in Hong Kong’s social– political polit ical system. system. Generally Generally speaking speaking,, during most of the time before the mid-1980s, mid-1980s, the press press
operated a public relations model of media–government relationship. 7 Chu and Lee (1995:7) (1995:7) expl explai aine ned d th that at,, un unde derr th thee pu publ blic ic re rela lati tion onss mode model, l, th thee medi mediaa ar aree pr proo-go gove vern rnme ment nt..
government and and the media maintain a friendship. friendship. The media only publish publish materials positive to the government but will not make up stories or distort facts to assist the government’s political control, while the government hardly uses coercive power to control the media, the media will benefit from helping to promote the government. Although the media were generally not a propaganda machine of the political authority, there was one exceptio exception. n. During During the leftist riots in 1967, which shook shook the capitalist capitalist system in Hong Kong, not only the rightist press but all non-leftist media, be they electronic or print, supported the government’s suppression of the leftist movement and played a propaganda role overtly (Chu and Lee, Lee, 1995; Chan, 1 1992b). 992b). This was a result of the interplay interplay of the prevailing apolitical sentiment among Hong Kong people, the information control of the government, and the commercial interest interest of the press. For Lau, the press in Hong Hong Kong were politically impotent impotent due to their commercial nature and the information control of the government (Lau, 1982:149). Some researchers, in contrast, deemed that news media play a prominent role in Hong Kong’s social–political system. system. Bhatia (1997) argued argued that news news media is an an important communication communication platfo pla tform rm in public public consul consultat tation ion..
That That the press press act as a public public forum and present present divers diversee
coverage on public issues is supported by So’s study (1999); this, however, only happened when social soc ial conflict conflict emerged.
As Chan (1992b:125 (1992b:125)) suggested, suggested, when conflict conflict between pressure pressure
groups and the government arises, the press act as a third party heavily sought by both sides to mobilise mobi lise public public support. This is especially especially important important to the colonial colonial state, as the Hong Kong people had been denied the rights to participate in the formal decision-making process. process.
Chu and Lee (1995) suggested a framework using these five models: the propaganda model, the public relations model, the marketplace model, the reformist model, and the revolutionary model, to illuminate the of media– government relationship in Hong Kong at different stages of development.
The Third Phase (from the mid-1980s to 1997) The change of media–polity relations could be observed in the sovereignty transition period and attracted great scholarly scholarly effort. So and Chan (1999) (1999) indicated that there was was an evolution of the press structure in the 1990s. During this period, the traditional leftist papers re remained mained relatively stable in number and position but the rightist papers either ceased operation or changed their political stance.8 So and Chan (1999) suggested suggested that the structure of Hong Ko Kong ng press no longer echoed the political struggle between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuo-Ming-Tang, which whic h was basically basically alien to the Hong Kong people. people. The press was increasi increasingly ngly divid divided ed into propro-Ho Hong ng Kong Kong or pr proo-Ch Chin inaa gr grou oups ps in re refle flect ctin ing g Hong Hong Kong Kong’s ’s in inte tern rnal al dy dyna nami mics cs and and contradictions. The pro-Hong Kong Kong commercial press can can be further divided into conservativeconservativepro-Hong Kong and liberal-pro-Hong Kong. The signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 sealed the fate of Hong Kong to revert reve rt to China. China. In their studies of media and power transition transition,, researchers researchers (Chan, 1986; 1986; Chu and Lee, 1995; Tsang, 1999) noted, during the transition period, the increasing influence of Chinese authority and the democratic reform introduced by the colonial government had great impact on the media system. system. Since 1984, a dual power power structure emerged as a result result of the fadein of the Chinese rulers rulers and the fade-out fade-out of the colonial British British rulers. rulers. Although Although the British British remained the legal government to rule Hong Kong, the legitimisation of the Chinese authority lent her the power to intervene intervene more and more in Hong Hong Kong affairs. On many issues, especially those straddling the 1997 period, the Hong Kong Government was forced to seek the consent of the Chinese Chinese Government. Government. Strife between between the two parties parties increased, increased, especially especially on the issue issue of political reform in Hong Kong. 8
The Hong Kong Times The Hong Times (a Kuo-Ming-Tang party press) folded in 1993, and the the Hong Hong Kong United Daily and Daily and China Times Magazine, Magazine, publications owned by the two t wo largest Taiwanese Taiwanese newspapers, retreated from Hong Kong in 1995 and 1996. The traditional rightist paper paper pro-Taiwan pro-Taiwan Sing Tao Daily abandoned Daily abandoned its rightist stance marked by Aw, Aw, the chairwoman of the Sing Tao Group, whose visit to mainland China and was warmly received by the Chinese Communist Party leaders in 1992 and the Wah Kiu Yat Pao ceased Pao ceased operation in 1995 due to financial difficulty.
Reflecting the development of electoral politics, the rise of local political parties, and the power transition, Hong Kong media have substantially increased their coverage of local political affa affair irss si sinc ncee th thee earl early y 19 1980 80s. s.
They They al also so cr crit itic icis ised ed bo both th th thee Hong Hong Kong Kong and and Chin Chines esee
governmen gove rnments. ts. Chu and Lee (1995) argued, argued, during the transition transition period, the political political struggle struggle between the Chinese and her British counterpart had created a relative power vacuum which gave Hong Kong Kong media a chance chance to perform as as a vehicle of social–political social–political reform. In addition, the then newly formed political parties, be they pro-democratic or pro-China ones, were eager to gain media media coverage coverage to mobilise mobilise public support support and to legitimise legitimise thei theirr power. This further further consolidated the role of the media as a public sphere in the sovereignty transition period.
Post-1997 Period Lee and Chu (1995) argued that when the Chinese government gradually took over Hong Kong, the monolithic power structure regressed and the mass media resumed to be a mouthpiece of the government, at at least for a short short while after 1997. However, recent recent developments developments show that the reality is more complicated. Lee and Chu (1995) predicted that the Hong Kong media system after 1997 would become a “relatively repressive system” and that the media would choose to exercise a public relations or propaganda model model of media–government media–government relationship. The bases for these predictions was that, first, that there was the political structure would be less liberal in post-1997 Hong Kong, second, that Hong Kong economy is dominated by Chinese and pro-China conglomerations, third, that the media have a profiteering media proprietor’s culture, fourth, that the journalists have a more job than profession-oriented profession-oriented media practitioners’ culture and finally, that the audience is apathetic to politics. The predictions are reasonable as the ownership of many media companies, such as the Asia Television, the South China Morning Post and and the Ming the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, were acquired by pro-
Chinaa or China-affili Chin China-affiliated ated businessm businessman an (Fung and Lee, 1994). In fact, the frequently frequently reported cases of self-censorship that happened during the transition period did alert the public and the media professionals professionals to the decline of press freedom. freedom. Researchers, such such as Lee and Chu (1998) and Sciutto (1996) devoted their efforts to reveal how the Chinese Government influenced media coverage by putting pressure on individual journalists and media organisations. Nevert Nev erthel heles ess, s, the sit situat uation ion has turned turned out to be more complic complicate ated. d.
Fung Fung and Lee Lee
(1994:127) pointed out that, in post-1997 Hong Kong, the news media will have to “cope with the dilemma of ingratiating themselves with China without impeding media legitimacy in Hong Kong’s market environment”. environment”. This argument implies implies that it would be difficult difficult for the press to adopt a coherent coherent political stance in their daily daily practices. It may in turn result in a fragmentation fragmentation of political stance. To cope with the difficulty, difficulty, the media may develop develop an issue-specific issue-specific strategy of newsmaking newsmaking by distinguishing sensitive sensitive political issues from local public issues. As can be observed in the past few years, the press were cautious in reporting political issues such as constitutional reform in Hong Kong, human rights movement in China, and the Taiwan issue but were very critical to the Hong Kong Government on local issues such as the collapse of housing market and the bird-flu crisis.
STUDYING NEWS AND POLITICS IN HONG KONG To investigate news and public policy in Hong Kong, this research seeks to contribute to the study of political political communication in Hong Hong Kong. In a broad sense, sense, then, this research research is about about news and social social change. change.
By examining examining how journalistic journalistic practices practices interact interact with the policy-
making process and questioning about what are the consequences of this, this research inquires into one of the most important political impacts of news, which is still a less explored aspect of political communication in Hong Kong.
There have been two characteristics of political communication study in Hong Kong in the last two decades. decades. Firstly, considerable attention attention has been given to newsmaking, especially especially the internal dynamics of the press press (because of the the higher availability of newspaper newspaper materials). Chan (1992a) pointed out that this was likely due to the late introduction of electoral politics in Hong Kong and the monopoly of power by the Communist Party in China. Unlike their counterpart counterpart in Western countries concentrating their study on public opinion and election campaign, Hong Kong communication researchers focused on the institutional interaction between news media, mainly the press (because it is more accessible than electronic media), and political power centres, i.e. the colonial government, the Chinese Government and the Hong Kong Special Administr Admi nistration ation Region Region Government Government after after 1997. The result result of this was that newsmakin newsmaking g has become beco me the most studied area of communicatio communication n research in Hong Kong. Significan Significantt results results were produced throughout throughout the 1980s and 1990s. 1990s. Some milestones were reached reached by studies such as Chan and Lee Lee (1984) who studied political ideologies and news news reporting. They put forward the concept of journalistic paradigm 9 and suggested that there was a party–press parallelism in Hong Kong by conceptualising the Hong Kong press as belonging to different journalistic paradigm para digms. s.
Later, Later, Chan (1986) studied studied the power transition transition and the change change of journalist journalistic ic
paradigm in Hong Kong press. So (1999) expanded expanded the understanding understanding of newsmaking newsmaking in Hong Kong by revealing how newspapers perform under different reportorial modes—routine mode and crisis mode of reporting—and how commercial imperatives of the news organisations, as political polit ical ideologie ideologiess do, act as important important elements elements in determinin determining g news content. content. Hong Kong researchers were also interested in how media legitimatises power establishments (see Lee and Chu 1998; 1998; Yip, 1999). 1999).
There There were, were, ho howev wever, er, few but growin growing g number number of studie studiess done
“Drawing on Kuhn’s concept of ‘paradigm’, Chan and Lee (1984)…defined ‘journalistic paradigm’ as a gestalt worldview that informs the media as to what social facts to report (and what not to report) and how to interpret them. In essence, journalistic paradigm paradigm refers to the set of assumptions that gov governs erns the newsmaking process” (Chan, 1986:3). This concept includes a set of sub-concepts. sub-concepts. Chan asserts tha thatt political ideology is the central element of the Hong Kong press’s journalistic paradigm and a shift of journalist paradigm often occur when there is change of by power or radical social change occurs. So,to(1999) argued that media phenomena explained political factors alonechange and that one has consider the commercial dimension. in Hong Kong cannot be
concerning other aspects of mass communication, such as media and culture identity, public opinion, news and policy-making, and the like. Second Sec ondly, ly, there there was a fascin fascinati ation on with with the un uniqu iquee sovere sovereign ignty ty transi transitio tion n in politi political cal communica comm unication tion study in Hong Kong. Since Since the early 1980s, major major studies have focused focused on events involving political political struggle. Many of these events events were episodes during during the course of the sovereignty transition, such as the Sino-British talks on sovereignty transition, political reform, the election of legislators and the first Chief Executive Officer of the post-1997 Hong Kong Government. Other political events examined examined include the 1989 Tiananmen Tiananmen Square crackdown crackdown in China and the death of Deng Xiao-ping, but other types of issues or events and other aspects of political communication communication in Hong Kong were largely largely left unexplored. Although it was sugge suggested sted that “only when a crisis situation [that creates a crisis mode of reporting] arises [from a critical event] can we see the divergent journalistic orientations and contrasting roles performed by newspapers of different camps…we should put more emphasis on the analysis of critical events in order to understand how [journalistic] paradigms shift from one to another” (So, 1999:131), the fascination of the historical historical scene of 1997 is mo more re than a methodological methodological consideration. The political transition was a matter matter of paramount importance importance to the destiny of Hong Ko Kong ng people. It also als o was an unprec unpreced edent ented ed chance chance given given by histor history y “for “for observ observing ing how differ different ent politi political cal configurations influence mass media and how the mass media adapt to immense environmental pressure” (Chan, 1986:3). The established studies accumulated valuable knowledge about how political, economic and organisational factors influence the structure and the internal dynamics of news media in Hong Kong. However, one has to be circumspect circumspect about generalising generalising the findings of case stu studies dies about sovereignty transition and critical events to the political communication process in a normal state of politics because because the situations which which arose from those events events were unique. The critiq cri tique ue of the politi political cal co commu mmunic nicati ation on studie studiess of electi elections ons in Wester Western n countr countries ies made made by
Deacon and Golding, to a certain extent, can be applied to the political communication research in Hong Kong, as the communication in elections in Western countries and that in the political events even ts in Hong Kong shared shared some common common characteristic characteristics. s. Deacon Deacon and Golding (1994:10) (1994:10) argued, in the election periods, “the [media] content and volume of public debate, the intensity of political rhetoric, the attentiveness of citizens, and the energy and partisanship of political media are all totally atypical”. While this study has taken into account the established knowledge of the Hong Kong press, it endeavours to move beyond it also. also. As So and Chan Chan (1999:25) pointed out, there is a need, in studying the press and politics in Hong Kong, to enlarge the scope of research by expanding “the idea of political communication to include all the roles r oles of communication in political processes”. It is certain that the role of the news media in the policy-making process is one of the most important impo rtant aspects aspects of political political communication communication..
This research research inquires inquires into how journalism journalism
integrates into public policy process and influences policy decisions in Hong Kong, which has been a largely unexplored unexplored aspect of the field. field. The study concerns concerns itself with the political impact of news. Insofar as policy development development is a gradual gradual process of institutional institutional change, the research research is about routine journalism rather than journalism in crisis situations. situations. Though educational educational issues are also political in nature, they are substantially local policy issues rather than issues concerning the Chinese government. government. The social, political political and economic economic configuration of covering covering news on local policy issues is different in the main from those events closely monitored by the Chinese governmen gove rnment. t. Despite Despite incidents incidents such as the protest protest involving involving 6,000 teachers teachers in June 2000, 2000, the largest teachers’ protest since 1973, which created a confrontational situation and triggered a political storm, its nature was largely different from that of the Tiananmen Square crackdown which whic h rocked the communist communist regime. regime. In bringing bringing one-sixth one-sixth of the Hong Kong population, population, a millio mil lion n pe peopl ople, e, onto onto the street street,, the latter latter create created d a crisis crisis sit situat uation ion that that “[defi “[defied] ed] norma normall organisational rules and routines” and in dealing with it “journalists do not have standardised
procedure proc eduress or much experienc experience” e” (So, 1999:102). 1999:102). In contrast, contrast, the former situation situation (the 2000 protest) was covered within within the scope of routine news op operation. eration. Educational activities are daily daily practice prac ticess within an establish established ed social order. order. The repor reportoria toriall context of educational educational news is characte char acterised rised by routine events. events. In other words, words, educational educational news is produced produced in a “routine “routine mode” of reporting by which So (1999) refers to the reportorial context that is characterised by the values of objective reporting and the economic consideration of the organisation. For analys analysing ing educa educatio tiona nall news, news, the presen presentt resear research ch focuse focusess on commer commercia ciall press press cover coverage age and simply simply categor categorise isess these these papers papers into popula popularr and elite elite press. press.
Classi Classifyi fying ng
newspapers by their target market, the popular–elite demarcation emphasises the commercial nature of the press. The research focuses focuses on the commercial press because, because, firstly, the readership of the two party party press press is too small small to repres represent ent a signif significa icant nt sectio section n of public public debate debate on educational issues; secondly, the study done by So (1999) showed that the political nature of Hong Kong newspapers seems not to influence their routine news practices; and finally, the proChina–pro-Hong Kong typology is not suitable for the study of news coverage on local policy issues. The typology presupposes presupposes conflict conflict between China and Hong Kong that is not not found in Hong Kong’s Kong’s educational educational issues. Furthermore, the typology cannot cannot be applied applied consistently. consistently. In a normal situation, the leftist party press is definitely pro-China and supported the post-1997 Hong Kong Government. Government. Among the the commercial commercial press, except the anti-communist Apple Daily, Daily, all other press showed showed a vague and inconsistent inconsistent political stance. stance. On the one hand, the commercial papers overtly and covertly exercised self-censorship on reporting China-affairs and adopted a “partisan Chinese perspective” in reporting sensitive issues (Lee and Chu, 1998), such as human rights rig hts issues issues and and Taiwan Taiwan’s ’s first first presid presiden entia tiall genera generall electi election on in 1996. 1996.
On the other other hand, hand,
rigorous criticism of the Hong Kong Government and senior government officials can be easily found in news coverage, such the heavy coverage of the opinion poll rigging scandal 10 and the 10
In July 2000, newspapers reported, a leading pollster, an academic at the University of Hong Kong, alleged that he
was pressured by theofthen Chief Executive Officer, T Tung ung Chee-hwa, through senior university officials stop carrying out survey Tung’ Tung’s s popularity and the government’s credibility. credibility . Consequently Consequently, , the then vice to and pro-vice
lesss conce les concerne rned d story story about about a se senio niorr ac accou counta ntant nt critic criticisi ising ng the govern governmen mentt over over the lack lack of transparency in public finance. 11 Beyond Beyond that, in the past past few years, years, newspap newspapers ers frequ frequently ently reported repo rted plunging plunging opinion-poll opinion-poll ratings of the governme government nt and its officials. officials. This phenomeno phenomenon n indicates that it would be difficult to classify mainstream commercial papers as pro-Hong Kong or pro-China coherently. coherently. The political stances of newspapers newspapers are more likely likely to be contingent on the nature of issues and the interest of the press rather than determined solely by political ideology ideo logy.. This implies implies that political political ideology ideology may not always be the most important important factor of newsmaking.. Rather, priorities given to different newsmaking different factors of newsmaking newsmaking change in accordance accordance with the nature of issues. The above briefly introduced the structure of Hong Kong press and its historical context, and a critical review of the study of political communication in Hong Kong was presented to help identify the significance significance of this research. research. The use of the pop popular ular versus elite categorisation was also discussed. discussed. The final segment of this chapter chapter will introduce the current develop developments ments in education policy in Hong Kong.
EDUCATION ISSUES IN HONG KONG In general, the main trend of educational development in Hong Kong follows the global “tidal wave of marke wave marketis tisati ation” on” (Chan and Mok, Mok, 2001). 2001). Nevert Neverthel heless ess,, the marketis marketisati ation on ha hass been been practised in a Hong Kong style that evolves from Hong Kong’s particular social context. After a rapid quantitative expansion between the 1950s and the 1980s, a growing concern of educational quality has been been widespread in the community. community. The educational educational system has been heavily condemned, mainly by the business community, for having a severe quality problem
chancellors of the University of Hong Kong resigned under pressure before an investigation found that the two had tried to stop the academic continuing his polling because of concerns expressed by a senior special adviser of Tung. 11 The South China Morning Post reported reported on 31 December 2001 a former president of the Hong Kong Society of Accountants had criticised the government’s government’s financial financial reports for lacking in transparency and be being ing inadequate. The senior accountant also accused the then Chief Secretary of the government to want “the ability to do what is wrong”.
whic wh ich h was was pe perc rcei eive ved d as a majo majorr ca caus usee fo forr th thee dete deterio riora rati tion on of Hong Hong Kong Kong’s ’s econ econom omic ic competitiveness. Responding to the call for improvement, the colonial government introduced a series of schemes sche mes and initiatives initiatives in the 1980s. After the 1997 sovereign sovereignty ty transition, transition, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government conducted a comprehensive review of the education system and commenced commenced a thorough thorough education reform at all levels of the system. In September 2000, after three rounds of consultations conducted between January 1999 and July 2000, the Education Commission announced a document titled Education titled Education Blueprint for the 21st Centu Century: ry: a Review of Education System and Reform Proposals, Proposals, and symbolically précised its gist by a slogan—“excel slogan—“exc el and grow”—on the cover of the document. The reform was seen by different communities including educational professionals as an urgent and necessary change when Hong Kong suffered from an economic slump since the Asian financial crisis of 1998. The prevalent opinion deemed deemed that it was the inability of the educationa educationall system to produce a competent workforce which should be accused for the decline of economic competitiv comp etitivenes eness. s. A consciousne consciousness ss of crisis crisis spread and created created the right social social climate for the government to promote promote education reform. The education community community was supportive to the idea idea of reform. However, some controversial controversial policies, such such as the compulsory compulsory use of mother-tongue as a medium of instruction in secondary schools, caused disputes and scepticism of the entire reform. refor m. The governmen governmentt was strongly condemne condemned d for its incompetenc incompetencee in formulatin formulating g and implementing the right policies. As in other countries, debate on educational affairs in Hong Kong is mixed with the popular discourse discourse of the knowledge-based knowledge-based society society and economic economic globalisation. Chan and Mok (2001) indicated that “marketisation” and “quality education” have become the dominant themes in the global discourse discourse of education. education. They closely examined examined consultation consultation reports produced produced by the Education Commission and concluded that the Education Commission Report No. 7 argued
for a managerialism which advocated clear plans and targets for educational development, proper appraisal systems, incentives, strong management direction, and a system which relates funding to school performance. Managerialism has dominated policy-making in Hong Kong since the early 1990s and has been continue continued d by the government government after the sovereignty sovereignty transition transition.. The Hong Kong Special Special Administrative Region Government “has committed herself, both ideologically and practically, to the practice of managerialism”; “the initiation of a quality assurance movement and the obvious shift to a far more management-oriented approach in Hong Kong’s education have clearl cle arly y de demon monstr strate ated d ho how w popula popularr are the ideas ideas of corpo corporat ratee manage managemen mentt in shapin shaping g and and managing the educational sector in the territory” (Chan and Mok, 2001:37). Agains Aga instt this this backdr backdrop, op, educa educatio tion n has become become a “hot-b “hot-butt utton” on” is issue sue in Hong Hong Kong. Kong. Problems which are perceived as having a relationship with economic performance, such as the university graduates’ declining language proficiency in both Chinese and English and their lack of critical thinking thinking skills skills and creativity, creativity, have become central central concerns. concerns. The “spoon-fee “spoon-feeding ding”” education educ ational al system with poor teaching teaching quality quality has been accused accused as being the main culprit. culprit. In particular, policy issues including the medium of instruction in secondary schools, the Language Benchmark Assessment Assessment for teachers, university funding, curriculum reform, reform of admission systems, and the public examinations system are the most controversial issues and have received a large amount of news coverage.12
THESIS STRUCTURE Chapters 2 and 3 lay the foundation before the substantive research materials in chapters 4 to 7 are analysed. analysed. Chapter 2 outlines the research design. design. Chapter 3 will start by introducing current current developm deve lopments ents in education education news, news, then it will review scholarly scholarly studies studies of education education news. news. By 12
These issues were identified by the interviewees of this research including tthe he education editor and an education
reporter of the South China Morning Post , a deputy news editor and a principal reporter of the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, an executive committee member and the secretary of the Education Convergence.
drawing on the newsmaking and agenda-building literature, the chapter establishes an analytical framework for the study of news and policy-making. Chapters 4 to 7 are case studies, which will mainly present the results of content analysis of four educational educational issues in Hong Kong. Each chapter chapter will first briefly introduce the issue then this is followed by the analysis analysis of news coverage of the iss issue. ue. Utilising the typologies discussed discussed in Chapter 3, the analysis of news content includes categorising news sources and identifying their agendas. Chapter 8 is the concluding concluding chapter. By drawing on the approach approach established established in this study, the chapter will pull all the threads from the case studies together to scrutinise the implications of this research to the understanding of news and policy-making in Hong Kong. The thesis is presented presented in two volumes. For the reader’s convenience, convenience, charts and tables tables are organised separately.
Chapter 2 Research Design This study attempts to contribute to the understanding of political communication in Hong Kong. The study of political communication in Hong Kong has concentrated on journalism in crisis situations and its research design have emphasised examining “critical events” which, in most cases, were political conflicts involving the Chinese authorities and other political forces in Hong Kong. Kong. This study, study, instead, instead, concerns concerns routine journalism journalism and local social policy policy in Hong Kong, areas which have been been less investigated. investigated. Rather than seeking seeking understanding understanding of political comm commun unic icat atio ion n in th thos osee extr extrao aord rdin inar ary y mome moment ntss in Hong Hong Kong Kong’s ’s hi hist stor ory, y, th this is rese resear arch ch endeavours to explore political communication in daily life in Hong Kong.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS In regard regard to the more more genera generall unders understan tandin ding g about about news news and and pol policy icy-ma -makin king, g, thr three ee sets sets of empirical questions are central. Firstly, where in the policy policy process does does media coverage coverage occur? Secondly, Seco ndly, how do the media assess assess education education issues? issues? Who are the major sourc sources es of media agenda of education issues and how does the media conceive the newsworthiness of these sources? sou rces? Thirdly, Thirdly, what what are the agenda agendass of major source sources? s? This is to ask ask how news news sources sources definee issues and justify defin justify their definitions definitions of education education issues. issues. The final aim of this study is to find out what are the impacts of the publicity obtained by news sources on the policy agenda agenda.. As noted in the previous chapter, education has become a high priority issue to Hong Kong and and its citizen citizens, s, and so also a high high priori priority ty issue for its newspa newspaper pers. s. The present present researc research h scrutinis scru tinises es four cases cases about about substant substantial ial policy issues. The issues issues are the compulsor compulsory y mothermothertongue ton gue teach teaching ing in second secondary ary sc schoo hools, ls, langua language ge benchm benchmark ark asses assessme sment nt for teach teachers ers,, sex sex discrimination in the Secondary School Places Allocation System, and cuts of university funding between betw een 2001 and 2004. 2004. Language Language proficien proficiency cy has been a critical problem problem in Hong Kong. Kong. 22
Although this is not a substantial policy issue, the public debate on this issue is closely related to the issue of mother-tongue mother-tongue teaching. Hence, in this study the proficiency proficiency problem is treated as pa part rt of the mother-to mother-tongu nguee teach teaching ing issue. issue.
News News ite items ms relate related d to the languag languagee profic proficien iency cy
problem were coded separately in the content analysis. In order to attain comprehensiveness, these cases were chosen for their diverse nature. This helps to ensure the analysis adequately captures the very nature of news about education policy polic y and creates a broader base for making making inferences. inferences. The four substanti substantial al policy issues issues cove covere red d th thee ra rang ngee of educ educat atio ion n from from pr prim imar ary y to tert tertia iary ry in Hong Hong Kong Kong..
The The issu issues es of
compulsory mother-tongue teaching, benchmark assessment and school place allocation related to primary and secondary secondary education. This first two were about introducing introducing new new policies. policies. The issue of school place allocation was unexpected by the society and likely a surprise for the Hong Kong Govern Government ment as well. well. It involved involved two two public public institutio institutions ns in a legal legal battle. battle. Universit University y funding was an ongoing issue. The issues involved all major political actors in the education field including government auth author orit itie ies, s, majo majorr advi adviso sory ry bo bodi dies es re rela late ted d to the the maki making ng of educ educat atio ion n poli policy cy,, teac teache herr organi org anisa satio tions, ns, school school manage managemen ments ts an and d relate related d organi organisat sation ions, s, parent parentss groups groups and and stu studen dentt organisations. Some of these groups were aligned at times, and the inte interest rest of the general public toward these issues also varied. In selecting selecting these these cases, cases, the time frame of a policy was also also considered considered.. Since the four four cases have gone through their policy cycles, studying these cases can help to gain a more comprehensivee understanding of the interplay of the newsmaking and the policy-making process. comprehensiv
CONTENT ANAL A NALYSIS YSIS As a widely used research method, content analysis produces systematic data to quantify the manifest features of a large amount of text and provides a base for making broader inferences 23
about the processes and politics of representation (Deacon et al., 1999; Holsti, 1969:2-5, and Winmer and Dominick, 1987).
Selection of Newspapers To en ensu sure re th thee va vali lidi dity ty of th thee da data ta,, two two cr crit iter eria ia,, th thee si size ze of read reader ersh ship ip and and th thee natu nature re of newspapers, newspape rs, were adopted adopted for selecting selecting newspapers. Accordingly, the the Apple Daily, Daily, the Ming the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, the Oriental Daily and Daily and the South China Morning Post were were chosen. Although there is a wide range of newspapers in Hong Kong, the market share is highly concentrated. concentrate d. The top three Chinese-language Chinese-language newspapers, the Oriental Daily, Daily, the Apple the Apple Daily and the Ming the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, make up almost 80% of total newspaper readership readership and almost the same percentage of total newspaper circulation (see Table 2.1 and 2.2). The nature nature of the newspape newspapers rs is another important important considera consideration. tion. As discussed discussed in the previous chapter, although Hong Kong press consists of privately owned and party-financed newspapers, the newspaper market is dominated by commercial press which can further be divided into popular and elite press according to their target readership. The popular press represents mass culture and enjoys immense social influence given its large readership, which is mainly from the lower to middle classes; whereas, the elite press that represent the elite culture and serve the powerful constituencies of Hong Kong society are influentia influ entiall opinion opinion leaders leaders (Chan et al., 2000:532-53 2000:532-535). 5). This evaluation evaluation was supported supported by six credibility surveys of Hong Kong media which was conducted between 1990 and 2001 (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2001; see Table 2.3 and 2.4). 2.4). The ranking ranking of the newspapers newspapers may have changed changed in the past few years. The Apple Daily endea Daily endeavou voured red to establ establish ish its credib credibilit ility y and other other newsp newspap apers ers might might have have lost lost their their re repu puta tati tion on so some mewh what at fo forr ta taki king ng a more more pr proo-Ch Chin inaa st stan ance ce in repo reporti rting ng po poli liti tica call even events ts..
Nevertheless, since this research focused on the period between 1997 and 2001, the results of the credibility surveys were valid.
Data Collection Five sets of news items were collected corresponding to the four substantial policy issues and the language proficiency proficiency problem. All news items were published within the period from 1 January January 1997 to 31 August August 2001. For Chinese news, items items in 1997 were selected selected manually by checking checking the hard copies of the three Chinese newspapers; all the items published between 1998 and 2001 were collected from WiseNews WiseNews (the (the online Chinese publications database) by using a keyword method. Different combinations combinations of keywords (see (see Appendix I) were used used to search categories including headlines and text. (This database does not provide the search-by-subject function, the category “text” includes the lead paragraph.) All English items were collected from the South China Morning Post 's 's electronic database through two online publication databases, the [email protected]
and the Don Jones Interactive. Different Diffe rent combinati combinations ons of key keywor words ds (see (see Appen Appendix dix I) were were used used to search search the categ categori ories es
including headline, lead paragraph, text and subject. A pre-reading of news items was done to ensure the keywords were appropriate and the use of these keywords could filter out the most of relevant news items. Table 2.5 shows there are 2,400 news items in total collected from four daily newspapers, of which 1,908 items (1,656 electronic and 252 hard copy items) were published in Chinese, the other 492 in English English (electronic). The electronic items items have been screened screened to filter out irrelevant irrelevant items.13 As shown in Table Table 2.6, 53 per cent (1,133 (1,133 items) of all electronic electronic items are selecte selected. d. Finally, there are 1,385 newspaper items included in the content analysis.
News items were considered irrelevant because in these articles the four policy issues and the language proficiency problem only appeared in the context of reports about other topics or comments on other issues.
Coding Scheme and Qualifying Criteria A coding scheme that operationalises the key concepts of the theoretical framework and a set of qualifying criteria which can be applied systematically to identify the unit of analysis are two critic cri tical al compon component entss for a succe successf ssful ul conten contentt analys analysis. is.
The analytic analytical al framew framework ork will be
discusse disc ussed d in Chapter 3. This part part of the introduction introduction focuses focuses on the coding coding scheme and the the qualifying criteria of the content analysis. As demonstrated in Table 2.7, to identify a news item, the publishing date and source ne newsp wspap aper er are used as indica indicator tors. s. The major major part part of the conte content nt analys analysis is foc focuse usess on news content. This includes measuring measuring newsworthiness newsworthiness of educational educational issues and news news sources, and exploring the interpretations interpretations of the issues. The analysis examines examines news coverage coverage of the press as a whole whole and compa compares res coverag coveragee of indivi individua duall newspa newspape pers. rs.
The The str strong onges estt indica indicator tor of
newsworthiness of a particular issue is the size of coverage coverage of the issue. Since the majority of the collected news items in this research are on electronic file, one is unable to measure the width and height of headlines and body text. Instead, the the number and word count of the news
itemss are coded as the measure item measure of size of coverage. coverage. If only the number number of news items items were counted, coun ted, the results could be misleading misleading because because the number number of news items do not reflect reflect how much space the items physically physically occupy on newspapers. newspapers. Therefore, the word count, which to a certain extent reflects the measure of space on newspapers, was also adopted as a measure of coverage size. In addition to the size of coverage coverage,, the composition composition of coverage coverage,, to a certain certain extent, extent, also indicates how newsworthy newsworthy an issue is. To cover a newsworthy newsworthy topic or event, newspapers newspapers give it not only a larger coverage but also a more diverse coverage; besides the main story, special reports, features, commentaries, interviews, even investigative reports associated to the main story will be written. Hence, article article types are coded as a me measure asure of the diversity of coverage. coverage. In understanding the making of education news, the counting of different types of articles is an 26
indicator indic ator of the use of organisa organisationa tionall resource. resource.
In most instances, instances, apart apart from management management
problems, producing news pages is much more costly than producing commentaries such as opinio opi nion n pages, pages, co colum lumns ns and letters-t letters-to-t o-thehe-edi editor tor..
Compar Compared ed to the salaries salaries for report reporters ers,,
contribution fees to the public who who write to the press press are relatively relatively low. As for columnists, columnists, the rates are varied according to the reputation of the columnist, but on the whole maintaining a team of reporters reporters is more costly than using using freelance freelance writers. writers. In addition, addition, producing producing news pages pages involves some administration costs, such as transportation fees, photos, etc., which may not be involved in the production of an opinion opinion page. Therefore, a press has to devote devote more resources if it produces more news reports than commentaries on a particular topic. Where a story appears appears in the newspapers newspapers also indicates indicates its importance. It is obvious that front page stories are considered mo more re important than stories on on the local news page. However, there are limitations in using news sections as an indicator of media evaluation of public issues, since not every newspaper has the same set of news pages and there are no objective criteria for judging which story is on which page. To determine which space for a story is a practical decision made everyday everyday by editors who have to consider consider several factors concu concurrently. rrently. Thus, data generated gene rated by coding coding news sections sections is difficult difficult to interpret. interpret. Despite Despite this, whether whether an issue issue has been reported reported on the front page page of newspapers newspapers is still a part of media evalua evaluation tion of issues. issues. In particular, when news coverage of an issue stretches over a long period of time, the number of times an issue is reported on the front page, as an indicator of newsworthiness, is more reliable. The measure of newsworthiness of a particular news source includes the number of quotes
attributed to that source and how a source appears in the news; that is whether the source is quoted directly or is paraphrased paraphrased by reporters. reporters. To avoid confusing confusing media presen presence ce with media access, when a person, group or institution’s name only appeared appeared in the context of other people’s comments, comm ents, these these were not counted. counted. The primary primary data generated generated form coding news sources sources is
further grouped into regular/non-regular sources and advocates/arbiters, and these two sets of concepts are discussed in chapter 3. The interpretive dimension dimension of news content is about about issue definition. To conceptualise the the interpretative dimension of news, Gamson and Modigliani (Gamson, 1988:165-166; Gamson and Modigliani, 1989:3) suggested conceiving news content as a set of “interpretive packages” that assign meaning meaning to an issue. Gamson and Lasch Lasch (1983:398) argued argued that “the ideal elements elements in a cultu culture re do not exist in isolat isolation ion but are grouped grouped into into more more or less less harmo harmonio nious us cluste clusterr or interpreti inte rpretive ve packages. packages. The different different idea elements elements in a given package package mutually mutually support and reinforce each other. other. Frequently, it is possible to su suggest ggest the package package as a whole by the use use of a single sin gle prominen prominentt elemen element.” t.”
They They distin distingui guishe shed d the framing framing elemen elements ts from from the reasonin reasoning g
elemen ele ments ts of issue issue interp interpret retati ation. on.
The framing framing part of an interp interpret retive ive package package is a centr central al
organising idea for making sense of relevant events of an issue and for suggesting what the issue
is about. about. The core frame frame of an interpreti interpretive ve package package is not only to provide provide an epistemolog epistemological ical framework for the audience to mentally organise the othe otherwise rwise chaotic chaotic world, world, it also implies implies a
range of positions on on an issue. To justify those positions positions suggested by the package, the there re has to include a reasoning part. In order to display the core frame and the positions, a package package provides condensin cond ensing g symbolic symbolic devices. devices.
Gamson Gamson and Lasch (1983:399 (1983:399-400) -400) identified identified five types types of
framing devices: metaphors, exemplars, catchphrases, depictions, and visual images; and three types of reasoning devices, which are roots (causal dynamics), consequences (effects or assumed effects of policies) and appeals to principle (moral appeals and general precepts). Based on the above, text containing symbolic devices 14 directly related to the education issues iss ues in this this resea research rch were include included d in the analys analysis. is. For example example,, statem statement entss such such as the following were counted:
Since the collection of data only includes text, there is no visual images for coding.
“She said she supported mother-tongue education and it was evident that pupils taught in Chinese were more eager to learn since the policy was introduced in 1998” (3 May 2001, South China Morning Post , as stated by the chairman of the Education Commission). “The assessment signifies the Education Department’s distrust of language teachers and it willl defini wil definitel tely y hit their morale” morale” (24 May 2000, 2000, South China Morning Post , as stated by the president of the Professional Teachers' Union). The first statement suggested a clear position on the issue of mother-tongue teaching; it is a depiction of the issue, and the second statement also stated a clear the position on the issue of benchmar benc hmark k assessme assessment, nt, which which also contained contained an appeal appeal to moral principle principle and suggest suggested ed a conse conseque quenc ncee of the benchma benchmark rk assess assessmen mentt policy policy..
Statem Statement entss which which mentio mention n any of the
education issues as an example or as part of an argument or criticism related to other topics were not counted since they do not convey ideas of those issues issues per per se. se. The coding coding criteria were applied consistently consistently throughout the coding coding process. Nevertheless, there would would still be some texts which which would be difficult difficult to judge. judge. For instance, instance, statemen statements ts related rela ted to more than one issue or the text itself is unclea unclear. r. As Deacon Deacon et al. (1999) (1999) suggested, suggested, there is no right or wrong to the question of what should be included; as content analysis is aimed to quantify “salient” and “manifest” features of a large number of text, the judgement of including a unit of analysis is based on what is manifestly stated in the text; reading deeply into the semantics of the text is avoided. To interpret the primary data generated from the coding process, the data is regrouped accordin acc ording g to the analytical analytical framework framework of this research. research. The analysis analysis focuses focuses on prominent prominent aspects of issues including policy solutions, solutions, and the allocation of responsibilities responsibilities and blame. In addition, to be manageable, the coding of news themes only include peak month items instead of all qualified items.
Besides the themes within texts, news format also contains the interpretation of issues. The title of a news page suggests suggests to the audience audiencess the nature of the stories it contains. contains. Hence Hence analysis of the interpretive dimension of news coverage will take account of this.
INTERVIEWS The data collecte collected d from the interviews interviews is the supplemen supplementt of the content content analysis. analysis. It helps to achieve a more comprehensive understanding understanding of the production of education news in Hong Kong and in turn the news news coverage of education. education. Ideally, interviews should should be conducte conducted d with media professionals including journalists and media managers, and all other main actors in the policymaking process, process, including activists and government government officials. However, due to the reluctance reluctance of 15
some individuals, the problem of scheduling, and institutional obstacles , not all the targeted organizations and individuals were able to be interviewed. During a one-month period of data collection, there were seven interviews conducted with four journalists, one media manager and two individuals who represent the same interest group, but no government officials were interviewed (for the list of interviewees and which interview occurred, see Appendix Appendix II). In an attempt to understand understand how the news production production process affects affects ne news ws cover coverage age of educat education ional al issues issues,, the interv interview iewss follow follow a lis listt of open-e open-ende nded d questi questions ons regarding the media–source relationship and the selection of news is questioned (see Appendix III).
The Education and Manpower Bureau and the Education Commission are staffed with the same information officer seconded from the Information Services Department. The information officer ssaid aid that she was not able to answer any questions regarding the daily practices of her work and her relationship with journalists and it would be very unlikely that anyone else at the Bureau or the Commission can/would answer those questions. The officer can only provide information which is available to the public.
Chapter 3 Education News And Public Policy In Hong Kong
NEWS COVERAGE OF EDUCATION AND ITS SCHOLARLY STUDY Since the early 1980s there has been a global trend towards a significant increase in the news coverage of educational educational issues. This indicates that both the public public and the news media pe perceive rceive education as increasingly important to individual lives and to socio-economic development. In the United States and England, traditionally, education was a secondary beat in news organisations. This has changed changed since a wave of education education reform emerged in the the West during the 1980s. A survey by Hynds Hynds (1989) documented documented the change by examining examining the demographic chara characte cteris ristic ticss and and employ employmen mentt co condi nditio tions ns of educa educatio tion n journa journalis lists. ts.
He also also survey surveyed ed
journalists’ opinions about newspaper coverage of education, trends in education coverage and major education stories. stories. Hynds (1989:696) concluded concluded that most large large daily newspapers in major cit cities ies in the United United States States have have “impro “improved ved an and d expan expande ded d their their covera coverage ge of educa educatio tion n by assignin ass igning g more reporters, reporters, allocating allocating more space, and giving giving better better play to educatio education n news. news. Concurrently, they upgraded the education education beat so that it is no longer considered a stepping stone but a highly desirable desirable assignmen assignment.” t.” Baker Baker (1994), a researcher researcher who was also the educat education ion correspondentt for the BBC, indicated the same corresponden same trend occurring in Brita Britain. in. He stated, “The media media profile profi le of education education has risen sharply sharply in recent years. years. This trend trend is reflected reflected in the number number of specialist education education correspondents correspondents now employed by newspapers… The growth in education education pages—while partly explained by the drive for lucrative job advertisements—also reflects the growing grow ing importance importance attached attached to the subject” (Baker, (Baker, 1994:286). 1994:286). This view is shared by other researchers, such as Doe (1999:336).
Accompanying Accompanyin g economic globalisation, the trend in education reform in Western countries has spread to the rest of the world. In the so-called g greater reater China region, Ch China, ina, Hong Kong and Taiwan all carried out their education education reforms in the 1990s. Since the discussion discussion of educational issues has crossed over into the popular debates of the new economy and the knowledge-based so soci ciet ety, y, th thee su subj bjec ectt was was el elev evat ated ed to a more more pr prom omin inen entt pl plac acee in th thee pu publ blic ic pl plac acee and and on governmen gove rnmentt agendas. agendas. educa educatio tion. n.
This, in turn, produced produced an increasing increasing demand demand for information information about about
Hoping Hoping to lure lure more more ad adver vertis tising ing from the educat education ion sector sector and enlarge enlarge their
reader rea dershi ship, p, the Hong Hong Kong Kong newspa newspaper pers, s, espec especial ially ly those those targe targetin ting g middle middle-cl -class ass reader readers, s, substantially increased their coverage on educational educational affairs. The Apple Daily ran Daily ran a page titled “Health “Hea lth and Educat Education” ion” for a short short time in 2000. 2000. The South China Morning Post launched launched its Educa Ed ucatio tion n Post, Post, a weekly weekly supple supplemen mentt publis publishe hed d every every Saturd Saturday, ay, in August August 2000 2000 since since the company comp any recognised recognised the growing demand demand and importance importance of education education news. Its education education editor said: We [journalists] realised that in Hong Kong education has become a big issue socially and politicall polit ically, y, and education education is also important important to the public public interest. interest. To a certain extent, extent, education becomes more appealing because the Chief Executive of the government picks up the issue16…For the higher-level managers [media executives], all they want is the education market. market. You can see in the Saturday paper paper [the South China Morning Post ], ], in the main pages, there are sixty to seventy percent advertisements are related to education. For some education journalists, the rapid change of the education system created “the golden era of education news”, as the deputy news editor of the Apple the Apple Daily call Daily call it. Despite the increasing news coverage of educational affairs, the existing scholarship on news and education education policy remains relatively relatively scarce. Only a handful of researchers researchers studied news
In his maiden policy address in 1997, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region Government devoted a long section to addressing educational issues. He said, “I am convinced that we need to take a very careful look at the whole structure of our education system…By the end of this year, we will have reviewed the existing structure of executive and advisory bodies, with the aim of streamlining the system. In the coming year, we will: ask the Education Commission to begin a thorough review of the structure of pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary education…review our policy on private schools in order to foster a more vibrant and diverse private school system…review our examination system to take account of student performance at schools…and ask the universities to review their admission criteria for undergraduates to give recognition to excellence in extra-curricula areas, such as community service, arts and sports” (Policy Address 1997, section E, paragraph 101).
and education in the early 1990s but the quantity of studies is growing alongside the accelerating structural change of education systems in different countries. The existing existing studies studies about news and education education can be divided divided into two types in terms of their intellectual concerns. concerns. One type of study is main mainly ly concerned about news news coverage and the the construct cons truction ion of public perception perception of educa education tion in general. general. Most of these studies studies are textua textuall analyses of news news stories about educational educational issues. By demonstrating what what type of educational educational issues are covered, what aspects of those issues were reported, and what other issues were missing, some of these studies, such as those done by Saltmarsh (1998) and Pettigrew (1997), enriched the understanding of the relation between media coverage and the construction of public debate on educational educational issues. These studies directed directed attention to the ideological nature of the public public debate. Others Others studies, studies, such as by Clinchy Clinchy (1997) and Lumley Lumley (1998), only blame blame journalists for their bias by showing how the media misrepresents teachers, students, and school life. Concerning the management management of the education education system, Doe (1999) inquired inquired into the role of the news media in the centralisation of administration and the control of school systems in England and focused on how information control by the government and commercial interests of the news media interact to influence schooling. The other other type of study study concern concernss news news and educa educatio tion n policy policy..
Most Most of the studie studiess
endeavoured endeavoure d to reveal the relationship between media coverage coverage and the formulation of education po poli licy cy bu butt fe few w of th them em de demo mons nstr trat ated ed sa sati tisf sfac acto tory ry resu result lts. s.
Adop Adopti ting ng Ga Gans ns’s ’s th theo eory ry of
ne news wsma maki king ng,, McLe McLend ndon on and and Pete Peters rson on (1 (199 999) 9) st stud udie ied d th thee pr pres esss cove covera rage ge of th thee 1995 1995 appropriations conflict conflict between two universities universities in Michigan. This case sstudy tudy aimed to examine examine the relation between the media and state-level higher education policy in the United States and it su succ ccess essful fully ly docume documente nted d the po power wer of instit instituti utiona onall source sourcess in shapi shaping ng news news cover coverage age of educa educatio tion n issue issues. s.
On the question question about news effec effects ts and policy-m policy-maki aking, ng, however however,, they they
provided no more than a discussion discussion of the the major findings in media effects litera literatures. tures. This, as
McLendon and Peterson suggested, suggested, only justified the significance of the research about news and public publ ic policy and examined examined “theoretic “theoretically” ally” the role of news in polic policy y process. process. They further further suggested that future empirical study should focus on the impact of news media upon policymaking. Bowers Bowe rs (1988), (1988), in his PhD research research,, studied studied media effects effects on public opinion about local educa educatio tion n policy policy in the United United States States,, includ including ing a test test of agend agenda-s a-sett etting ing effect. effect.
hypothesised that there were significant media effects on public opinion towards education policy issues. issues. Nevertheless, the agenda-setting agenda-setting effect has not been detected detected in his study. Media treatment of interest groups’ and newspapers’ positions on particular issues were not statistically significa sign ificant nt in shaping shaping public public opinions. opinions.
Rather, Rather, personal personal characterist characteristics ics seemed seemed to be more
important impo rtant in determining determining one’s opinion. opinion. The study by Bowers Bowers is inconsiste inconsistent nt with most other recent rece nt studies. studies. His study also does not provide provide a comprehe comprehensive nsive understan understanding ding of the topic. topic. Some scholars adopted different textual or semantic analysis to approach the question about news and education policy. In Australia, Thomas published two papers about news and education in 1996 and 1999, the earlier paper being being the initial findings of her stud study y into educational news news coverage. Thomas clearly stated that the study aimed to explore the “influence of public discourse on educational policy polic y making” (Thomas, (Thomas, 1996:168). 1996:168). The paper paper treated treated news as a textually textually mediated reality reality which legitimates existing power structures by constraining public debate on educational issues. The analysis, then, focused on news themes and news sources but gave no account of the relationship between between news and and policy-making. Following this line line of thinking, her her 1999 paper focused on identifying prominent figures featured in education news, their representations on news and their positions positions within social relations relations reflected reflected in media media discourses discourses of education education (Thomas, 1999).
Also adopting textual analysis, Treyens’s (1997) PhD research applied framing analysis to explore the relationship relationship between news news frames and education education policy outcomes. outcomes. Studying news coverage of the higher education policy of Ohio in the United Sates, she argued that news coverage affects education policy decisions in different phases of policy process by structuring public publ ic debates debates and providing providing cognitive cognitive frames frames of education educational al issues. In its in-depth, in-depth, timespanning examination of news items and official documents of the workload issue in Ohio’s tertiary institutions, Treyens’s study showed measurable evidence of direct linkage between news frames and policy policy decisions by mapping ne news ws themes and policy outcomes. outcomes. This research is significant but it only only tells one side of of the story. It demonstrated the the effects of news ccontent ontent on policy-making but it did not reveal the intertwining processes of news construction and the formation of public policy. The most most compre comprehen hensiv sivee an and d theore theoretic ticall ally y import important ant studie studiess conce concerni rning ng news news and and education policy policy have been done done by Wallace, Wallace, a British education scholar. scholar. He maintained that that “a refined conceptual map is needed to incorporate the media as an integral component of a theory which encompasses the interaction between interest groups, including media professionals and their employers, within and between the institution, local, national and even international levels” (Walla (Wa llace ce,, 1993:3 1993:335) 35)..
Walla Wallace ce suggest suggested ed a model model in which which the news media, media, as the most
important communication channel besides the formal links between policy-makers, are placed at the centre centre of the web of relationship relationshipss between actors actors in the realm of policy policy formation. formation. This model emphasises the relative autonomy of media professionals in exercising news value in the production of news content and suggests that the media has influence in the production of policy text and the practice practice of policy. However, in Wallace’s Wallace’s model, he loosely considers considers other pivotal elements elem ents of newsmaking newsmaking.. Based Based on his model and research research agenda, agenda, Wallace (1998) (1998) did an empirical empi rical study on media–so media–source urce relationships relationships that illustrated illustrated the dependen dependency cy and tensions tensions between betw een media media professiona professionals ls and news sources. sources. At the end of the study, the scholar scholar raised a
question over the consequences of the media–source interaction as regards the quality of the education policy process. process. However, further study has not not been done to answer this ques question. tion. As regards the central concern of this thesis, the second type of study is more instructive. In general, these studies suggested that there are strong media effects on the formulation of education policy, policy, though their findings are far far from conclusive. This thesis attempts attempts to expand the knowledge known about news and the making of educational policy by firstly, examining moree close mor closely ly the relati relation on betwee between n the produc productio tion n of educa educatio tion n news news and and the format formation ion of education policy, and secondly by serving as a base for further comparative study. In view of the centrality of news media in political communication, scholars from both the disciplines of political science and communication studies (such as Cobb and Elder, 1972, 1981; Deacon and Golding, 1994:8; Kennamer, 1992; Tiffen, 1989; Wallace, 1995 a, b) maintained that news news media should should be understood understood as an integral integral part of the modern policy policy process. process. This notion is the starting point for this present research.
UNDERSTANDING EDUCATION NEWS IN HONG KONG How should news be understood? understood? The answer varies in accordance accordance with the different definitions which define news. news. Suggesting news should be understood understood as the product product of the processes processes by which wh ich it is produc produced, ed, the newsma newsmakin king g ap appro proac ach, h, as Tif Tiffen fen (1989: (1989:3) 3) neatly neatly stated stated,, “direc “directs ts attention to situations and processes rather than the qualities and biases of individuals performing set roles” roles” in shaping shaping news content. content. The approach approach,, hence, neither neither simply conceive conceivess news as a “mirror of reality”, nor as ideological domination domination of the powerful. Perceiving news aass a product of the newsmaking process is to recognise the fact that news is “the product of the choices of many ma ny ra rath ther er th than an th thee de deci cisi sion onss of a fe few” w” (Sig (Sigal al,, 1973 1973:2 :2). ).
In esta establ blis ishi hing ng th theo eore retic tical al
generalisations about news, the approach accommodates the particularities of producing news content in different areas and scrutinises the interaction between human actions and institutional 36
structures of news production. production. The meaningful questions, questions, then, which have to be asked asked are: how different forces influence news content in the course of production process and what are the consequences consequen ces of this process? Differ Dif ferent ent stages stages of news news constr construct uction ion,, includ including ing planni planning, ng, gathe gatherin ring, g, selec selectin ting g and 17 presenting information, information, have been explored in a wide range of resea researches. rches. Insightful studies17
revealed that in order to secure a continuous and sufficient supply of information, and to select and present raw materials of news in formats appealing to audiences, news media rely on three instit ins tituti utiona onall and and cu cultu ltural ral de devic vices, es, as Tiffen Tiffen (1989: (1989:4) 4) sugges suggested ted:: instit instituti utiona onalis lised ed routin routines es,, pred predic icta tabl blee and and pr prod oduc ucti tive ve mean meanss fo forr ga gath ther erin ing g news news,, and and sh shar ared ed conv conven enti tion onss abou aboutt newsworth news worthiness iness and presentat presentation. ion. By using this threefold framework, framework, the following segment segment will discuss the production of education news in Hong Kong newspaper companies.
Major studies of newsmaking include those by Epstein, 1973; Sigal, 1973; Tuchman, G. 1978; Gans, 1979; and Fishman, 1980.
Organisational Requirement Requirements s Institutionalised routines are the “standard operating procedures” of both news organisations and the profession of journalism (Fisherman, (Fisherman, 1980:14; Sigal, 1973:1 1973:101). 01). The concept can refer to the every everyday day ac activ tiviti ities es within within the newsro newsroom, om, such such as editor editorial ial meetin meetings, gs, inform informal al discu discussi ssions ons between reporters and editors about particular stories, and daily news activities carried out by reporters. News routines are a systematic systematic way of tapping, tapping, filtering and packaging packaging information to ensu ensure re a re regu gula larr pr prod oduc ucti tion on of news. news.
This This is devel develop oped ed and and modi modifi fied ed to meet meet a set set of
organisational demands. demands. From the production sense, sense, news stories, in the first place, place, have to be presented within the limits of “time” (deadlines) and “space” (the size of the news pages in print mediaa and the length of the broadcasts medi broadcasts on electronic electronic media). media). The cyclical cyclical rhythm rhythm varies in ac accor cordan dance ce with with differ different ent types types of media media rangin ranging g from from hourly hourly,, daily, daily, weekly weekly,, to monthl monthly. y. Howe Ho weve ver, r, it is th thee se sett time timess and and th thee pr pred edet eter ermi mine ned d si size ze of sp spac acee th that at pr prof ofou ound ndly ly sh shar arp p journalistic practices and the content content which are produced. Another factor interrelated to the time and space factors factors is the position, both political political and commercial, of media orga organisations. nisations. Among Hong Kong newspapers, except for the few partisan press controls set the Chinese Government, all others are privately privately owned owned businesses. businesses. However, However, even for the partisan partisan press, to maximis maximisee profit and to expand business are prime imperatives of Hong Kong’s commercial media system. In this sense, journalistic practices are organised to produce content that is able to maintain and extend readership. Depending on which segment of readership the newspapers appeal to, the priority given to education news, the writing style and the overall news format of educational reports are varied. At the time this thesis was written, in Hong Kong, few of the elite press had an education section. sect ion. These These included included the South China Morning Post , the the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Journal, Ming Pao Daily, Daily, Sing Tao Daily, Daily, and the Hong the Hong Kong Economic Times. Times. The first two publi publish sh their education education page weekly weekly and the last three publish publish daily. The Apple Daily, Daily , a popular press 38
having a large middle-class readership, is one of the two largest circulated newspapers in Hong Kong, also ran a “health and education page”, which it has now ceased publishing. When a newspaper decides to run an education page, it needs the resources to sustain the production of that page. page. Journalists, clearly, clearly, are the most important and expensive expensive among those resour res ource ces. s.
The elite elite press press running running an educat education ion page employ employ reporter reporterss and editors editors who
specialise in the field. The education education editor of the South China Morning Post said said that she had speciali spe cialised sed in the field for over ten years. Under Under her supervision, supervision, the page page was staffed with reporters covering covering different parts of the field. field. The whole education education area is divided divided into several news beats, beats, such as basic education education and tertiary educatio education. n. The papers papers without an education education page have a lower lower capacity to cover cover the education beat. beat. The Apple The Apple Daily had Daily had no education editor speciali spe cialising sing in the education education area. The editor editor who oversaw the educatio education n beat said that the division divis ion of newsbeats newsbeats in the Apple Daily Daily was not very clear, as one editor had to look after several seve ral beats. Moreover, Moreover, she said that while stories about about education education were normally normally passed to he her, r, she was not the only only one who could could edit edit educati education on news. news. The Apple Daily did Daily did have a separate education education beat but the number of reporters was far less than that of the papers which had an education page. When talking about about the difficulties of reporting on eeducation, ducation, the principal principal reporter of the Apple the Apple Daily said, Daily said, Competition is fierce in the the education beat. beat. However, we only have two people people to cover the whole field, while other papers [papers which have an education page] have larger teams. To reporters, the pace of the production cycle, the available space and the nature of news 18 page are given conditions conditions of reporting. Associated with this is the question of the ne news ws format. 18
In newspapers without an education page, the reporting of education is essentially event-driven. Stories Stori es about education education events events are treated as part of the broad and loosely loosely defined category category of local news; in turn, education education news has to compete compete for space with other local local news stories. This
18 Tiffen (1989) suggested that “format” can refer to “both the total mix of a news program or publication and to the structuring of individual stories”. In discussing the reporting of education, I refer to the second meaning.
treatment results in the compressed coverage of education and the limited choice of topics. Education Educ ation news is disadvant disadvantaged aged in competing competing for space on local news pages. pages. As the deputy news editor of the Apple the Apple Daily said, Daily said, “Education news is intrinsically static; there are generally very few education events which become big news”. Furthermore, since local news target general audiences, as the education reporter of the Apple Daily indicated, Daily indicated, stories are chosen “from the viewpoint of the general public rather than from that of the education education professionals”. professionals”. Thus, many stories stories about educational educational activities will be ruled out. Newspapers such as the Apple the Apple Daily still Daily still run features and special reports on education issues. However, they are published occasionally occasionally as follow-up to those “really important” events events and, as well well as daily news, they still still have to compete compete for space. In newspaper newspaperss which have a weekly education education page, the reporting of education education is divided into two parts. For example, in the South China Morning Post , daily news still needs to compete with other news for space on the local news pages. That is no no different for the popular popular papers. “It has to be a really really big event event in the education area to become a story on the news pages”, as the education editor of the South China Morning Post said. Compared with the daily coverage, coverage, the reporting on its education page is different. When discussi disc ussing ng how she and her colleagues colleagues covered covered their beats, beats, the education education editor of the South China Morning Post said, said, “We respond to daily news, but as a weekly paper, we have to break our own news and do our own research research”. ”. Her subordinate concisely concisely described their repo reporting rting as “issue-driven”.. Making a daily education “issue-driven” education page would be a great challenge. Those newspapers newspapers that run a daily education page provide readers with both timely information and comprehensive coverage cove rage of the the education education area. area. The Press Press such such as the Ming Pao Daily not Daily not only report more education events that would otherwise not be covered by other papers, but they also run a great deal of features, columns written by educators, and other planned content on a regular basis.
It is obvious that deadlines are strictly applied to daily news items but not to planned coverage. Thus, in a production sense, sense, the making of an education education page, whether it is a daily or weekly publication, publication, is relatively predictable predictable and controllable. controllable. It is clear that planned planned covera coverage ge offer greater opportunities to enclose enclose contextual details and aanalyses. nalyses. In turn, running a separate educa educatio tion n page, page, newspa newspaper perss ca can n attain attain a more more compre comprehe hensi nsive ve and deepe deeperr covera coverage ge of the education educ ation world. world. This is also the expectatio expectation n of both journalis journalists ts and readers, readers, especially especially the attentive readership including education professionals, some students and parents, and those interested in education. The above discussion compares the organisational arrangement and basic structure of news content cont ent in newspapers newspapers with and without an education education page. The different different styles of education education ne news ws be betwe tween en the elite elite and popular popular press press are the respon response se of many many factor factorss includ including ing the commercial positioning of newspapers, the production rhythm, size of space, and the nature of news pages.
News Gathering The institutional structure of news beats not only affects the quality of the news content by confining journalists’ access to information but it also affects the nature of news-gathering activities. Talking about the the scope of topics topics and organisations organisations to be covered, covered, both the principal report rep orter er of the Apple Daily Daily and her editor emphasised that education is a “very large beat”. From kindergarten to university, there are slightly more than two thousand education institutions in Hong Kong. The beat also includes includes government agencies, agencies, advisory bodies, bodies, and many interest interest groups. Therefore, there is a huge variety and a larg largee number of events as potentia potentiall stories. Tiffen (1989:33) revealed that a physical centre encourages a strong social base to a news beat by providing a place for reporters from different organisations and their sources to mix on a da daily ily basis. basis.
The concent concentrat ration ion of source sourcess and journali journalists sts facili facilitat tates es formal formal and inform informal al
information dissemination. dissemination. It further generates generates social support support and work ethos among among reporters themselves, which produces more autonomy for journalists to shun the influence of both their employer empl oyerss and their sources. sources. However, However, the sources sources of educatio education n news are situated situated in diverse diverse locations loca tions.. There There is no physical physical venue, such as a pressroom in a central central government government building, building, which facilitates the work of both sources and reporters by simplifying the public-relation efforts of the former and helping helping the regular productivity productivity of the latter. Without Without the concentratio concentration n of sources and reporters, the education beat is closer to the type of news beat with a weak social base where —“reporters work out of their head office and see their competitors irregularly; routine information dissemination is haphazard or non-existent; newsworthy events are widely dispersed; there is little continuity of sources over different stories; and there is a variety of story types”19 (Tiffen, 1989:33). Education news is diverse for the reasons that there is a lack of strong common news input and a wide range of educational activities, which could become interesting stories, are going on. From human interest to policy issue, an education story can be about a school accident, a prescheduled event like an inter-school sports competition; a promotional activity of sources such a news release about academic research project, a tip-off from school personnel about a school scandal, scan dal, an interest interest group activity activity,, or a government government announc announcemen ement. t. Without Without a venue for a conce concentr ntrati ation on of source sourcess and journa journalis lists, ts, discov discoveri ering ng newsw newswort orthy hy events events is de depen pende dent nt on sources’ promotional promotional activities and reporters’ personal personal networks. As there is no robust collective collective dynamic among the education reporters, education reporting is likely to be influenced more by organisational values and the evaluation of education news in different media.
For understanding institutional accommodation of news media, Tiffen (1989:33) illustrated a spectrum of news beats: “At one extreme is a strong social base, frequent contact with other reporters and with regular sources, the institution has accommodated itself to the presence of the media with well-developed routines of information dissemination, and most of the stories involve similar skills and generate a cumulative store of relevant knowledge. At the other extreme, there is no social base to the round [beat]—reporters work out of their head office and see their competitors irregularly; routine information dissemination is haphazard or non-existent; newsworthy events are widely dispersed; there is little continuity of sources over different stories; and there is a variety of story types”.
The Sources As reporters are unable to witness all newsworthy events, they inevitably rely on news sources to supply information. The centrality centrality of sources sources in news production production is, therefore, indisputable. indisputable. In this section, the discussion of news sources will focus on the structure and orientation of news sources for reporting on on education in Hong Kong. As for the significance significance of the media–source media–source relationship and how it relates to policy-making, this will be addressed in a later discussion about the political impacts of news. As mentioned above, to cover the large field of education, other than government sources and education reporters, there is a heavy reliance on active members of interest groups as sources to supply news and story ideas. The Apple The Apple Daily’s Daily’s principle reporter said: For government policies policies or official events, we have to use g government overnment sources. sources. Other than that, we have have to rely on on our own network of sources. sources. The field is just so big. There are too too many teachers and and headmasters, headmasters, and there are more than a million million students. Stories come from fro m all levels levels of educat education ional al institut institution ion and are about about all aspec aspects ts of educati education. on. For efficiency, we focus on the leaders of interest groups. Through them, we can can contact many different individuals. Besides, there is one type of source especially prolific in the education beat, the “complainants “complainants in schools” scho ols” who could could be students or teachers teachers or other people in the schoo schools. ls. The Apple Daily’s Daily’s education reporter said: Comparati Comp aratively vely,, people are more often complain complain in education education field. Most of them come from parents, parents, students students and teachers. teachers. This is probably probably because because people in the education education system come from very diffe system different rent backgrounds backgrounds and they occupy occupy different different positions positions in the system. It’s just so easy easy to have have conflicts. The orientation of sources affects news reporting and the relationship between journalists and news source sources. s. Generally Generally speaki speaking, ng, educato educators rs are more in favour favour of the elite elite press. Both the deputy depu ty editor and the principal reporter reporter of the Apple Daily Daily blamed education professionals as being too conservative. The editor said: said: Frankly,, we don’t have a good relationship with educators…For us, one of the difficulty in doing Frankly education news is that the education professionals, especially schools headmasters, are reluctant to talk to us. They said we are sensationalists sensationalists and feel that that they cannot control control our writing. We 43
have never never had any leaks from the the educationists. They are in favour favour of the elite press and only only pass information on to them.
However, the sources sources also have have complaints. A member of the Education Education Convergence Convergence 20 who is also a vice-principal of a high school said: The media are inclined to exaggerate, especially in the popular press, they place too much stresss on readers’ stres readers’ taste…We are happy happy to have interview interviews. s. At least we have have a chance to express our view view but, certainly, we cannot cannot control the news news coverage. It is quite often that there are only two out of a hundred words we said which are reported in the news and it may not then be accurately reported. Jo Journ urnali alists sts from the South China Morning Post experienced things differently and made a positive comment comment on their relationship with news news sources. The report said: I found that many educators educators are quite open and and willing to talk to me. In general, new schools schools are better than famous famous elite schools schools since there there are more avant-garde avant-garde teachers. teachers. Members of interest groups are also a good source; I found many good points in conversations with them. I like to develop a relationship relationship with academics. academics. There are many interesting things going o on n in the universities but the academics won’t tell the media; we have to discover things for ourselves. The Journalists In studying news production in Hong Kong, one has to acknowledge some common endemic defects defe cts as reporters’ reporters’ lack of specialis specialistt knowledge. knowledge. The problem problem could be more serious for the education beat than other other beats. It is likely that since education is a secon secondary dary beat in most news media, medi a, there is greater greater difficulty in retaining retaining experienc experienced ed reporters. reporters. This lack of specialis specialistt knowledg kno wledgee is suggested suggested by a member member of the Education Education Convergence Convergence as one of the problems problems in reporting educational issues: Education reporters change change beats so often. Many of them do not have sufficient kno knowledge wledge about the current of education education developm development. ent. So their writings can’t really touch touch the crux of the problems. The interviews with journalists journalists pointed in the same direction. All reporters and one of the two editors interviewed said that they did not have any specialist knowledge about Hong Kong 20
When he was interviewed, he was a vice-principal of a secondary school and was an executive committee member of the
education before they they started reporting on educational educational affairs. Except the education education editor of the South China Morning Post who who had specialised in education for more than a decade, all the other respondent reporters had under three years experience in the field when they were interviewed. “I am just learning on the job” is the common answer to the question about how they acquired speciali spe cialist st knowledge knowledge in their area. The lack of specialist specialist knowledge knowledge may render render journalists journalists vulnerable to the influence of news sources because they may rely more on their source to provide story ideas and accounts of educational issues. This, in fact, reflected the general demographic feature of the news profession in Hong Kong. Chan et al. (1998), by by comparing survey survey data from Hong Kong, Kong, the USA and Australia, Australia, found that there were 66 per cent of Hong Kong journalists under the age of 34 while only 41 per cent of American journalists were in this same age range, and half of Hong Kong journalists had less than two years experience in journalism. Inexperience was was not the only or the worse worse defect of Hong Kong Kong reporters. According to Lowe (1996:332-333) indicated, most journalism students, who were prospective media workers, were “seriously handicapped by their lack of knowledge and lack of interests in the processes and institution that governed and controlled their society…They had very little conceptual and practical understanding of the role and workings of institutions like the legislature and the judiciary”. This led to a suspicion that reporters’ lack of knowledge of public affairs might encourage somee powerful sources som sources with strong publicity publicity interests interests to dominate media coverag coverage. e. For the journalists who were unable to raise critical questions when doing interviews, those powerful sources would have control of the media agenda.
News Values and News Selection Another factor ruling news news production is news values. News values constitute constitute a set of criteria for judging the “suitability” “suitability” (Gans, 1979:146) of news. news. Although some comm common on story attributes can be listed, such as massive public concern, human interest, immediacy, novelty, conflict, and the like, there is no exhaustive list with a universal and accurate definition for any of them; rather, they are vague vague and fluid. What story attributes are preferable preferable and how are are they defined, to a certain extent, are determined by individual newspapers. To approa approach ch news news value values, s, Tiffen Tiffen (1989: (1989:68 68)) sugge suggeste sted, d, “it is more more fundam fundament ental al to understand them [news values] as responses to the various cross-pressures in news production than to construct imaginary formulas of newsworthiness”; and the “ideas about newsworthiness are a response to presumptions about current audience interest, to the mutual monitoring and shoptalk that accompany the industry’s competitive ethos, and to the agendas of major sources.” News values values are vital to the production production of news content. content. They transform transform the ambiguou ambiguouss and overloaded work of news selection into routine and unproblematic choices by reducing doubts and options; news values give news media the flexibility to cope with the industrial environment composed of audiences with a wide range of taste and beliefs, sources with interest conflicts, news organisations with their own commercial interests, and journalists working under pressure from news sources sources and their own organisations. organisations. (Gans, 1979:146, 1979:146, 281; Tiffen, 1989:66, 68-69). 68-69). These notions are instructive for the study of news and education policy since it is more sensitive to the daily operation of news production, which is dominated by fast and concrete decisionmaking accommodating accommodating the peculiarities of news stories.
Audience Interests A striking aspect of news values in relation to making education news in Hong Kong is the audience interest. interest. In order to maintain and enlarge enlarge a readership, all co commercial mmercial press, especially especially 46
the popula popularr newspa newspaper pers, s, place place great great str stres esss on reflec reflectin ting g public public conce concerns rns in selec selectin ting g and presenting news news events. It is, however, important important to recognise that audience demand is largely largely perceive perc eived d rather than accurately accurately and effectively effectively measured. measured. Ther Theree are inherent inherent difficulties difficulties to incorporating audience interests into the news selection because audience appeal can conflict with the ideas of professional journalism and there is a lack of effective measuring of audience interests.21 Examining Examining journalist journalists’ s’ knowledge knowledge of audience audiences, s, Tiffen (1989:5 (1989:55) 5) concluded concluded that “there is a lack of satisfactory evidence about the audience but more elaborate and expensive 22 measures are not likely to be particularly enlightening or contribute to improved quality”. 22
Eventually, as journalists rush through their busy schedules, they can only refer on established perceptions of audiences when deciding news menus; to the media, sales figures become the ultimate evidence to prove or disprove their success. How journalists perceived audience interests affects the evaluation of a particular field of news in a paper; in turn, this determines the quantity and quality of the kind of content in that paper. pape r. The editor editor of the Apple the Apple Daily pointed Daily pointed out that, excepting the Ming the Ming Pao Daily and Sing Tao Daily, Daily, the Apple the Apple Daily probably Daily probably had the third largest coverage on education since the paper had many middle-class middle-class readers readers highly concerned concerned about educational educational issues. issues. The popular press may not report less education news but what they do focus on seems largely different from the elite press, especially especially those running education education pages. Outlining a direction of education education reports, the Apple the Apple Daily’s Daily’s editor said, other than general news such as a release of matriculation exam results or related official news:
Daily gave an interesting example: Around October 2001, the paper eliminated its pornography page partly because The Apple Daily gave reader focus groups convened by the paper suggested it made good business sense and they hoped that a cleaned-up version of the paper would capture more readers and advertising from companies wary about their image. However, the news stand ssales ales fell sharply after the pornography page had been removed and the advertising boom did not materialize. The paper, therefore, brought the sex section back and expanded it to two pages. This is an example where it even serious market research does not generate reliable information of audience interest. 22
See Tiffen (1989:53-57) for the discussion of journalists’ knowledge of audiences.
I believ believee storie storiess ab about out under under table table excha exchange nge within within the educa educatio tion n syste system m ha have ve great great potential pote ntial.. It is more likely to find good stories stories if we focus on the bad an and d deep-rooted deep-rooted practices in the education system…and it is the media’s responsibility to disclose it. Not surprisingly the popular press prefer stories about school scandals rather than creative teaching teac hing practices practices in schools. schools. Most people people would be intereste interested d in the former but not even parents who have children in schools would be interested in the latter; as the education reporter of Apple of Apple Daily pointed Daily pointed out, “We write for the public rather rather than educationists”. educationists”. With the idea of writing for people interested in education, the editor of the South China Morning Post illustrated illustrated a different idea idea of education education news. She said: We try to create a more accurate view of the education area…to discover the structural force of the education system and tell people how the system works…Education news is not necessarily boring; it should be and can be fun and intellectual at the same time…When we got great feedback on our report about a new teaching method of Chinese language, we found that we have a role to play in spreading good educational practices. She also emphasised: We did many features about educational issues in other countries; to provide international perspectives is one of the features which make us different from other local papers. Organisational Values Although there is no accurate and objective measure of audience interests, journalists do not hold absolute abso lute power power to decide decide what become become news. Rather, Rather, it seems to be true that the reporting reporting of local issues, such as education, in Hong Kong is largely affected by organisational values of the media me dia..
Journa Journalis lists’ ts’ autono autonomy my va varie riess with with power power str struct ucture uress within within media media organi organisa satio tions. ns.
Furthermore, even in the same media, journalists are treated differently; some, normally senior and specialist reporters, are given more autonomy than others are. Gene Ge nera rall lly y sp spea eaki king ng,, jo jour urna nali list stss adop adoptt or orga gani nisa sati tion onal al valu values es when when th ther eree is a more more centralised power structure and fierce internal competition for space within news organisations. Chatting Chat ting on the decision-mak decision-making ing process inside newsroom, newsroom, the journalists journalists of the Apple Daily expressed their their feelings of constraint. constraint. The principle reporter reporter of the paper said:
I do not decide what to write. What I do everyday everyday are reporting reporting to my direct superior, superior, my editor, about stories I have and making suggestions on what points in the stories worth to stresss on. The editorial stres editorial meeting meeting not only decide decide which story on which page, page, sometimes sometimes they even decide which part of a story should be focused on. Her direct superior, the deputy editor editor said: There is not much I can do in deciding the content content on my page. All I can do is ‘to sell’ as much stories as I can in the editorial meeting by stressing on how important and interesting they are. But all the final decisions decisions are made by by the editor-in- chief. It is not a coincidence that the editor of the Apple the Apple Daily identified Daily identified “interesting”23 as a particularly important attribute of news stories and the big boss (the owner) owner) of her company said, “You can’t be in the media business and be boring; that’s the greatest sin” 24, when he was interviewed by Busin Bu siness ess Week. Week.
To ensure ensure report reporters ers embrace embrace organi organisat sation ional al values values,, new newspa spape pers rs do not
necessarily need need explicit control such such as formal guidelines guidelines of reporting. As the former general general manag ma nager er of the Apple Daily, Daily, who was an editor of the paper, said, “We don’t have a written editorial edit orial policy. policy. The best best way to ensure an editoria editoriall line is using a chief editor editor who firmly be belie lieve vess in it”.
By hiring hiring journa journalis lists ts whose whose values values are compati compatible ble with those of the news news
organisation, adopting a centralised power structure and encouraging fierce internal competition, a newspaper can force and and reward journalists who adhere adhere to an editorial line. On the social level, socialisation happens happens within newsroom newsroom (Breed, 1955). Through day-to-day contacts, journalists journalists absorb the norms and values defined and promoted by the news organisations for which they work.. Conseque work Consequently, ntly, as the the former former general general manage managerr of Apple Daily Daily said, “every newspaper looks like its boss”. When journalists have been given more latitude to make decisions, they tend to adopt their own value values. s. The educat education ion editor editor of the the South China Morning Post pointed pointed out, while editors have less power to determine daily news, they have more in writing features; even before Education Educ ation Post started, started, the South China Morning Post were were running features about education 23
important.. We don’t want our The editor of the Apple Daily said, “For our paper, whether a story interesting is especially important readers to feel bored. By interesting, I mean stories have to be resonant to readers and be able to be understand easily, don’t don’t need any deliberation”. 24 This is quoted from an interview with Jimmy Lai, the owner of the Next Media which Media which owns the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, in Business Week , 9-4-2002.
issues almost almost every two weeks because because some feature editors were interested interested in education. education. The reporter under her supervision also expressed that she enjoyed her job because she has been given great autonomy. autonomy. The editor said that the management management level is not interested in education education affairs, affai rs, they will not intervene intervene the editing editing of the Education Education Post “provided “provided that the advertising advertising ke keep ep going into the main paper [the South China Morning Post ]”. ]”. Although Although journalist journalistss are are allowed to exercise their personal values in some area of their work, “the capacity and limits of individual’s attitudes to influence their work can best be understood only within an appreciation of the general organisational processes” (Tiffen, 1997:195).
NEWS, AGENDA-BUILDING AND EDUCATION POLICY IN HONG KONG To link news content and policy-making, the following discussion draws on the literatures of agenda-building from both the disciplines disciplines of political science an and d media studies. Cobb and Elder (1972:12) suggested suggested a broad concept concept of agenda-building agenda-building for the study study of policy process. process. They considere cons idered d the study of agenda-buildi agenda-building ng as the study of dynamics of democratic democratic politics. politics. In viewing policy as governmental treatment of social conflicts, the very concerns of agendabuilding is the evolution of policy issues and the questions to ask are: “How does an issue come to be viewed viewed as an import important ant and appropr appropriat iatee subjec subjectt to attentio attention? n?
How does does it come to
command a position position on the agenda agenda of legitimate political controversy? controversy? Or how is it denied this status?” stat us?” (Cobb (Cobb and Elder, Elder, 1972:12 1972:12)) In this sense sense,, agen agenda-bu da-buildin ilding g is referred referred to “the “the way [process] in which groups articulate grievances and transform them into viable issues that require decision-makers decision-make rs to provide some type of ameliorative ameliorative response” response” (Cobb and Elder, 197 1972:13). 2:13). In sum, agenda-building can be regarded as the process by which public issues emerge and move onto the public and policy agendas or are blocked outside.
As political scientists, Cobb and Elder centred their study on the relationship between the public and the policy agendas. agendas. Although the two researchers researchers did acknowledge acknowledge the centrality of mass media in the policy process and proposed that media “helps to structure the policy process and serve a number of important linkage functions…relating to different phases in the process” (Cobb and Elder, 1981), they paid little attention to how news plays a part in the policy process. Communic Comm unication ation scholars scholars studying studying media media effects effects under under the label label of “agenda-b “agenda-buildi uilding” ng” tended to identify the importance and the role of news media in policy formulation. However, they considered agenda-building agenda-building differently. differently. For Rogers and Dearing (1988) (1988) the central concern is how the construction construction of policy agenda agenda is influence influenced d by the media and public public agendas. agendas. For Berkowitz (1992), however, however, agenda-building only concerns concerns the construction construction of media content. A more balanced balanced view view is suggeste suggested d by Kosicki. Kosicki. He maintained maintained that each part part of the agendaagendabuilding process is incomplete and unsatisfactory in itself as a way to understand the phenomena of political communication, “A solid contemporary model of media influence” (1993:101) ought to consider all three types types of agendas. Although the focus varies in different studies, the the central ideaa of agenda ide agenda-bu -build ilding ing is that that the co const nstruc ructio tion n of media media conten content, t, the direct directing ing of public public att attent ention ion,, the provis provision ion of kn knowl owledg edgee about about public public issue issuess and and the format formation ion of policy policy are manipulative and interrelated processes. While agreeing agreeing with Kosiciki’ Kosiciki’ss view and acknowle acknowledging dging that news media media is not the sole source of political information, the present research is interested in the construction of media agenda and how this relates to policy-making, in particular, media-policy interaction and its effects on the construction of public policy.
News and Policy Process The policy-making policy-making process is often divided divided into several phases phases by scholars who study study it. There is no universal universal scheme for dividing dividing policy proce process. ss. Scholars Scholars used different different models models in their their
studies, such as Deacon and Golding (1994) who divided policy process into nine phases in their study of the Poll Tax policy in Britian, Treyens (1997) adopted a more common five-stage model. No matter using what model, model, the discussion discussion of the role played by news news in policy process process is necessary for putting the study of news and public policy into the right context. Media coverage of a policy issue can occur occur at any point in the policy policy process. The media can can trac track k an is issu suee from from its its emer emerge genc ncee th thro roug ugh h to th thee fi fina nall st stag agee of th thee po poli licy cy cycl cycle, e, or sp spora oradic dicall ally y report report indivi individua duall events events relate related d to the issue issue throug throughou houtt the proce process, ss, or only only concentra conc entrate te on one phase phase in the process. process. The provision provision of information information influences influences actions actions of political actors in the course course of policy-making, policy-making, and in turn, shapes policy policy outcome. Hence, who provides prov ides what informati information, on, at what time in the policy policy process is critical. critical. Linsky’s Linsky’s empirical empirical study (1986) of press and policy-making in the United States of America discovered that news cover coverage age influe influence ncess policy policy proces processs at ce certa rtain in points points of the proce process ss in differ different ent fashio fashions. ns. Furthermore, conditioned by news sources’ positions in the power structure and where in the process they have the most influence, different news sources prefer news coverage to happen in different phases of the process. This links the newsmaking newsmaking process to the the policy-making proce process ss by directing directing attention attention to the interaction interaction between news sources and journalists journalists that occur occur in the policy process. In Hong Hong Kong’s Kong’s execut executive ive-le -led d sy syste stem, m, the makin making g of public public polici policies es is substa substanti ntiall ally y different from Western representative representative democracy. democracy. The social-political social-political system in Hong Kong on the one hand, shares some of the distinctive features of what scholars call the “party-state authoritarian system”25; on the other other hand, it is imprinted within its unique colonial colonial history. To 25
“Party-state authoritarian system” is widely used by Asian and some Western social scientists such as Liao, YiShin (1993), Lee, Mei-hsien (1996), Yang, Kai-yun and Liu, Dsih-chi (1998) (see Chinese reference), and Rigger (1999) to refer to the one-party state. A party-state authoritarian syste system m is a social-political system that has a capitalist market but the political power power is highly concentrated in the hand of the ruling pa party. rty. The alliance between the ruling party and the conglomerates, which are normally controlled by a few illustrious families, is the dominant economic and political power. The traditional left-right dichotomy cannot adequately describe this type of socialpolitical system. Members of these societies enjoy enjoy economic liberty but are restricted in their partic participation ipation in political activities. The social and economic developme developments nts in these societies, to a certain certain extent, are planned but market mechanism is used used as a tool to achieve development plans under social and economic control. This type of society can be easily found in Asia in the modern age, such as Taiwan, before the democratic reform marked by the
conceptualise the distinctive policy process in Hong Kong, Bhatia (1997) divided the process into five phases: (1) the “conceptualisation” “conceptualisation” phase during which the government investigates and identifies the needs for policy change by using internal or external advisory bodies; (2) the “consultation” phase, used for promoting government proposals for a particular desirable social change and soliciting initial public response to the proposed policy; (3) the “consolidatio “consolidation” n” phase in which the government studies and reports on the consultation result and further reviews its policy proposal; (4) the “construction” phase in which a policy proposal is turned into either an ordinance or a statute through legislation; and (5) the “communication” phase during which the government implements a new policy by promoting and educating the public to comply with the new legislation. Bhatia’s model accommodated accommodated the specialities specialities of Hong Kong’s Kong’s polity system. system. However, signifyin sign ifying g the final phase phase of the policy policy process process as “communic “communication ation’’ tends to suggest suggest a narrow narrow definition of the concept of communication, in that it means “promoting” and “marketing” policy and hence could be confusing as communication happens at all points of the policy process. Hence, in this thesis “implementation” is used instead of “communication” for signifying the final phase of policy process. Bhatia indicated that the mass media, which is used for the marketing of government initiatives and for soliciting public opinion, plays a prominent role in the policy-making process. Using Hong Kong housing and environmental policies as examples, Bhatia argued that the conventional consultation methods create a social distance between the government and the public pub lic as partic participa ipants nts in public public consult consultati ation on..
“This “This may be one of the reasons reasons why other
channels of communication, especially especially the mass media…which are seen to bridge social distance be betwe tween en partic participa ipants nts are theref therefore ore also also used used to commun communica icate te with with people people in Hong Hong Kong” Kong” (Bhatia, 1997:521). 1997:521). In the consultation and consolidation consolidation stages, the media media is one of the major major sources sou rces of public response response concern concerning ing policy changes changes posed posed by the government. government. From the termination of martial law in 1987, and Singapore.
various media sources considered for the 1985 Green Paper on Housing Subsidy to Tenants of Public Housing, including editorials, news reports, letters, articles from two English and eighteen Chinese newspapers, newspapers, sixteen Chinese and six English TV and radio programmes, Bhatia revealed that the Hong Kong Government has made a comprehensive attempt to monitor media feedback. This attempt attempt was genuine. genuine. The “former “former director of Government Government Information Information Services, Services, John Slimming, emphasized that editorials and letters-to-the-editor served as very useful pointers to the mood and intensity of public opinion”, as quoted by Chan ((1992b:117). 1992b:117).
Media, News Sources and Media Agenda The above above discussion discussion underline underliness Gandy’s view. He suggested suggested there is a need “to go beyond beyond agenda-setting agenda-settin g to determine who sets the media agenda” (Gandy, (Gandy, 1982:7). It is an interdict for journalists to fabricate stories. News is the words and deeds of others. Thus individuals and institutions that become news sources are primary suppliers, although not the sole source, of public information; they occupy advantage positions in the power structure to define public issues (Schlesinger, (Schlesinger, 1990; Deacon Deacon and Golding, Golding, 1994:9). However, not aall ll news sources sources have the same ability ability to influence influence media media content. content. Power Power and resources resources of information information control control is availabl avai lablee differently differently to individua individuals ls and institutions. institutions. There There is a hierarchy hierarchy of news sources sources that largely reflects the broader broader configuration of political and eco economic nomic power. Those at the pinnacle pinnacle of power control more resources to make them “available” and “suitable” for news (Gans, 1979:80-83, 116-145). 116-145). Thus, to explore explore the relative influence influence of individuals and institutions institutions in sh shapi aping ng media media conte content nt is to analys analysee str strate ategic gic power power in our societ society y (Deaco (Deacon n and Goldi Golding, ng, 1994:12-13). Journalists and their sources engage in an exchange relationship in which information is bartered for publicity. Interviewees in this research, research, including journalists journalists and representatives representatives of educa educatio tion n groups groups,, unanim unanimous ously ly descri described bed their their relati relations onship hip with with each each oth other er as “m “mutu utuall ally y
beneficial”. Studies (e.g. Sigal, 1973, 1973, Gans, 1979, 1979, Ericson et al., 1987) showed showed that reporters are are compelled by the mandate of newsmaking to heavily rely on a few regular sources for gathering information. For journalists, in order order to cope with the enormous pressure pressure of meeting deadlines, deadlines, to reduce uncertainty and to maintain journalistic credibility, they only invest their precious time and and effort effort in the pursuit pursuit of the most most produ producti ctive ve and reliable reliable source sources. s.
This This expla explains ins why
economic elites and and government officials are are frequently used by the media. The economic and and political elites are in the position to authorise access to critical information and to speak for the groups grou ps they represe represent. nt. Hence, Hence, they are accred accredited ited sources sources heavily heavily sought sought by journalist journalists. s. In addition, the powerful own or command resources, which are not available to most of the rest, to plan and implement implement public public relations relations strategies strategies to actively actively promote their their interests. interests. To ensure ensure positive coverage, powerful sources, such as governments, political parties, public institutions, business corporations and large civil organisations, hire media specialists, many of whom were journalists who know media operations very well, to direct public relations activities that fit into th thee ro rout utin ines es of ne news ws pr prod oduc ucti tion on..
By of offe feri ring ng news news medi mediaa what what Gand Gandy y (1 (198 982) 2) term termed ed
“information subsidies”, powerful sources minimise the production cost of the media to cover theirr stories and, in turn, make thei make their informatio information n more available available to the public. public. In this way, powerful sources are able to mobilise support for their definition of issues in the policy process. Powerful sources not only have advantages to promote their interests through disclosure but also have the ability to minimise minimise or eliminate harm by enclosure (Ericson (Ericson et al., 1989). Having the power and resources, powerful sources are able to monitor information flow within and outside their the ir organi organisat sation ions; s; also, also, they they can sa sanct nction ion indivi individua duals ls and and org organi anisat sation ionss for journa journalis listic tic transgressions such as dissemination dissemination of information the sources want to keep secret ffor or whatever reason. The above discussio discussion n shows the significance significance of news news sources in agenda-build agenda-building. ing. It is, nevertheless, not suggesting that powerful sources have absolute power to determine media-
agenda agen da exclusivel exclusively. y. Gans (1979:117 (1979:117)) pointed out that “in any event, event, sources can only make themselves available; available; it is the journalists journalists who will decide if the they y are suitable”. Also, Schlesinger Schlesinger and Tumber (1994) rightly stated, where there are conflicts, there is competition for media access between between the sources. To emphasise powerful sources sources is to suggest that in building mediaagenda, some have more advantages than others. In most situations, it is the powerful sources, rather than reporters, who can dominate the intera int eracti ction on since since they they have have more more co contr ntrol ol on where where and when when to releas releasee wha whatt inform informati ation. on. Personal relationships between reporters and sources can be managed in a very organised way to ensure the outcomes outcomes that resourceful resourceful sources expe expect. ct. A good example are are the luncheons luncheons given by ne newly wly lis listed ted compa companie niess in Taiwan Taiwan26.
In Taiwan, Taiwan, there there was a tacit agree agreemen mentt between between
reporters repo rters and listed listed companies. companies. Before Before the debut of a company company in the security exchang exchange, e, the companie comp aniess invite reporters reporters to attend attend a luncheon luncheon conferen conference. ce. This kind of event is normally organised by security security brokers at expensive expensive venues. All reporters who are assigned assigned to cover news about that company will be invited and given a “red pack” containing a few thousand dollars in cash. This is a “personal gift” gift” for reporters. Although som somee reporters disagree disagree with this practice, no one dares to refuse the bribe since most of the others, especially the senior reporters, accept it. If anyone refuses to take it, it will be very difficult for her/him to affiliate with other journalists. This practice is no secret secret in Taiwan’s media media community. Most media companies companies let reporters keep the money. money. Others collect it to set up internal internal funds for employees be benefits; nefits; this is not for media me dia ethics ethics but for the “fairnes “fairness” s” of intern internal al manage managemen ment. t.
Howev However, er, either either way renders renders
reporters vulnerable to the power power of sources. There are many other other tactics in which sources use to influence influence reporters. reporters. For example, example, a very common manoeuvre manoeuvre is a special lunch lunch or dinner dinner meeting arranged by a source with “friendly” journalists, most of whom work for large media organisations. Since other competitors competitors are excluded, excluded, those reporters reporters who are invited invited perceive this as a privilege. privilege. Obviously, the reporters reporters have to reward reward the sources in order to maintain the the 26
This example is my personal experience.
relations rela tionship. hip. News source sourcess can also sugge suggest st story ideas ideas to individu individual al reporters. reporters. This way way is moree effec mor effectiv tivee where where so sourc urces es are able to be truste trusted, d, such such as expert expertss or inside insiders rs of large large institutio insti tutions. ns. These These practices practices put media media autonomy autonomy under under question. question. The relative relative autonomy autonomy of journalists is conditional on news beats, media organisations, the ability of news sources to control information, and the level of social skills and knowledge of journalists themselves. Following the previous discussion, it is sensible to conceptualise news sources into regular or non-regula non-regular. r. In the case of education education news, accordin according g to interviewees interviewees for this research, research, sources who are regularly contacted include government information officers, representatives of political parties, education groups including teachers’ union, student unions of tertiary education institutio insti tutions, ns, and other other non-union non-union education education groups such parent groups. Individua Individuall education education professio profe ssionals, nals, scholars scholars and experts, and other other individua individuals ls such as parents parents and students are identifie iden tified d as non-regular non-regular sources. sources. Reporters Reporters also indicate indicate that high-ranking high-ranking officials officials are not regularly contacted. contacted. This typology helps resea researchers rchers to determine whether whether there is domination or competition in shaping media content, and who are the main players, on what issues. To furthe furtherr our un under dersta standi nding ng of the ch chara aracte cteris ristic ticss of media media–so –sourc urcee relati relations ons and and its implications to agenda-building, agenda-building, the second typolo typology gy is adopted. Deacon and Golding (1994:15) (1994:15) distinguished “advocates” from “arbiters” in news and refer the former to “the sources that journalists recognise recognise as having exp explicit, licit, vested political or profess professional ional interests which frame aand nd inform their contributions”, and the latter to the “sources who are used to evaluate assertions and interpretations made by advocates advocates in a political debate”. debate”. In the case of education news in Hong Kong, Ko ng, it is obviou obviouss that that indivi individua duals ls such such as the head head of the Educatio Education n Commis Commissio sion, n, the headmasters of universities and the presidents of teachers’ unions are advocates; teachers in education educ ation groups such the Education Education Converge Convergence nce are sometimes sometimes treated by journalist journalistss as arbiters. arbit ers. This typolog typology y reflects reflects some qualif qualificati ications ons of media–s media–sourc ourcee relations. relations. Deacon Deacon and Goldi Go lding’ ng’ss study study showed showed,, firstly firstly,, journa journalis lists ts ap apply ply far less less scepti scepticis cism m to arbite arbiters rs than than to
advocates; secondly, arbiters do not pursue journalists; they are selected and most highly valued by journalists where issues are new, complex and uncertain; thirdly, media friendliness, which is assessed by the arbiters’ co-cooperativeness co-cooperativeness and their ability to render complex issues intelligible to journalists and the public, are important important consideration considerationss in selecting arbiters. arbiters. In most cases, cases, journalists trust arbiters. Their expertise and perceived objectivity grant them the power and authority to publicly publicly comment on important important issues. However, such such journalists might be placed in a vulnerable and dependent position, especially in the case of a complex and controversial issue. Arbiters’ objectivity is questionable. questionable. Although many comm commentators entators seek to be as accurate accurate and objective objective as possible, possible, their words can never be completely completely value-free. value-free. Their Their verdicts verdicts are professio profe ssional nal judgemen judgements ts derived derived from institutio institutional nal vantage vantage points points and personal personal experienc experiences es (Deacon and Golding, Golding, 1994:17). Beyond that, arbiters arbiters might have their own age agenda nda and become become cover covertt advoc advocate atess when when they they are comment commenting ing..
An interest interesting ing example example in this this study study is the
Educa Ed ucatio tion n Conve Converge rgence nce,, which which is highly highly valued valued by journa journalis lists ts as a group group focusi focusing ng and commenting on education education policy. The Education Co Convergence nvergence is an education profes professionals’ sionals’ group, grou p, having having a small small number of approximate approximately ly two hundred members members.. Although Although it is not as large an organisation as the teachers’ unions, its members are frequently invited by media to give their the ir opinio opinions ns becaus becausee the group group is repute reputed d to be “a pro progre gressi ssive ve educa educatio tion n group group that that is prof profes essi sion onal al and and cr crit itic ical al to th thee go gove vern rnme ment nt”” (an (an exec execut utiv ivee memb member er of th thee Educ Educat atio ion n Converge Conv ergence, nce, 2001). 2001). Besides, Besides, the Education Education Convergenc Convergencee is given given regular columns columns in four newspapers. 27 The group group evalua evaluates tes columns columns and public public forums forums in newspa newspaper perss as the most comprehe comp rehensive nsive and controllab controllable le channels channels for delivering delivering massages massages (from interview interviewss of two executive members members of the Education Convergence, Convergence, 2001). The example showed showed how knowledge can be used in exchang exchangee for publicity. publicity. By nature, nature, the knowledge-b knowledge-base ase power power of arbiters is
the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, the Sing Tao Daily, Daily, the Hong the Hong Kong Economic Journal and The Education Convergence has columns in the Ming
the the Hong Hong Kong Economic Times. Times. These columns are written by members of the Education Convergence. Convergence.
different from the political power power of advocates. advocates. As such, the contributions contributions of these two types of sources in building policy-agenda are also dissimilar.
News, Audience, Issue Definition News mean meanss to communic communicate. ate. However, However, that that communic communication ation is not not neutral. neutral. As news news helps audiences make sense of the world, powerful sources seek to influence others’ decisions and actions by the provision provision of information. The political implication of this eepistemological pistemological process process is obvious. obvious. For a long long time, studies studies of media media effects have attended attended to this. this. “Agenda-setting” “Agenda-setting” is one of the major major research research traditions traditions in this field. A seminal seminal empirical empirical study of this kind was conducte cond ucted d by McCombs McCombs and Shaw. Shaw. They found found that there is high correlation correlation between between what media treat media treat as importan importantt and what what voters voters consid consider er to be importa important. nt. The two researc researcher herss considered the agenda-setting agenda-setting function as an unavoidable by-product by-product of journalistic practices and conclude conc luded d that mass media media is capable capable of influenci influencing ng the salience salience of issues, issues, thereby setting the public agenda (McCombs and Shaw, Shaw, 1977, c1990: 75). Because the concept concept of agenda-setting agenda-setting concerns issue priorities on media and public agenda, the concept is too limited for the analysis of news and politics. politics. As Tiffen suggeste suggested d (1989:6), (1989:6), “The political political impact of news must be sought in its effects on how politics is conducted, how news practices interact with political processes and outcomes, how the presence of the media affects the distribution and bases of power”. Publicity is not equally distributed distributed to all political actors and all public iss issues. ues. Considering the fact that news coverage and organisational resources of mass media are limited, news is necessar nece ssarily ily selective. selective. The decision decision of allocating allocating resources resources to cover a given given event or quote quote a particular source is made made according to their newsworthiness. newsworthiness. Thus, in terms of importance, importance, news stories and plots within a story are presented in a hierarchical order; news sources are quoted differentl diffe rently y in ways and frequenc frequency. y. As such, news connotes connotes eva evaluati luation on of issues issues and news
sources. sou rces. News also also interprets interprets issues issues.. It implies implies issue definiti definition on since it tends tends to selecti selectively vely highlight high light some aspects aspects of issues issues (Tiffen, 1989:188 1989:188). ). It is certain certain that news does not merely merely present facts to audiences. By providing “symbolic “symbolic devices” devices”28 (Gamson and Modigliani, 1989), news suggests to audiences what an issue is about, what events are relevant or irrelevant to the issue, it implies a range range of positions on the issue, issue, and provides provides justifications of the positions. positions. As such, news poses reference frameworks for the audience to make sense of occurrences. What are the political political implications of this definitional definitional process? Issue definition is crucial crucial to policy-making since it implies solu solutions tions and responsibilities responsibilities (Cobb and and Elder, 1983). Most policy polic y issues are indetermi indeterminate nate by nature; nature; they are largely matters matters of interpretation interpretation..
priorities and issue definitions are not givens; rather, they are socially constructed (Cobb and Elder, 1983; Gamson, Elder, Gamson, 1988). 1988). To define define an issue is to answer answer the most important important and most most simple simp le question: question: what is it about? How an issue is defined defined has the effects effects of implying implying and delimiting deli miting solution solution possibiliti possibilities—p es—policy olicy choices, determini determining ng which domain serv serves es as the battlefield for conflicting interest groups, engaging and disengaging groups in the conflict, and allocating responsibilities responsibilities and blame (Cobb and Elder, 1983; Mahon, 1993). In a social conflict, there is always a contest of issue issue definition between between rivals. News, in this contest, contest, is a strategic resource for contending groups to mobilise public support of their interpretation of issue. As disc discus usse sed, d, in Hong Hong Kong Kong,, gr grow owin ing g publ public ic conc concer ern n and and hi high gher er pr prio iori rity ty wi with thin in government policy-making regarding education resulted in a considerable increase of education news. This development not only indicates indicates a need for an understanding understanding of how news influences 28
To analyse the interpretative dimension of news, Gamson and Modigliani (Gamson, 1988:165-166; Gamson and Modigliani, 1989:3) suggested conceiving news content as a set of “interpretive packages” that assign assign meaning to an issue. Gamson and Lasch (1983:398) maintained that “the ideal elements in a culture do not exist in isolation but are grouped into more or less harmonious clusters or interpretive packages. The different idea elements in a given package mutually support and reinforce each other. Frequently, it is possible to suggest the package as a whole by the use use of a single prominent element.” They distinguished the framing part from the the reasoning part of issue interpr interpretations. etations. The framing part of an iinterpretive nterpretive package is a central organising idea for making sense of relevant events of an issue and for suggesting what is the issue about. The core frame of an interpretive package is not only to provide an epistemological framework for an audience to mentally organise the otherwise chaotic world, it also implies a range of positions on an issue. To justify the positions suggested by a package, it has to include a reasoning part. Besides, in order to display the core frame and the positions, positions, a package provides condensing symbolic devices. Gamson and Lasch (1983) identified five types of framing devices, which are metaphors, exemplars, catchphrases, depictions and visual images, and three types of reasoning devices, which are roots (a causal analysis), consequences (a particular type of effect), and appeals to principle (a set of moral claims).
the making of educational policy in Hong Kong but also provides good cases for the empirical study stu dy of the topic. topic.
To approac approach h this this topic, topic, the ab above ove discuss discussion ion establi establishe shed d an analyti analytical cal
framework by drawing on studies about newsmaking and agenda-building in Western liberal de democ mocrac racies ies and and taking taking into into ac accou count nt the specia specialit lities ies of Hong Hong Kong’s Kong’s media media and and politi political cal systems. syst ems. By applying applying the framework, framework, the following following thesis examines examines four educationa educationall policy issues that happened in the last decade.
Chapter 4 The Instruction Medium Issue The compulsory use of the mother-tongue, for Hong Kong it is Cantonese, as medium of instruction in secondary schools has been the most contentious issue in the education reform in recent rec ent years years and the most most radica radicall change change of the perenn perennial ial instru instructi ction on langua language ge policy policy in educationall development in Hong Kong (for convenience, “instruction medium” and “instruction educationa language” will be used interchangeable interchangeable to refer to this issue). There are two reasons for sele selecting cting this issue. Firstly, it is an ideal case for for studying the longitudinal longitudinal change change of media coverage coverage of policy issues since the instruction medium issue stretched from early 1997 to the second half of 2001. The policy had had been implemented, implemented, reviewed and and changed within this period, and related related news coverage coverage can be easily easily collect collected. ed. Also, the issue issue has a relatively relatively clear clear start and end, making maki ng the comparison comparison of media and policy agendas agendas easier. easier. Secondly Secondly,, the issue issue engaged engaged a variety of competing social social groups in the process of de defining fining and proposing reso resolutions. lutions. Owing to its large scale and rich texture, the issue is a good case for studying media–source relations. relations.
THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS Studie Stu diess by Pun Pun (1996) (1996) and Tsang Tsang (1998) (1998) indica indicated ted that that the instru instructi ction on langua language ge in se secon conda dary ry school schoolss has be been en one of the long-l long-last asting ing proble problems ms in Hong Hong Kong Kong educa educatio tional nal developmentt in the last fifty years. The evolution of the developmen the language policy policy can be traced traced back to the 1950s, as Tsang Tsang found. Pun (1996:117) discovered discovered that since the early 1970s, 1970s, the colonial Hong Kong government realised that the unsatisfactory quality of education was a result of using English as the instruction medium in secondary schools and it suggested solutions including the use of the mother-tongue as the instruction language in lower forms (Year 7-9). 29 However, it 29
The Hong Kong Government stated in the 1973 Green Paper on Education: “The medium of instruction bears significantly upon the quality of education offered offered at post-primary level. Pupils coming from primary schools where they have been taught in the medium of Cantonese have a grievous burden put on them when required to absorb new subjects through the medium of English. We recommend that Chinese become the usual language of instruction in
was not until a visiting panel from fr om the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) recommended the same in their report of the Hong Kong educational system in 1982 that the issue became became a focus of the educational policy. policy. Some of these sugge suggestions stions were refined and implemented by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government after the 1997 sovereignty transition. Pun (1996:64 (1996:64)) indica indicated ted that that the instru instructi ction on medium medium issue issue is not just just relate related d to the in inte tell llec ectu tual al and and ment mental al de deve velo lopm pmen entt of st stud uden ents ts but but al also so to th thee econ econom omic ic and and poli politi tica call developmentt in Hong Kong. By examining the list developmen list of public views submitted to the Education Commission in response to its reports No.2 to No.5, Pun (1996:125) identified the key actors who actively actively shaped shaped this issue. Other Other than the government government and political political parties, a variety of interest groups were actively involved in this issue including the two teachers unions, the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, school principals’ representatives such as the Hong Kong Subsidized Secondary Schools Council and the Association of Hong Kong Chinese Secondary Schools, the Hong Kong Language Camp Ca mpai aign gn,, an empl employ oyer ers’ s’ gr grou oup, p, an and d th thee Ling Lingui uist stic ic Soci Societ ety y of Hong Hong Kong Kong,, wh whic ich h is a professional association. It is interesting to note that the business community was vigorously involved in the issue of the instruction language, compared to their apathy on other critical education issues such as tertiary terti ary education education and curriculum curriculum reform. Between Between 1989 and 1990, the business business community community launched the Hong Kong Language Campaign to enhance the English language ability of Hong Kong students and to promote public awareness over the importance of English through a series of community activities. activities. Although the Hong Kong Kong Language Language Campaign gradually gradually reduced its activities, the business community, mainly represented by the Liberal Party, local and expatriate
the lower forms of secondary schools, and the English should be studied as the second language. We recommend that every effort be made to develop good textbooks for all subjects written in Chinese, to train teachers capable of instructing through the medium of Chinese, and to adopt improved techniques of language teaching for both Chinese and English” (Board of Education, Hong Kong 1973:6-7, quoted by Pun, 1996:117).
commercial chambers, still exert great influence on the formation of language policy in Hong Kong.. They linked Kong linked the instruction instruction medium medium issue to economic economic prosperity prosperity and imposed imposed their ideology on the rest of the society through the media (Pun, 1996; Lin, 1997). In contra contrast st to the bu busin siness ess co commu mmunit nity, y, a majori majority ty of the educat education ional al profes professio siona nals ls supported the idea of using the mother-tongue to teach as it is proven by a wide range of educa educatio tiona nall studie studiess that that the mother mother-to -tongu nguee is the most most effec effectiv tivee medium medium for teachi teaching ng and learning. Tung et al. (1997:450) found in their their survey of 5,000 students, 4, 4,600 600 parents and 700 teache tea chers rs that that “it is clear clear the teache teachers rs favour favour str strong ong govern governmen mentt suppo support rt for mothe mother-to r-tongu nguee education”.. However, “teachers education” “teachers are aware of other difficulties in the implementation of ChineseChinesemedium education” and “appear to hold more sophisticated views” (Tung et al., 1997:450, 453, 455). As for parents and students, who are actually a group with members of diverse social backgrounds and age, age, Tung et al. (1997:455) concluded that “there is a relative lack of consensus among parents and students as to how the medium of instruction issue can be resolved”; to most parents, however, “the best” education in fact means English-medium education; whereas the students’ responses responses “consistently” “consistently” fell between the parents and the teachers. According to this survey, it is clear parents and students agreed with teachers that Chinese instruction can be helpful to students’ learning; parents and students, however, do not support using Chinese as the instructional language in lower forms in secondary schools and parents strongly favoured the English-medium in the upper forms. The school management management hold a different view view on the issue. Secondary schools schools in Hong Kong are traditionally divided into two kinds, English-medium schools and Chinese-medium schools, scho ols, the latter having having gradually gradually become a minority during the colonial colonial period. Most elite schools are English-medium English-medium schools. schools. Consider the reality that that parents prefer English English teaching
and the competition between schools for students having good academic performance, most English-medium schools are reluctant to switch to Chinese-medium Chinese-medium teaching. As previously described, there is no one party totally in support of the policy for the compulsory use of mother-tongue teaching; there are conflicts between the business community and teachers, between teachers, school managements and parents, and between all these parties and the government.
POLICY DEVELOPMENT ON THE LANGUAGE ISSUE Tsang (1998:235) identified three phrases in the development of the instruction language policy and the change change of policy approach. Before the 1980s, the government government maintained its noninterventionist ideology. Schools were were free to choose choose their medium of instruction. Then in the early 1980s, the government decided to change the policy but, as Tsang criticised, did not have the courage to implement the compulsory mother-tongue teaching in the nine-year compulsory education educ ation (from Primary-1 Primary-1 to Form-3).
Instead, Instead, the government government initiated initiated programmes programmes and
schemes hoping hoping to “encourage” “encourage” Chinese-medium teaching. teaching. As anticipated, there there were very few schools who were encouraged, so that from the early 1990s, the government had to tackle the problem prob lem under pressure. pressure. It appeared appeared to totally totally abolish its non-interven non-interventionis tionism m approach approach and planned to “give “give firm guidance to schools schools toward the right right teaching medium”. medium”. The government government estimated that a “full implementation of the language policy will thus be achieved in 1998-99” (Education Commission, 1990:6.5.11). Although Altho ugh the colonial colonial government government was promoting promoting the use of Chinese Chinese as the instruction instruction medium since the 1980s, 1980s, the actual practice in schools wa wass a very different picture. The majority of secondary schools schools used English English or claimed that they were English-medium. However, a “mix code” code”,, mixing mixing Canton Cantonese ese an and d Engli English sh in teachi teaching, ng, has bee been n widely widely used used by teach teachers ers in classrooms (Pun, (Pun, 1996:63). In April 1997, the Education Education Department Department announced a consultation 65
paperr titled pape titled “Arrangem “Arrangement ent for Firm Guidance Guidance on Secondary Secondary Schools Schools’’ Medium Medium of Instructio Instruction”, n”, which wh ich propo proposed sed the manda mandator tory y use of Chines Chinesee as the mediu medium m of instru instructi ction on in second secondary ary schools. The paper suggested suggested that all government and subsid subsidised ised schools must use the mothertongue tong ue as the instruction instruction language language from Form-1 intake intake in the 1998 academic academic year. year. Schools, Schools, however, could apply for a special permission to teach in English but they would only be
allowed to do so when they met the three requirements set down by the government, which were, firstly, at least 85 per cent of all student intakes in schools are able to learn in English; secondly, schools have to prove that their teachers are competent to teach in English; and, thirdly, schools have to have the resources and other support measures for the English-medium teaching. The government launched a two-month public consultation regarding the compulsory mother-to mothe r-tongu nguee teachi teaching ng policy policy.. Just Just before before the end of the consult consultati ation, on, the Educat Education ion Department announced that schools could switch to English-medium teaching from Form-4 if their students and teachers met the English standard and there were appropriate programmes and plans to help students students study in English. This was perceived perceived as a concession ma made de as a response to the outcry from the public. The final draft of the ‘Guidance’ promulgated by the government in September 1997 dropped the word ‘Firm’ from its title and four of the five proposed measures of sanctions against schools denied to teach in Cantonese (Sout ( South h China Morning Post , 25-9-1997). Tsang (1998) maintained this was still the clearest expression of the government’s position toward language policy policy in fifty years. Nevertheless, the the issue was not settled settled with the ‘Guidance’ ‘Guidance’ and pu publ blic ic de deba bate te was was in inte tens nsif ifie ied d in th thee ea earl rly y st stag agee of th thee impl implem emen enta tati tion on of th thee po poli licy cy.. Accordingly, news coverage of the issue increased considerably. After Aft er three three ye years ars of implem implement enting ing the compul compulsor sory y mother mother-to -tongu nguee teach teaching ing,, on 1 Septem Sep tembe berr 2000, 2000, the Educa Educatio tion n an and d Manpow Manpower er Burea Bureau u announ announce ced d tha thatt the govern governmen mentt considered introducing a two-mode teaching to allow Chinese-medium schools to teach some 66
subjects in Cantonese and others in English, but using the mix code in one subject was not permitted. In November 2000, the Bureau Bureau randomly selected selected ten schools to conduct conduct a trial of the two-mode teaching and expended its scope to include all Chinese-medium schools from the start
of the 2001 2001 acade academic mic year. year.
Althou Although gh the govern governmen mentt empha emphasis sised ed that this this was was onl only y an
experiment, this was perceived as a setback of the policy under pressure from the business community, parents, and school managements. The instruction instruction medium medium policy was subject subject to a review. review. During During July 2002, when this
research was still in progress, the newly appointed head officer of the Education and Manpower Bureau spelled out that the compulsory mother-teaching was the wrong policy, and that new measures would be accomplished on the basis of a review of the current policy of the instruction 30
NEWS REPORTING AND POLICY PROCESS As previously discussed, the instruction medium issue did not become a media focus until the push for compulsory compulsory Chinese-medium Chinese-medium teaching by the government government in 1997. Chart 4.1 shows the shifting media attention of the issue based on the counting of news items published between January 1997 and and August 2001 in four major major Hong Kong newspapers. newspapers. The chart also shows shows the occurrence of important events in different stages of the policy process. Three important important events fuelled press press coverage about about the issue. Firstly, the launch of the consultation paper paper about the compulsory Chinese-medium Chinese-medium teaching teaching policy in April 1997. Media coverage of the issue substantially increased in the consultation period, then dropped again. Within the consolidation period, the government revised the policy and briefed the Board of Education Educ ation and the Standing Standing Committee Committee on Language Language Education Education and Research. Research.
There There are,
however, few stories about this process. 30
Between February and June 2005, a consultation on the instruction medium policy and the secondary school places allocation system was was done by an Education Commission working group that was led by a busines businessman. sman. The working group finalised its recommendations on the two policies in July 2005.
Secondly, in September 1997, the government announced the ‘Guidance of Medium of Instruction’ and started the implementation of the policy, which had the effect of increasing media coverage coverage to the same level as in the consultation consultation period. The press focused on which and ho how w many many sc scho hool olss appl applie ied d to cont contin inue ue Engl Englis ishh-me medi dium um teac teachi hing ng..
Th Thee su succ cces esss of th thee
applications was perceived by the media and the public as an official guarantee of quality education and the schools deemed that it was an affirmation of their elite status within the educationall community. The coverage shrank in November educationa November as the press waited for the results of the vetting process, which would not be released until December. Finall Fin ally, y, on 1 Decemb December er 1997, 1997, the educa educatio tion n autho authorit rity y relea released sed the vettin vetting g result results. s. Schools which failed to gain an exemption of Chinese-medium instruction were allowed to lodge an appeal appeal through a special special committee. This event event dramatically escalated media attention. attention. An outcry outc ry of the vetting vetting results and the process process rose from the failed scho schools. ols. A confrontation confrontational al situation was created by the spontaneous protest by students, the threat of strikes, and the talk of legall action lega action against against the the education education autho authority. rity. This is all newswor newsworthy. thy. The front front pages pages and import imp ortant ant ne news ws pages pages includ including ing Hong Hong Kong Kong newspa newspape pers rs were were filled filled with with the sensa sensatio tiona nall coverage of the emotional emotional responses of of parents, students and and teachers. Stories contrasting the tearful complaints from teachers and students whose schools failed to acquire permission of EnglishEngli sh-med medium ium teachi teaching ng and the joy and excite excitemen mentt of those those school schoolss who were were grante granted d permission were too too appealing. There are in total 112 112 items collected from the four Hong Kong Kong newspapers published in December, and this outnumbers the amount of items published in the two lower peaks in the consultation period and the early stage of the implementation by almost three to one. one. However, However, the the momentum momentum did not last last long. long. The covera coverage ge of the issue issue shrank shrank sharply sha rply in January January 1998 when the issue issue was no longer deemed deemed hot by the media. media. Even new movements of the policy did not attract the press.
For a comprehensive understanding of the instruction language issue, a closely related issue, the problem of “declining language proficiency” in Hong Kong will be included in latter discussions.. The set of data related discussions related to the language proficiency proficiency problem included included 65 newspaper items; 22 per cent (14 items) of the data were commentaries, the other 71 per cent (46 items) were news reports. Rather than a specific policy issue, the language proficiency was a broad and discursive issue. The issue appeared appeared on the news coverage coverage of a wide range of of events such as the release of open examinations results, survey results about employer satisfaction of university graduates’ language abilities, the debate about the necessity of university exit language examinations, and even in reports about teaching programmes in universities, job skills training, the declining English standard standard of young young lawyers lawyers and doctors, etc. Also, it is an ongoing ongoing issue. Whenever an an eventt related to language even language education education occurs, occurs, the debate on the issue issue is reignited. reignited. Hence, Hence, the coverage of the language proficiency problem will be treated as part of the media agenda of the instruction medium issue in the following f ollowing discussion.
PRESS COVERAGE OF THE INSTRUCTION MEDIUM ISSUE Among the four educational issues in this study, the instruction medium issue received the mostt att mos attent ention ion by the Hong Hong Kong Kong press. press.
Compa Compared red to the covera coverage ge of other other issues, issues, the
instructio instr uction n medium issue was given both the largest largest and the most diverse diverse coverage. coverage. In total 1,385 news items were examined, 42 per cent of these items (583 items) are related to the policy of compulsory compulsory mother-tong mother-tongue ue teaching teaching (see Table 4.1). When measurin measuring g by word count, count, the coverage of the instruction language policy is approximately 1.8 times larger than the coverage of the benchmark assessment policy, the second most attentive issue in this study (see Table 4.2). Thee analys Th analysis is of co cover verage age composit composition ion found, found, as in Ta Table ble 4.1, 4.1, the coverage coverage of the instruction medium issue consisted of 57 per cent of news reports, 26 per cent of commentaries, 69
11 per cent of letters-to-the-editor, letters-to-the-editor, 3 per cent of editorials and 3 per cent of fea features. tures. In the other four sets of data, news news reports accounted accounted for 67 per cent or more of each set of news news items. The coverage of the instruction medium issue was the only data set of which less than 60 per cent were news reports, and it has the highest proportion of letters-to-the-editor and features (see Tablee 4.4 and 4.5). Table Tabl Table 4.1 also shows the instruction instruction language language issue has been been reported on front-pages seven times. It was one of the two issues reported the mos mostt on newspapers’ frontpages (see Table Table 4.6). The following segment segment will compare the difference between between the coverage coverage of individual newspapers.
Individual Newspapers’ Coverage
On the whole, whole, two salient features features emerged emerged from the content content analys analysis. is. Firstly, Firstly, all four majorr Hong Kong newspapers majo newspapers rated the issue of instructio instruction n medium medium the most newsworth newsworthy y among am ong the four four educa educatio tional nal issues issues..
Second Secondly, ly, despite despite the simila similarity rity,, there there are signific significan antt
differences in size and composition of individual newspapers’ coverag coverage. e. Table 4.2 compares compares size of coverage coverage of all educational educational issues. It can be seen, seen, coverage of the instru instructi ction on langua language ge issue issue compri comprised sed the larges largestt propor proportio tion n of each each newsp newspape aper’s r’s total total coverage of of the four educational educational issues. Except for the Oriental Daily, Daily, the coverage of the issue comprised at least least 40 per cent of every every other newspapers’ newspapers’ total coverage. Table 4.7 shows shows the composition in each each newspaper’s newspaper’s coverage of the the instruction medium issue. issue. Every paper paper had a diverse dive rse coverage coverage.. The instructio instruction n medium issue issue was the only one of the four issues that had been given given features features on every every newspaper newspaper (see tables 4.7 to 4.10). No features features about the other three issues issues were found in Chinese newspap newspapers. ers. These These findings indicate indicate that all newspapers newspapers rated the instruction medium issue as the most newsworthy. In spite of the similarity, significant differences between the newspapers’ coverage were found. foun d. Table Table 4.3 4.3 shows shows the Ming the Ming Pao Daily provi provided ded the larges largestt coverage. coverage. In terms of word word 70
count, the Ming the Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s coverage accounted for more than a half of the total coverage of the instructio instr uction n language language issue. The second second largest largest coverage coverage was recorded recorded from the Apple Daily, Daily, th then en follow followed ed by th thee South China Morning Post .
The Orie The Oriental ntal Daily’s Daily’s coverage was the
smallest; it accounted for only 9 per cent of total word count of all news items related to the issue. issu e. By comparing comparing the compositi composition on of coverage, coverage, it was found found that the elite press had more news reports than than the popular popular press, while the later had more ccommentaries. ommentaries. Table 4.7 shows shows that of the Ming the Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s total of 273 items, items, 73 per cent cent (198 items) were news reports. The South China Morning Post , although having a smaller coverage than the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, had more news reports than the latter; with 58 per cent (62 items) of its coverage of the instruction medium issue being news reports (see (see Table 4.9). 4.9). The Apple The Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage was the second largest but only 36 per cent (51 items) of its news items were news reports (see Table 4.8); this amount was less than that of the South China Morning Post both in absolute absolute and and relative terms. The Apple The Apple Daily published Daily published the largest number of commentaries about the instruction medium issue, with its coverage cove rage containing containing 44 per cent (63 items) of commentaries. commentaries. When counting counting commentari commentaries, es, editorials and letters-to-the-editor together 31, these non-news articles comprised approximately 64 per cent of the Apple the Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage and outnumbered news reports almost by two to one. The pattern of Oriental Daily’s Daily’s coverage was largely the same as the Apple Daily’s Daily’s (see Table 4.10); it contained only 37 per cent of news reports, but commentaries, editorials and letters-tothe-editor together accounted for 60 per cent. Table 4.6 shows the number of front-page items about the educational issues. 32 Both the Ming Pao Daily News and News and the Apple the Apple Daily had Daily had published stories about the instruction language issue on their front pages but none had been found on the Oriental Daily’s. Daily’s. It seems seems that the
As commentaries, editorials and letters-to-the-editor contain mainly opinions, they can be counted as one category and contrast to news reports to t o show the differences in newsmaking. 32 The electronic items collected from the South China Morning Post did did not record news section of the items. Therefore, the English items were not included in Table 4.6.
instruction medium issue was considered more newsworthy in the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News and the Apple Daily than Daily than in the Oriental Daily. Daily.
WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE INSTRUCTION MEDIUM ISSUE To analyses news sources, sources, the whole group of 583 items were coded. The analysis of news so sourc urces es focuse focusess on firstly firstly,, identi identifyi fying ng major major ne news ws sourc sourcee and, and, sec second ondly, ly, on how how they they are repres rep resen ented ted in the news coverag coverage. e.
The analysi analysiss divide divided d the newspap newspaper er conten contentt into into two
categories: news and non-news content. content. The former includes includes news reports and features features and the latter includes articles from newspaper columns, opinion pages and forums, letters-to-the-editor and editorials editorials..
This enables enables the understan understanding ding of how newspapers newspapers give access access to different different
sources and what type of coverage is available to what sources. In items from the news category, 19 groups of news sources were found (see Table 4.11). Although there are a variety variety of news sources, sources, a concentration concentration of news sources is evident. In total 1,397 statements, which were either directly quoted or paraphrased by reporters, were taken from 351 items in the news category category and coded. The two most frequently frequently quoted quoted sources together together ac accou count nt for 57 per cent of all coded coded statem statement ents. s.
The The edu educat cation ion authori authoritie tiess includ including ing the
Education and Manpower Bureau and its subordinate organization, the Education Department, have the highest rate of media media access. Between January January 1997 and August 2001, 2001, the education authorities were quoted quoted 449 times, which accounted accounted for 33 per cent cent of all recorded quotes. The majority of them, 92 per per cent (or 411 statements), statements), was paraphrased. paraphrased. The education authorities authorities were we re dire direct ctly ly qu quot oted ed 38 time timess on only ly..
The The se seco cond nd most mostly ly quot quoted ed sour source ce was was th thee scho school ol
mana ma nage geme ment ntss in incl clud udin ing g in indi divi vidu dual alss an and d or orga gani nisa sati tion onss su such ch as asso associ ciat atio ions ns of scho school ol headmast head masters. ers. This group group was quote quoted d in the four four newspaper newspaperss 343 times. times. These These quotations quotations comprise 25 per cent of all coded statements, and 283 (83 per cent) of the 343 statements were 72
paraphrased. The school managements managements were directly quoted 6 60 0 times, which almost doubled doubled the number of direct quotations of the education authories. Some interesting results emerged from regrouping the data in Table 4.11 by adopting the typologies of news sources sources discussed in Chapter Chapter 3. Table 4.12 shows 78 per per cent of the sources quoted in news reports and features features were regular sources. This indicates that newspapers newspapers heavily rely on these sources. sources. Table Table 4.13 shows when categorisin categorising g news sources into advocates advocates and arbite arb iters, rs, the advocate advocatess ac accou counte nted d for 88 per ce cent nt of all sourc sources es quoted quoted in news news report reports. s. Comparing data in the two tables found the regular sources and the advocates were largely the sa same me group of organi organisat sation ionss and individ individua uals. ls.
It was eviden evidentt that that the news agenda agenda of the
instru ins tructi ction on langu language age issue issue was was domina dominated ted by two advoc advocate ates, s, the govern governmen mentt and and school school managements, manageme nts, who have vested political political and professional professional interests. In spite of this, the arbiters were indispensable indispensable to news. Scholars and experts quoted quoted as arbiters to evaluate the aassertions ssertions of the two major advocates advocates were the third largest largest group of news source. source. However, the coverage coverage of the academics academics was considerably less than than that of the major advocates. advocates. Quotations of the schola scholars rs and experts accounted for only 9 per cent of all coded statements. The teaching professionals had a minute coverage which comprises 8 per cent of the whole wh ole coverag coverage. e.
This This is interest interesting ing as teache teachers rs are one of the most most import important ant groups groups of
stakeh sta kehold olders ers on the instructi instruction on langua language ge issue issue..
Howeve However, r, their their views views obviou obviously sly were not
represented in the news. news. This could result in an an incomprehensive incomprehensive coverage coverage of of the issue. issue. This point will be discussed in the final chapter. As for the writers of non-news non-news articles, data data was organised organised as in Table 4.14. 4.14. In total, 211 articles were found directly commenting on the policy of the instruction medium, with 46 per cent of these articles being written by members of the general public 33; which is the largest group of writers. writers. The second second largest largest group is the columnists columnists who wrote 36 articles articles about the issue, issue, 33
The “public” includes all individuals whose articles were signed without a title, such as school teacher, to indicate which group the individuals represented. represented. It is presumed that many parents and stude students nts wrote on the issue of the instruction medium.
which whic h accounted accounted for 18 per cent of all non-news non-news items. items. Scholars Scholars from all disciplines disciplines make up the third largest group, and 19 articles articles were written by the academ academics. ics. Educational professionals professionals had 17 commentaries and 2 letters.
Individual Newspapers’ Use of Sources This part of the chapter chapter compares news news sources featured featured in different newspapers. newspapers. It was found that the pattern of using news sources in news reports and features in the four newspapers is largely largely the same. Although Although the elite press press had more diverse diverse news sources sources than the popular popular press, pres s, educatio education n authoritie authoritiess and school school manageme managements nts remained remained the most frequently frequently quoted quoted sources in all newspapers; statements attributed to the two major sources comprised more than 50 per cent cent of all statements statements (see Table 4.15). On the Ming the Ming Pao Daily and Daily and the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, the two major sources have an even higher rate of media access; quotes attributed to them account for approximately 60 per cent of all quotes. Looking closely, however, however, there are some significant differences between the coverage of the four newspap newspapers. ers. On the whole the elite elite press gave a more balanced balanced treatment treatment of the two majorr sources. majo sources. In particu particular lar the Ming the Ming Pao Daily gave Daily gave the education authorities and the school manageme mana gements nts largely largely the same same share share of covera coverage. ge. The Apple Daily Daily relied the most on the education educ ation authoritie authorities, s, quoting them three three times more than the school managem managements. ents. On the Oriental Daily, Daily, statements attributed to the education authorities were about 16 per cent more than those attributed to the school managements. managements. Scholars Scho lars and experts experts comprise comprise the third largest largest group of news source. source. In news reports and features, features, they were non-regul non-regular ar sources sources used by the newspapers newspapers as arbiters. arbiters. Gene Generally rally sp spea eakin king, g, the elite elite pa paper perss gave gave schola scholars rs an and d expert expertss more more media media access. access.
Among Among the four four
newspape news papers, rs, the South China Morning Post had had the highest proportion of quotes attributed to scholars scho lars and experts (see Table 4.16), with 64 statemen statements ts on the South China Morning Post ’s ’s 74
news reports and features features attributed to them. These quotes accounted accounted for approximately approximately 23 per cent of all quotes recorded by the South China Morning Post . In the o other ther three three newsp newspaper apers, s, quotes attributed to scholars scholars and experts comprised comprised less than 7 per cent of all quotes. Although the Ming the Ming Pao Daily did not quote scholars and experts in news and features as frequently as the South China Morning Post did, did, it published the largest number of commentaries and letters-tothe-editor the-e ditor written written by academic academics. s. As shown in Table 4.19, 4.19, 17 articles articles in the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News,, which accounted for approximately 27 per cent of all commentaries in the paper, were News written by scholars. As for the popular papers, both the Apple the Apple Daily and Daily and the Oriental Daily did Daily did not frequently quote scholars on news pages, and they also published few commentaries written by scholars. The Apple The Apple Daily has Daily has only two commentaries written by scholars, while it had the largest number of commen commentar taries ies and letters-t letters-to-t o-thehe-edi editor tor ab about out the issue issue of the instruct instruction ion medium medium..
Oriental Daily had Daily had no commentarie commentariess or letters-to-th letters-to-the-ed e-editor itor written by scholars. scholars. The analysis analysis (see Table 4.19) showed that more than two thirds of the commentaries and letters on the Apple the Apple Daily and Daily and all commentaries and letters on the Oriental Daily were Daily were written by members of the public and newspaper columnists.
ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE To examine the definition of the instruction medium issue, the analysis now turns to the press pre ss coverag coveragee of the issue of declin declining ing languag languagee profic proficien iency. cy.
The The pro proble blem m of langua language ge
proficiency was fundamental to the debate on the instruction medium issue, particularly because of the involvement of the business community on that problem. As discussed in the beginning of this chapter and chapter 2, the business community took an active role not only in promoting public awareness of the problem of declining language proficien profi ciency, cy, but also in the formulation formulation of education education reform with a series of policies policies including including 75
the language language policy. policy. Their Their involveme involvement nt was a powerful powerful force driving driving the prevalent prevalent sentiment sentiment against Chinese-medium teaching. It was indisputable that the problem of declining language proficiency was closely related to the instruction medium issue. issue. Although the employers employers and their political representatives representatives were not the major advocates appearing in the news coverage about the policy of the instruction medium, they were the most prominent news source in the coverage about the problem of declining language language proficiency (see Table Table 4.20). The business business community strongly argued argued that there was a decline decline of English language ability ability among Hong Kong’s Kong’s university graduates. graduates. For Hong Kong, as an international city and a regional services hub, this would become an obstacle of its economic development development (see Table 4.20, 4.20, under “problems” “problems” and “effects”). The employers suggested to solve the problem by giving students more and new types of language tests in schools, in open exams, and to integrate language tests in the recruitment process. It is diffic difficult ult to quanti quantitat tative ively ly measu measure re the influe influenc ncee of the employ employers ers’’ activ activiti ities es in shaping the media media agenda of the issue issue of the instruction medium. medium. However, given the fact that in Hong Kong, as in other non-English speaking countries, the English language is considered a necessary skill for getting a good job. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand that when powerful powe rful employers, employers, particularly particularly the large corporations corporations,, publicly publicly stated stated that the universit university y graduates’ lack of English proficiency was contributing to Hong Kong’s declining economic competitiv comp etitivenes eness, s, thousands thousands of parents parents and students students would follow follow the employers employers’’ economic economic appro approac ach h to the issue issue of instru instructi ction on medium medium..
By linking linking langua language ge educa educatio tion n to econo economic mic
performance, the employers groups indirectly defined the issue of the instruction medium as an economic issue rather than a narrowly educational one. Now the discussion discussion turns back back to the instruction instruction medium issue. issue. The examination examination of the issue definition will focus focus on the peak peak month coverage. coverage. As showed in Chart 4.1, the coverage coverage of the instructio instruction n medium issue peaked peaked in December December 1997. 1997. In total, 112 items items of all types types of
content were collected in the peak month’s coverage and from which 277 statements were coded. These themes were further grouped into five aspects: “negative effects and anti-Chinese-medium teaching” teac hing”,, “positive “positive effects effects and pro-Chine pro-Chinese–m se–mediu edium m teaching” teaching”,, “problem “problemss and criti criticism cism of policy implementation”, “policy content and process”, and “social values and perceptions related to Chinese-medium teaching”. To examine the interpretation of educational issues in different newspapers’ coverage, news items were were grouped into two categories: news and non-news. non-news. The division was done for the reason that grouping all items together for analysis would distort the overall picture of the educationall issues. This is particularly educationa particularly important in the case of the instruction instruction medium issue, issue, as the non-news items comprised 55 per cent of the peak month coverage of the issue (see Table 4.21). The two types of content content featured with different so sources urces and focused focused on different aspects aspects of the issue. Thee conten Th contentt analys analysis is found found that, that, fir firstl stly, y, whethe whetherr on news news report reportss or comme commenta ntarie ries, s, ne newsp wspap aper er covera coverage ge of the instru instructi ction on medium medium issue issue dur during ing the peak peak month month was ne negat gative ive.. Secondly, while the focus of the news was on the implementation problems, the commentaries were mainly concerned about the social values within the debate of the issue. In news reports and features, the two most highlighted aspects, which comprised 58 per cent of the peak month coverage, were negative coverage concerning the policy of compulsory Chine Chi nesese-med medium ium teachin teaching g (see (see Table Table 4.22). 4.22).
Due to media media cover coverage age concen concentra tratin ting g on the
implementation phase of the policy process and particularly on a single event, the release of the list of English-medium schools, “problems and criticism of policy implementation” (35 per cent) became the most highlighted highlighted aspect of the issue (see (see Table 4.22). After the release of the results of the vetting process on 1 December 1997, the media focused on the conflict between the government and schools which failed failed to gain an exemption of Chinese-medium Chinese-medium teaching. teaching. What the government was accused of and how it responded, and the actions that the schools and
students, as victims victims of the policy, took against against the policy were wild wildly ly reported. Major advocates, advocates, government authorities (23 per cent), particularly the education authority, schools (16 per cent), parents (14 per cent) and students (13 per cent) were heavily pursued by the media in the peak period perio d (see Table 4.22). 4.22).
Obviously Obviously the media media agenda agenda was dominated dominated by those against against the
instruction medium policy, including the schools which failed in the vetting process, the students studying stud ying in these schools schools and their their parents. These These sources sources together together gained 43 per cent of the pe peak ak mont month h co cove vera rage ge..
The The sc scho hool olss and and th thei eirr st stud uden ents ts accu accuse sed d th thee gove govern rnme ment nt of two two
allegations: first, adopting an incomprehensible criteria for assessing a school’s application for exemption of the compulsory Chinese-medium teaching, and second, the vetting committee lacking in openness openness and impartiality (see Table 4.2 4.23). 3). Of course, the government government denied both of these charges. The “negative effects and anti-Chinese-medium teaching” (23 per cent) was the second most reported aspect aspect of the issue (see (see Table 4.22). The major advocates advocates who talked about about this were we re no nott on only ly th thee sc scho hool olss who who fa fail iled ed to ga gain in an exem exempt ptio ion n bu butt al also so ot othe hers rs,, su such ch as th thee Professional Teachers’ Teachers’ Union, parents and students students (see Table 4.22). They strongly believe believed d the policy pol icy would would cause a “label “labellin ling g effec effect” t” an and d “a revival revival of elitis elitism”. m”.
This This became became the most
common theme to appear in the whole peak month coverage coverage (see Table Table 4.23). In addition, the schools and students argued that the policy would be differential and produce conflict within the educational community by creating a few “elite” English-medium schools and a majority of second-classs Chinese-medium schools and students; so that with the compulsory use of Chinesesecond-clas mediu me dium m teachi teaching, ng, it would would depriv deprivee eq equal ual opport opportuni unity ty for the majori majority ty of studen students ts to learn learn English. Trying to gain support for the policy, the government denied the policy reflected a kind of elitism elitism and and that that granti granting ng exempti exemptions ons to some some school schoolss was was a tem tempor porary ary measure measure..
education authority stressed on the positive effects of Chinese-medium teaching and the reasons
to support its decision. decision. In particular the government government emphasised emphasised that the “mother-tongue is the most effective effective instruction instruction medium” medium” (see Table 4.23). The Professiona Professionall Teachers Teachers’’ Union also su suppo pporte rted d the idea of Chines Chinese-m e-medi edium um teachi teaching. ng.
From From an educati education on point of view, view, the
Professional Teachers’ Union and some teaching professionals underscore the benefits of using the mother-tongue in teaching teaching and learning. The government government further emphasised that “English“Englishmedium teaching is not a synonym for good education” and additional resources would be given to Chinese-medium schools to boost their English teaching and learning (see Table 4.23, under “social value…” value…” and “policy content…”). content…”). However, some education education professionals, professionals, parents and students were in favour of the economic approach in defining the issue, and they strongly argued that “English is a necessary necessary job skill”. Although students cannot cannot learn effectively when they they are taught taug ht in English, English, they should should be given more chance chance to use English. English. Also, Also, parents and some teachers teac hers deemed deemed that the policy was “against “against the principle principle of free choice”. choice”. The confrontati confrontation on and the debate made “social values and perceptions related to Chinese-medium teaching” the third most reported aspect in the peak month coverage (see Table 4.22). Table 4.24 shows that, rather than the implementation of the policy, the non-news content focused on two other aspects of the issue: the “social values” (34 per cent) and the “negative effects” (31 per cent). Most of the articles on the opinio opinion n page, forum and letters-to-the-ed letters-to-the-editor itor in the peak period were contributed contributed by members of the gen general eral public (44 per cent). Many of them would be from students students or parents having having children in secondary secondary schools. Other commentators, commentators, includ inc luding ing indivi individua duall educat education ional al profes professio siona nals ls (12 per cent), cent), column columnist istss (12 per cent) cent) and scholars (8 per cent) also contributed a substantial amount of articles about the instruction mediu me dium m policy policy..
As shown in Table Table 4.25, the public, public, educat education ional al profes professio siona nals ls and other other
comme commenta ntator torss were were deeply deeply concer concerned ned ab about out the ne negat gative ive effec effects ts of the compul compulsor sory y use of Chinese-medium teaching and, in particular, whether the policy would produce a labelling effect and lead to a revival revival of elitism. Beyond that, the commentaries commentaries reflected that defining defining the issue
in economic terms was common, and “economic considerations” was the second most focused themee in the commentari them commentaries. es. The articles, articles, by comparison, comparison, highlight highlighted ed the importance importance of the English Engl ish language language to Hong Kong’s Kong’s economic economic development. development.
Commenta Commentators tors emphasised emphasised that
“English is a necessary job skill” and they expressed conce concern rn that the policy would disadvantage students in Chinese-medium schools.
Individual Newspapers’ Issue Definitions The conten contentt analys analysis is found found striki striking ng differ differen ences ces betwe between en the covera coverage ge in differ different ent newspapers. newspape rs. However, the grouping grouping of the newspapers, as in the the analysis of news sources, sources, did not divided in line with the elite–popular elite–popular demarcation. demarcation. Examining the news reports reports and features found in the four studied newspapers, excepting the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, implementation of the policy was the most highlighted highlighted aspect. aspect. In each of the three newspap newspapers, ers, this aspect aspect occupied occupied more than 30 30 per cent cent of the content content (see Table Table 4.26). 4.26). As for the secon second d most highlig highlighted hted aspect aspect,, whil wh ilee th thee South China Morning Post focused on the “social value and perception related to ChineseChin ese-mediu medium m teaching” teaching”,, the Ming Pao Daily News and News and the Oriental Daily Daily highlighted the more “negative effects” of the policy (see Table 4.26). The differences between the peak month coverage of the newspapers did not result from using different news sources. As discussed discussed in the analysis of of news sources, sources, the pattern of using news sources in news news reports and features in the four ne newspapers wspapers is largely the sam same. e. A possible expla explanat nation ion for the differ differen ences ces in issue issue de defin finiti ition on is that that the differ differenc ences es res result ulted ed from from the selection of content in individual individual newspapers. newspapers. In fact, the South China Morning Post is is the only one newspaper which had more content about the “positive effects” than the “negative effects”, although this is not significant in absolute terms. The Apple The Apple Daily had Daily had a distinctive pattern. First of all, there there were fewer statements statements coded from the Apple the Apple Daily than Daily than the other newspapers because it has the fewest news reports on the
issue in the peak period, and secondly, the most highlighted aspect on the Apple the Apple Daily was Daily was the “negative effects”. effects”. The newspaper published published only three news reports but 22 commenta commentaries ries in the pe peak ak month (see Table Table 4.21). 4.21).
Readi Reading ng these items, items, there there were few stateme statements nts qualifie qualified d
according to the coding criteria criteria set in the methodology. Rather than some statements statements conveying a clear idea of the policy issue itself, the news reports were full of emotional language describing the anger of students and teachers from the schools which failed to gain an exemption of Chinese-medium Chinese-mediu m teaching. In showing these these tearful faces, the coverage coverage on the Apple the Apple Daily was Daily was negative but the reports did not not explore the substance substance of the issue. This might also be as a result result of the news value value of the newspaper. The differences between between the South China Morning Post and and the the Apple Daily Daily are striking. striking. While the former former tended tended to define the the issue of the instruct instruction ion mediu me dium m as an ed educa ucatio tional nal issue issue,, the latter latter obviou obviously sly defin defined ed the issue issue from from an econo economic mic perspective. As for the non-news coverage in the peak month, it can be seen that the non-news articles on the two popular popular papers concentrated concentrated on two aspects aspects (see Table Table 4.27). Above 40 per per cent of the statements recorded from the two newspapers’ non-news articles were concerned about the “social values” aspect and approximately 33 per cent were about the “negative effects” of the compulsory mother-tongue teaching policy. Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s non-news articles had a relatively comprehe comp rehensive nsive discussi discussion on of the issue. issue.
Both the “social “social values” and the “positive “positive effects” effects”
compr comprise ised d 22 per cent of the Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s non-news articles, and 28 per cent of these articles were concerned concerned about the “negative effects”. effects”. There were only two statements recorded recorded from fro m the South China Morning Post ’s ’s non-news-report articles, which cannot be considered of any significance.
Chapter 5 University Funding 2001 to 2004 The university university funding issue (2001-2004 (2001-2004)) was dissimilar dissimilar in nature nature from the other other three issues. issues. Firstly, while other three issues were concerned about the new policy and long-term changes to Hong Kong’s educational educational system, system, the university funding issue is an ongoing ongoing issue. Secondly, while all other issues were about basic education, the funding issue was the only one concerning tert tertia iary ry educ educat atio ion n in th this is st stud udy. y.
Thir Thirdl dly, y, th thee acto actors rs in invo volv lved ed in th thee issu issuee were were main mainly ly
THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS There were three main parties involved in the decision-making decision-making process of tertiary funding for the period between 2001 and 2004. These were (1) the education authorities, the University Grants Committee and the Research Grants Council; (2) the Legislative Council; and (3) the publicly funded tertiary institutions including eight universities, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The Univer Universit sity y Grants Grants Commit Committee tee (UGC) (UGC) and the Resea Research rch Grants Grants Counci Councill are two advisory bodies bodies related to tertiary tertiary funding. The former is appointed appointed by the the Chief Executive Executive of the Hong Kong Government and it advises on the development and funding of higher education and administers public grants to the publicly funded tertiary institutions; whereas the latter advises the government, through the UGC, on the needs of tertiary institutions for academic research and and the funding funding required. It also monitors the the use of public research research grants. These two organisations comprise local and non-local academics, academics, local professionals, and businessmen. The University Grants Committee has reviewed tertiary funding every three years since 1994 and it propounds propounds a suggestion to the government. government. In addition, it assesses assesses the development development proposal prop osal and funding funding requests requests submitted submitted to the UGC by tertiary tertiary institutions institutions.. Based Based on the 82
suggestions, the government puts forward a proposal for approval to the Legislative Council, which might use a funding method different from that used by the UGC. The case chosen for this study is the issue of cutting tertiary funding in the period from 2001 to 2004. The final proposal passed passed by the Legislative Legislative Council included included four per cent cuts of total tertiary tertiary funding that that was equal to 1.9 billion Hong Kong doll dollars. ars. This was the second second time the government cut its tertiary funding after a ten per cent decrease over three academic years since 1998. Before the official announcement of the proposal for a further decrease in tertiary funding between betw een 2001 and 2004, in August August 1999, the rumour rumour was out and being being discusse discussed d for a while. Somee unive Som universi rsity ty presid presiden ents ts expres expressed sed that that their their instit instituti utions ons would would face face serio serious us finan financia ciall difficulties if the government continued to reduce funding. The decrease in tertiary funding was confirmed in the University Grants Committee’s proposal prop osal announce announced d in September September 2000 but the rate of the cut was not yet decided. decided. The UGC explained that the proposed cuts only reflected the deflation in Hong Kong after the Asian financial crisis. However, it seems seems that the overall overall policy direction delineated delineated a year before before the announcement by the then Secretary for Education and Manpower Bureau mirrored the reality. The Secretary called on tertiary institutions to be moreconstraints resourcefulfacing whenthe confronting the and challenges lie ahead…in the view of the budgetary public sector the needthat to enhance the quality of basic education, we [the Education and Manpower Bureau] would expect the tertiary education sector to come up with innovative ways to do more with less resources and higher quality (South ( South China Morning Post , 3-6-1999). Responding immediately, immediately, the president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong expressed strong stron g opposition opposition to the proposed proposed funding funding cuts. Despite Despite the strong protest protest from the tertiary institutions, the Education and Manpower Bureau still proposed to cut tertiary funding up to 1.9 bill billio ion. n.
Base Based d on a fu fund ndin ing g meth method od di diffe ffere rent nt fr from om th that at used used by th thee Univ Univer ersi sity ty Gran Grants ts
Committee, the funding cut proposed by the Education and Manpower Bureau was 1 billion
greater than that that suggested by the the UGC. The proposal was was approved by by the Executive Executive Council but the legislat legislators ors from from the Democr Democrati aticc Party Party said said that that they they objec objected ted to the proposa proposal, l, and legisl leg islato ators rs from the then then second second large largest st politic political al party, party, the Democr Democrati aticc Allian Alliance ce for the Bette Be tterme rment nt of Hong Hong Kong, Kong, sa said id they they would would not accept accept the proposal proposal given given the one billion billion increase. Nevertheless the Education and Manpower Bureau presented the proposal to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for the first time in early February 2001 but later withdrew it due to the fierce oppositi opposition on by legislators. legislators. The education education panel panel of the Legislative Legislative Council Council invited presidents of all tertiary institutions to attend a special meeting during February 2001, but they all unanimously unanimously refused to attend. attend. Instead, a discussion discussion was held by the university heads heads themse the mselve lves. s.
The preside president nt of Lingna Lingnan n Univer Universit sity y warne warned d that that if the Legisla Legislativ tivee Counci Councill
endorsed the funding plan, Lingnan would have to face an 80 million deficit or initiate mass layoffs. The Educat Education ion and Manpow Manpower er Bureau Bureau negoti negotiate ated d with with the presid president entss bef before ore puttin putting g forward the funding plan at the second Legislative Council meeting and it seems that great pressure was exerted exerted on the presidents presidents from the Bureau to adjust their po position. sition. Just before the second Council meeting, all eight presidents dramatically changed their stance to support the government’s proposal. proposal. The proposal proposal was eventually eventually passed in the Legislative Legislative Council Council in spite of strong appeals from students and university teaching staff, and the student unions accused the presidents of betraying the universities.
NEWS REPORTING AND THE POLICY PROCESS As shown in Chart 5.1, coverage about tertiary funding (2001-2004) gained its momentum in September 2000 when the University Grants Committee expressed that it planned to cut funding to ter tertia tiary ry instit instituti utions ons in the ne new w tri tri-an -annua nuall term term and menti mentione oned d its negoti negotiati ation on with with the
governmen gove rnmentt on the subject. subject. The university university president presidents, s, however, however, did not express express their strong opposition immediately. immediately. Therefore, in September September and October, October, news coverage coverage about the issue issue did not increase increase signifi significa cantl ntly. y.
Fewer Fewer than ten releva relevant nt ite items ms were were publis publishe hed d in the four four
newspapers newspape rs during these two months. In November 2000, the Education and Manpower Bureau confirmed the proposed cuts of tertiary funding, and it was then that the presidents started to speak out publicly on the issue. This Th is conflict conflict made the issue issue more more attrac attractiv tivee to the media media..
The amount amount of covera coverage ge then
increased moderately but dropped off again in December. Press coverage of the issue dramatically increased in January 2001 because the conflict be betwe tween en the univer universit sities ies and the govern governmen mentt was intens intensifi ified ed by the Execut Executive ive Counci Council’s l’s approval appr oval of the proposed proposed funding cut. There were more more and stronger condemn condemnatio ation n from the presidents. In addition, the financial financial committee of the Legislative Legislative Council scheduled scheduled to discuss and vote on the funding funding proposal in February 2001. 2001. Therefore, coverage coverage of the issue between between January and February focused on the dispute between the universities and the government and the response of the legislators from different parties while the media waited for the voting result of the funding proposal. Coverage of the funding funding issue sharply increased increased and peaked peaked in February 2001. However, this ebbed quickly after the government proposal was approved by the Legislative Council at the end of February. February. In March 2001, 2001, there was still a small amount of news items con concerni cerning ng the funding issue in relation to the debate of importing expatriate professionals, but there was no longer a focus as before.
PRESS COVERAGE OF THE UNIVERSITY FUNDING ISSUE Compared to other three policy issues, the university funding was the least important one. Firstly, in quantitative terms, the university funding (2001 to 2004) was the smallest substantial
policy issue in this study. study. As shown in Table 5.1, 5.1, a total of 182 news items, representing representing 13 per cent of all news items, is related to the funding issue, and these were collected from the four newspapers newspape rs researched. By word count, this data accounted accounted for 12 per cent of all news content examined exam ined in the analysis. analysis. In each of the four newspapers, newspapers, the university university funding funding was also the smallest issue (see Table 4.2). Secondly, the coverage composition of the university funding issue was relatively simple and concentrated. concentrated. Analysis found coverage coverage of this issue was the only only one not to make front page reportage repo rtage or receive receive letters-to-th letters-to-the-edi e-editor tor (see Table Table 5.1).
Also, Also, of the 182 items about the
funding issue, 81 per cent (148 items) were news reports and 19 per cent (27 items) were commentaries. This coverage coverage composition composition is the most concentrated in the four cases. cases. All other sets of data contain less news reports (about or less than 71 per cent) and more non-news articles (about and more than 30 percent) (see Table 4.4).
Individual Newspapers’ Coverage Comparing the size of coverage by the four newspapers, the ranking of the newspapers was largely the same as as that found in the analysis analysis of the instruction medium medium issue. As presented in Table 4.3, the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News News provided provided the largest number of items and the Oriental Daily News had News had the smallest coverage. coverage. However, the difference difference between the newspapers newspapers was smaller smaller in the case of university funding. As for the composition of individual newspaper coverage, all papers had relatively simple and concentrated concentrated coverage. coverage. Firstly, there were no letters-to-the-editor aabout bout the funding issue (see Table Table 4.7 to 4.10). This suggested suggested the public was apathetic on on the issue. issue. As the editor of the Apple the Apple Daily stated, Daily stated, compared to basic education, few people are concerned about tertiary education issues mainly because the number of university students is far less than that of primary 34
and seconda secondary ry students students ; most people people feel feel universi university ty funding funding is not relevan relevantt to them. them. 34
Despite the expansion of tertiary education in 1980s and 90s, the number of tertiary students in Hong Kong is still
addition, the editor said, “The public public has no sympathy for the unive universities. rsities. Most people consider consider the universities are wasteful in managing their resources.” Secondly, only the South China Morning Post wrote wrote features features about the funding issue. issue. Four features were published by the South China Morning Post . This sugg suggests ests the funding issue issue held greater grea ter importance importance to the South China Morning Post than to the the Chinese Chinese newspa newspapers pers.. In her interview, the education editor of the South China Morning Post did did identify the funding issue as one of the important important educa educationa tionall issues in Hong Kong. She defined defined the issue of university university funding as a part of the more general general problem of of education quality quality in Hong Kong. Kong. Noticeably, this view was different from that held by the editor of the Apple Daily and Daily and this was a result of having different parameters parameters of ne news ws production. production. The South China Morning Post ’s ’s editor was in charge of a weekly weekly education page page targeting readers who who are interested in ed education. ucation. She was also als o given given great latitude latitude to make make he herr own decisi decisions ons in news news selec selectio tion. n.
Accord According ingly, ly, she
perceive perc eived d issues issues from an educatio educational nal point point of view. Whereas Whereas the Apple Daily’s Daily’s editor, who worked on a local news page targeting a broad range of readers, faced a more strict control of news selection selection in her organisation. As a result of this, she treated treated educational issues aass simply local issues. Finally, comparing the coverage of the funding issue with that for the instruction medium issue, coverage coverage varied more significantly significantly in the popular papers papers than in the elite papers. Although in absolute terms, coverage of the instruction medium issue is much larger than that for the university funding issue, the composition of the coverage of these two issues, in both the Ming Pao Daily and Daily and the South China Morning Post , was basically the same pattern in which news reports made up up the largest largest part. News reports comprised comprised slightly more than 73 per per cent of the Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s coverage coverage of the instructio instruction n medium issue, issue, 58 per cent of the South China Morning Post ’s ’s coverage of the instruction medium issue, 88 per cent of the Ming the Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s coverage of the funding issue, and 86 per cent of the South China Morning Post ’s ’s coverage of limited to 20 per cent of an age group.
the fundin funding g issue issue (see tables tables 4.7 and 4.9). Other Other types types of articles articles compri comprised sed only only a small small proportion of the coverage by elite papers. As for the popular press (see tables 4.8 and 4.10), both the Apple Daily’s Daily’s and the Oriental Daily’s Daily ’s coverage of the instruction medium issue comprised approximately one third of news reports and two thirds of non-news articles but both newspapers’ coverage of the funding issue comprised more than two thirds of news reports and less than one third of other types of articles. Interestingly, while the two popular papers’ coverage of the instruction medium issue was about two to three times larger than their coverage of the funding issue, their news reports about the instructio instr uction n medium was not significan significantly tly more than those about about the funding issue. issue. The Apple Daily had 38 about the funding Daily funding issue and 51 news news reports reports about the instructio instruction n medium issue. The Oriental Daily had 19 about the funding issue and only 22 about the instruction medium issue. This suggested suggested that the popular popular press relied more more on external external sources for news news content, such as letters letters and commentaries commentaries written by the the public, in covering covering educational educational issues. On the one hand they do not have the imperative to fill up an education page as the elite papers do, and on the other hand they seem to have limited ability to increase their internal production of education news when necessary.
WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE UNIVERSITY FUNDING ISSUE Of the news reports and features, although nineteen groups of news sources were found (see Table 5.2), a concentration concentration of news sources is evident. evident. In total, 627 statements, statements, for both directly quoted quo ted and paraphr paraphrase ased, d, were recorde recorded d from from 148 news news report reportss and 4 featur features. es.
The The mos mostt
frequently quoted group group was the university university presidents. Quotes attributed to the presidents presidents (210 statements) accounted accounted for approximately 34 per cent of all quotes, and a majority of these quotes, approxima appr oximately tely 80 per cent, cent, were paraphra paraphrased. sed. The education education authorities authorities,, which which include the
Education and Manpower Bureau and the Education Department was the second mostly quoted so sourc urce. e.
Thirte Thirteen en per ce cent nt (81 statem statemen ents) ts) of all quotes quotes were attribut attributed ed to the educat education ion
authorities, and approximately approximately 86 per cent cent of these quotes quotes were paraphrase paraphrased. d. The third mostly quoted quo ted source source was was the Universi University ty Grants Grants Commit Committee tee,, and 12 per cent cent (76 quoted quoted)) were were attributable to the committee, 84 per cent of which were paraphrased. Legislato Legi slators rs also obtained a substantial substantial amount amount of coverage coverage.. Quotes Quotes by legislato legislators rs of all parties comprised about 13 per cent of all quotes, which is as large as the coverage from the education authorities. authorities. The legislators were newsworthy because because the funding proposal proposal needed needed to be approved by the Legislative Council. Table 5.3 shows the grouping of regular and non-regular sources, with slightly more than a half of all quotes recorded from news reports and features being attributable to regular sources. Table 5.4 shows that when categorising news sources into advocates and arbiters, 98 per cent of quotes quot es were attributabl attributablee to the advocates advocates..
The coverage coverage which which highly concentrat concentrated ed on the
advocates was not only because there were few people made comments on the funding issue but also als o becaus becausee in this this case case schola scholars, rs, who usuall usually y appea appeared red in the ne news ws as arbite arbiters, rs, becam becamee advocates. Tablee 5.5 sums up the results Tabl results of the news source of commenta commentaries ries in all newspapers. newspapers. In summary, 27 articles were written by nine different groups of sources found in newspaper columns and opinion pages. pages. A majority of the articles, articles, 11 items, were written by the columnist columnist of newspapers. newspapers. Each of the other sources contributed little to the debate debate of the issue. issue. The results indicated there was few people concerned about the funding f unding issue.
Individual Newspapers’ Use of Sources When grouping the sources into regular and non-regular, it was found that the total percentages of regular sources quoted in each newspaper was in between 52 and 56 per cent (see Table 5.6).
When distinguishing the sources into advocates and arbiters, the concentration of news sources was much much higher. In all the four newspapers newspapers the advocat advocates es occupied occupied over 95 per cent of the coverage (see Table 5.8). Not surprisingly, the university presidents gained the largest coverage, with 30 per cent or more of the statements statements from each newspaper newspaper being attributed attributed to the presidents. presidents. Although Although the university presidents were not regular sources of news, in this particular case, as they were the prime decision makers of tertiary institutions, they became the media focus. The second and third largest coverage were given to the education authorities and the University Grants Committee. Committee. These government government bodies were all all advocates of of the funding cuts. Together they gained close to 30 per cent of the two elite papers’ coverage, and approximately 25 per cent of the Oriental Daily News’s, News’s, but only about 17 per cent of Apple of Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage. It is evident that the powerful decision makers on the two sides of the funding debate dominated the media agenda agenda of the funding issue. issue. By and large the newspapers’ coverage coverage of the two sides sides were balanced except in the Apple the Apple Daily. Daily. In the Apple the Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage, the Democrat legislators (19 quotes or 13 per cent), instead of the education education authorities authorities,, were the second second major source; source; 20 per cent of statemen statements ts from the Apple Daily were Daily were attributed to legislators while only approximately 10 per cent of the statements from the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News and the Oriental Daily News, News, and 8 per cent of quotes from the South China Morning Post were were attributed to legislators of different parties. As all newspapers newspapers have largely largely equal access to legislato legislators, rs, a possible possible explanation explanation of this result is that the Apple Daily quoted Daily quoted legislators more frequently because the provocative language used by legislators to criticise the government was a preferable element of “interesting” stories that was highly valued by the Apple the Apple Daily. Daily . Another possible possible explanation explanation was that that in the Apple Daily, Daily , the reporting of the Legislative Council’s debate on the funding issue was assigned to the reporters encamped with the Council, rather rather than to the education education reporter. This arrangement arrangement would lead to the result result
fo foun und d be beca caus usee th thee re repo porte rters rs as assi sign gned ed to th thee Legi Legisl slat ativ ivee Coun Counci cill tend tended ed to fo focu cuss on th thee legislators’ words and deeds. As for the commentaries, 40 per cent of them were written by the columnist of the newspapers newspape rs (see (see Table 5.10). The Apple The Apple Daily had Daily had the largest number of commentaries on the funding issue while the South China Morning Post had had the least. The Ming The Ming Pao Daily News and the Oriental Daily News both News both had the same same number of commentaries. commentaries. Interestingly, the two elite papers had few articles written by members of the public while the two popular papers had none. As the absolute number of commentaries is small, however, the difference between the elite and the popular press might not seem significant.
ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE In total, 61 news items published in the peak month were included in the analysis of the issue definition of the university funding issue (see Table 5.11), 18 per cent (11 articles) of the items were commentaries, commentaries, and 82 per cent (50 articles) were news reports. 191 statements are recorded recorded from the peak month news reports and 43 statements from the peak month commentaries (see tables 5.13 and 5.15). The coverage of the the funding issue has a pattern same as that found in the case of the instruction instruction medium issue. issue. The popular press press had more commentaries commentaries than the elite elite press pre ss while while the latter latter had more more ne news ws reports reports..
The differe differenc ncee bet betwee ween n the two types types of
newspapers newspape rs is significant. First of all, among the four policy issues in this study, the university funding and the instruction medium issues were the only two issues to be reported in the local politics pages of the Chinese newspapers (see (see Table 5.13). 5.13). The funding issue issue was reported reported in the local politics politics page twelve times by the Apple the Apple Daily. Daily . The instruction instruction medium issue issue was reported in the the Ming Pao Daily News’s News’s local politics page three times and on the Apple Daily’s Daily’s once only. Reporting an issue in the local politics page suggests to the readers that the issue is political to a certain
extent exte nt by nature. In broad terms, terms, it is difficult difficult to argue that that the funding issue is more political political than the instructi instruction on medium issue issue or the other issues. issues. Given Given there was only one newspape newspaperr which wh ich report reported ed the funding funding issue issue in the local local politi politics cs pag page, e, the issue was more more freque frequentl ntly y reported in local politics page because the issue involved the legislative process, and the Apple Daily assigned Daily assigned its reporters encamped encamped in the Legislative Legislative Council to cover cover the funding issue. The governmen gove rnment’s t’s funding funding proposal proposal had to pass the Legisla Legislative tive Council. Council.
This formal formal political political
process could could give the funding funding issue more of a flavour of politics. The legislative p process rocess gave the legislators a stage stage to act on and to gain publicity. As demonstrated on on Chart 5.1, the me media dia coverage cove rage of the issue was focused focused on the voting voting of the funding proposal proposal.. The voting voting and the interactions between the legislators, the education authorities and the university presidents before the voting became the focus of the peak month coverage of the issue in February 2001. The funding issue involved a conflict mainly between the universities and the education autho authoriti rities es..
The analys analysis is found that the pea peak k month month cover coverage age of the issue issue focused focused on the
financial adverseness adverseness of the funding cuts. As shown in Table 5.13, 5.13, in the news reports about the funding issue, “economic and financial effects of funding cut” (26 per cent) was the aspect which appeared the most. most. Within this aspect, “voluntary “voluntary resignations and staff lay-offs”, ““freeze freeze or reduce salary”, “increase universities’ financial financial burden or deficits” were themes referred to the most (see Table 5.14). 5.14). Not surprisingly, the major advocates advocates of these themes were th thee university presidents and staff, and the Democrat legislators also lent firm support to the universities. The second aspect was the “effects of funding cut on the quality of education” (19 per cent), cent ), (see Table 5.13). University University president presidentss and staff, student student organisatio organisations ns and Democrat Democrat legislators strongly argued that the quality of education would deteriorate if there were funding cuts to tertiary education. education. It was demoralising for the tertiary institutions. institutions. As shown shown in Table 5.14, the overarching theme was the “deterioration of education quality” and had the highest
appearancee in this aspect. All other themes of this aspect we appearanc were re elaborations of the overarching theme and gave it more substance. substance. The other three aspects which had the same size of coverage (12 per cent) were “criticism of the govern governmen ment”, t”, “v “valu alues, es, princi principle pless an and d pe perce rcepti ption onss relate related d to tertia tertiary ry educa educatio tion” n” and “justification of funding funding cut” (see Table Table 5.13). The criticism mainly came came from the legislators, legislators, especially the Democrats who severely condemned the government for using time pressure to threaten the universities, accusing it of insulting the university presidents and described the government as distrustful (see Table 5.14). In the discursive debate of the “social values, principles and perceptions related to tertiary education”, most of the coverage of this aspect was gained by the university presidents and legislators. They argued that compared to other developed countries or regions, the cost of tertiary education in Hong Kong was not high and stressed that “education is not business” and cutting university funding goes against long-term educational and economic development. The educa educatio tion n au autho thorit rities ies and the Unive Universi rsity ty Grants Grants Commit Committee tee str strive ived d to justif justify y the decision to cut funding by repeatedly emphasising that in 1996 the government and the tertiary institutions had already reached an agreement over the funding issue and there was a time limit to get the funding proposal through the legislative process (see Table 5.14 under ‘Justifications of funding cut’). cut’). The governmen governmentt urged the universities universities to accept the proposal proposal or the tertiary tertiary institutions would face serious serious financial problems if the prop proposal osal was not approved approved on time. An argument of “a better education does not need more money” was also put forward by the govern gov ernmen mentt to justify justify its positio position. n.
Other Other than than puttin putting g pressu pressure re on the univers universitie ities, s, the
governmen gove rnmentt and the University University Grants Committee Committee also criticised criticised the university university presidents presidents that they being were unreasonable unreasonable and and exaggerated the adverseness adverseness of the the funding cuts. However, the government did not promote its arguments efficiently and the “justifications of funding cut” did not gain large media coverage (see Table 5.14).
In th thee no non-n n-new ewss cove covera rage ge,, ne news wspa pape perr colu column mnis ists ts wrot wrotee 8 of th thee 11 peak peak mont month h commenta comm entaries. ries. Hence, Hence, as shown in Table 5.15, 5.15, they were the largest largest group of arbiters who commented on the funding funding issue. The advocates were were not keen on writing articles to news newspapers papers and there was obviously a lack of public input on the debate. While the columnists discussed many aspects of the issue, they focused on the “social values, principles principles and perceptions related related to tertiary education”. education”. As presented in Table Table 5.15, 28 per cent of all statements recorded from the peak month commentaries were related to this aspect. aspe ct. However, However, it was very likely that the discussio discussion n of the social social values values and principles principles of education was too too broad and it therefore therefore lost its focus. As shown in Table 5. 5.16, 16, none of the top five themes of the peak month commentaries was about social values, principles or perceptions related to tertiary education. education. The columnists condemned condemned the government government for ignoring students students and staff of tertiary institutions and having excessive excessive economic economic consideration. consideration. However, they were not completely in support of the university presidents, instead they criticised the presidents for turning to accept the funding cut at the last minute before the second meeting of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council. Council. In discussin discussing g the funding cuts, the quality quality of education and educational development in Hong Kong, the columnists joined the scholars and tertiary students to strongly agree that funding cuts contradicted Hong Kong’s long-term educational and economic development development and would lead to a deterioration in the quality of education.
Individual Newspapers’ Issue Definitions Comparing news coverage in the four newspapers, the “economic and financial effects of the funding cut” was the aspect referred to the most in all newspaper coverage (see Table 5.17). Apart from this, individual paper coverage was somewhat different and a common pattern was not found. found.
The newspap newspapers ers did not split split along along the popul popular/ ar/eli elite te demarcat demarcation ion or with with the
Other than the economic effects, the Ming the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, which had the largest peak month coverage, also focused on the effects of funding cut on the quality of education, which was almost almo st the same same size as for the aspec aspectt of economic economic effects. effects. The Apple Daily had Daily had a relatively comprehe comp rehensive nsive coverage coverage of the issue. issue. Other Other than economic economic effects effects and the education education quality, quality, “criticism of the government” and “justifications of the funding cut” were also stressed in the Apple Daily’s Daily’s cover coverage age.. In the Oriental Daily’s Daily’s coverage, the second largest aspect was the “justifications of the funding cut”, and the third was the “effects of funding cut on the quality of education”. The South China Morning Post gave gave the government and its critics the same space to present present their arguments. arguments. The “criticism “criticism of the government government”” and the “justification “justificationss of the funding cut” had the same coverage on the South China Morning Post . As for the commentaries, first of all, the South China Morning Post had had no commentaries publishe publ ished d in the peak month. month. Table Table 5.18 shows the commenta commentaries ries in the two popular papers papers focused on the social values aspect, the “criticism of the government” and the “effects of funding cut on the quality of education”. education”. Commentaries in the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News mainly focused on the social value aspect and “the operation of funding mechanism”. As there were few authors who wrote on the funding issue, the newspapers might have little choice but to publish publish most of the articles they rec received. eived. In turn, the differences between between the commentaries in the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News and in the two popular papers was more likely due to the source’s own choice rather than the the newspapers’ selection. selection. In fact, the analysis found found that the Oriental Daily News had News had six articles, all of them written by the paper’s columnists; the Apple the Apple Daily had Daily had three commentaries, two of them written by the paper’s columnists; and the Ming Pao Daily News had two articles published in its forum, one of them written by an academic and the author of the other article is unknown. In conclu conclusio sion, n, the newspa newspaper per covera coverage ge of the funding funding issue issue was was domina dominated ted by the universit univ ersity y presidents. presidents. If splitting splitting the sources into into two sides of the funding debate, debate, the pro-
funding cut camp, including all related government bodies and the Liberal party, only had about 30 per cent of the news coverage coverage of the issue. issue. Overall, Overall, the coverage coverage was negative negative on both the policy and the government.
Chapter 6 Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers
THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS The Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers, the so-called benchmark test, was another controversial issue in the development of Hong Kong’s education in the past few years (for convenience, the “benchmark assessment”, “benchmark test” and “benchmark issue” will be used use d intercha interchangea ngeably bly to represent represent the issue). Benc Benchmar hmarking king teachers’ teachers’ language language ability was considered one of the solutions for tackling the problem of declining language proficiency among Hong Kong students. students. The concept of “benchmark” “benchmark” qualifications qualifications was first introduced in a government government report report of language language proficien proficiency cy in 1994. Then after after two rounds rounds of consulta consultation, tion, which took four months, the policy of a compulsory benchmark test for teachers was suggested by the Education Commission. Commission. The commission stated stated in its Report No. 6 that: The concept of benchmark qualifications for all language teachers should be explored by the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications [the ACTEQ is a part of the Education Commission] with a view to making proposals to the Government as early as possible in 1996. 1996. Minimum language proficiency proficiency standards standards should be spe specified, cified, which all teachers (not just teachers of language subjects) should meet before they obtain their initial professional qualification. qualification. The standards should be designed designed to ensure that new teache teachers rs are competent to teach through the chosen medium of instruction instruction ( Education Education Commission Report No. 6:11-12) 6:11-12)..
The concept concept of benchmarking was was further established and has become a policy since 1997. The policy was stated in the first policy address of the Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Government: • •
Set language benchmarks for all teachers in 1998-99; Require all new teachers to meet the benchmarks before they join the profession in 2000 (the start of an academic year is in September);
Providee traini Provid training ng for in-ser in-servic vicee langua language ge teach teachers ers,, so that that within within five five years years of the benchmarks being set, all will be able to reach them; and Provide more teachers to support school library services and the Chinese and English • Extensive Reading Schemes in primary school. (1997 Policy Address) •
The education community community generally accepted accepted the idea of benchmarking. benchmarking. The formation of the policy policy faced little resistance resistance from teachers teachers during the consultation consultation period. period. However, However, the problem with the benchmark test was who should be benchmarking. When the government put forward the detail measures of the policy that required all language teachers including in-service teachers to meet the benchmarks, it encountered strong opposition from the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, many teachers and students of education. Teachers argued argued that requiring in-service teachers teachers to sit the assessment assessment negated their professional qualification. qualification. It was estimated that more than than 14,000 English English and 4,300 Putonghua Putonghua teachers were affected. In the meantime, the Hong Kong Institute of Education urged the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications to consider giving exemption to the graduates of the twoyear education education diploma. The committee, however, however, responded responded that it was more more important to test the diploma students students in order to ensure the highest highest teaching level. level. The Education and and Manpower Burea Bur eau u added added that that consid consideri ering ng the expec expectat tation ion of the public public,, instea instead d of giving giving teache teachers rs a benchmark once they passed the assessment, there would be a plan to make teachers take the assessment on a regular basis, with exemption of some parts of the Putonghua test being granted to some teachers, but this could undermine the authority of the Institute of Education and the educationall faculties of other universities. educationa As the government insisted on its decision, the president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, who was also a member of the Democratic Party and represented education constituency in the Legisl Legislati ative ve Counci Council, l, respon responde ded d that that the benchm benchmark ark test test “sign “signifie ifiess the Educa Educatio tion n Department’s distrust of language teachers and it will definitely hit their morale” (South ( South China
Morning Post 25-5-2000). 25-5-2000). The union union also called for a protest rally to boycott boycott the “insulting” “insulting” test. The pro-China teachers teachers Federation of of Education Workers Workers reacted moderately: moderately: Instead of encouraging a boycott, it suggested that extra pay or a certificate be given to teachers who passed the test, and it urged the government to provide sufficient retraining for those who failed the test. Parents and business groups were also actively involved in the benchmark test issue. Either by making public announcements or holding a public event, both parents and business organisations lent firm support to the government for the policy and strongly opposed the teachers’ teac hers’ boycott boycott of the benchmark benchmark test. test. They maintaine maintained d that teachers should should prove to the public publ ic that they are qualified. qualified. Teachers Teachers felt offended offended because because it seemed that suddenly suddenly they became the sole criminal of the language proficiency problem. Negotiati Nego tiation on between between the Profession Professional al Teachers Teachers’’ Union and the governmen governmentt continue continued. d. While Whi le the govern governmen mentt insist insisted ed on the manda mandator tory y langua language ge benchm benchmark ark test, test, it made made some some concessions to soften the resistance from teachers. The amendment included four measures: the first was to extend the deadline of new teacher benchmarking from one year to two years; the second related to new teachers in the academic year 2000—that they be considered as in-service teachers because the policy was announced in April 2000; the third measure was to postpone the first benchmark test from October 2000 to March 2001; and finally, to provide 725 additional positions of Director of English Language in primary schools which would be open to teachers who obtained the level four in the benchmark test. However, the union’s bottom-line was that the government should abolish the assessment and and provid providee teache teachers rs with with co conti ntinuo nuous us traini training. ng.
The The union union contin continue ued d to protes protestt and was
supported by six civic servant servant organisations. Their action provoked seven seven parent groups to hold a public event to express their opposition to teachers. Nevertheless, the first benchmark assessment was held in March 2001 and the results were released in June. The results proved proved unsatisfactory. unsatisfactory. The teachers teachers expressed that the content content and
the format format of the test was problematic problematic,, while they were blamed blamed for being being irresponsib irresponsible. le. In August 2001, the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research, an advisory body related to the Education and Manpower Bureau, suggested setting up a general language ability test for all Hong Kong citizens as a reference for employment and enrolment in educational institutions. The suggestion was was welcomed by the Professional Professional Teachers’ Union.
NEWS REPORTING AND POLICY PROCESS Chart 6.1 shows the boom and burst of the news coverage of the benchmark test issue between March Mar ch 1997 and Augus Augustt 2001. 2001.
In March 1997, 1997, the Edu Educat cation ion and Manpower Manpower Bureau Bureau had
announced a pilot scheme of the assessment to test teachers’ language ability and their language teaching methods. methods. It also established standards standards for benchmarking benchmarking all language teachers, teachers, and the bureau planned to test three groups of teachers: primary teachers who use Chinese (Cantonese) as the instruction medium, primary Putonghua (mandarin) teachers and Form-1 (Year 7) to Form-3 For m-3 (Year (Year 9) Engli English sh teache teachers. rs.
The Advisor Advisory y Commit Committee tee on Teach Teacher er Educa Educatio tion n and
Qualifica Qual ifications tions released released the results results of the trial test in September1999 September1999.. The trial test of March 1997 had been given only a small coverage of less than ten stories about the event, and from April 1997 to March 2000, there was virtually no news about the issue. The media started to pay attention to the issue again from April 2000 when the government created a confrontational atmosphere after restating its decision to hold the first benchmark assessment in October 2000 and requiring all in-service teachers to meet the benchmark by August Augu st 2005. The Professiona Professionall Teachers’ Teachers’ Union responded responded by calling for a series series of actions actions agai agains nstt th thee po poli licy cy..
Then Then th thee co cove vera rage ge pe peak aked ed in Ju June ne 2000 2000 beca becaus usee of th thee mass massiv ivee
demonstrations lead lead by the Professional Professional Teachers’ Union. The protest drew around around six thousand teachers and their their supporters onto the street and naturally naturally this became a med media ia focus. In total, 84 news items published in June 2000 were collected from the four newspapers reviewed.
However, coverage coverage of the benchmark benchmark issue dropped dropped dramatica dramatically lly after the protest. Less than ten relevant items were were found in the four newspa newspapers pers in July 2000. In September 2000, the Profes Pro fessio sional nal Teache Teachers’ rs’ Union Union organi organise sed d anothe anotherr protes protestt and and this this time time about about five five hundre hundred d teachers walked walked out onto the street. In the same month, month, the government released released an amendme amendment nt of the original original measures measures after a negotiati negotiation on with different different education education groups. These These events boosted coverage of the issue again. As said above, the first ever benchmark assessment for language teachers was held in March 2001. Media coverage coverage of the assessment assessment was was moderate. The result of the benchmark benchmark test wass relea wa released sed in Ju June ne 2001 (48 items items were publishe published). d). As Hong Kong society society was highly highly concerned about the performance of teachers, media coverage of the issue was intensified again but the coverage completely dropped off in July 2001.
PRESS COVERAGE OF THE BENCHMARK ASS ASSESSMENT ESSMENT ISSUE As organised in Table 6.1, in total 337 news items, which accounted for 24 per cent of all news items examined in this study, were were about the benchma benchmark rk issue. In terms of size, coverage of the benchmark issue was the second largest in the coverage of the four educational issues (see Table 4.2). The 337 news items items consisted of 67 per cent cent (226 items) of news reports aand nd 33 per cent (111 items) items) of non-news non-news items, items, including including commenta commentaries, ries, letters-to-t letters-to-the-ed he-editor, itor, editorials, editorials, and features (see Table Table 6.1). The level of concentration concentration was higher higher than that of the coverage coverage of the instruction medium issue but lower than coverage of the university funding issue and about the same for the school school placement issue. issue. There were four front-page front-page reports about the benchmark benchmark test, which was less than for the instruction medium and the school placement issue as each of these were given seven front-page reports.
Individual Newspapers’ Coverage The be bench nchmar mark k issue issue was the se seco cond nd most most import important ant issue issue (measu (measured red by size size and composition of coverage) in both the Ming the Ming Pao Daily and the Apple the Apple Daily. Daily. The coverage of the benchmark issue issue was the second second largest of the four issues issues in the two newspapers. newspapers. Twenty seven per cent of each of the two papers’ papers’ coverage was given given to the issue (see Table Table 4.2). Comparing the composition of news coverage of the educational issues also indicated that the benchmark assessm ass essment ent was the second second most important important issue issue in the Ming Pao Daily News and and the Apple Daily.. Daily
Si Six xty nin ninee per per cent cent of of The The Ming Pao Daily News’s News’s cover coverage age of the benchm benchmark ark
assessment assessme nt consisted of news news reports (see Table 4.7). This was slightly less concentrated concentrated than the paper’s paper’s coverage coverage of the instructio instruction n medium issue. issue. However, However, the Ming Pao Daily News’s News’s coverage of the benchmark issue did not contain any features. The Apple The Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage consisted of approximately 53 per cent of news reports (see Table Ta ble 4.8). 4.8).
This This was obvious obviously ly less conce concentr ntrate ated d than than the Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage of the
university funding issue but more concentrated than its coverage of the instruction medium issue. In the the South China Morning Post , the benchmark issue ranked third by both size and composition of coverage coverage (see Table Table 4.2 and 4.9). 18 per cent of all South China Morning Post ’s ’s items were about the benchmark benchmark issue. 80 per cent of the coverage were news news reports. The Orie Oriental ntal Daily News News was notab notably ly differen differentt to the other other three three newspap newspapers ers..
Oriental Daily News’s News’s coverage of the benchmark test issue only comprised 12 per cent of all news items collected collected from the paper (see Table 4.2). The composition of this coverage coverage was the simplest compared to the paper’s paper’s other coverage. This was because there there was no news coverage in the the Oriental Daily News of News of the teachers teachers union protest protest in June 2000 2000 found. The paper paper only covered the amendment of the policy, the first benchmark assessment and the release of the results.
It is very unusual that one of the two largest newspapers did not cover an important event such as the union protest. The most likely explanation is a possible problem with the database database itself, itse lf, as the search procedur procedures es worked worked well with all the other papers. papers. In order to ensure tha thatt there were no errors in the coding process, such as unintentionally unintentionally filtering out relevant items, all the original electronic files downloaded from the database containing news items about the benchmar benc hmark k assessme assessment nt issue were screened screened at least least twice, twice, which confirmed confirmed that there were no su such ch item publishe published d in the Oriental Daily News News in June 2000. 2000. Another Another possibil possibility ity was that that inappropriate keywords keywords were used in searching searching the database. database. This, however, was was not the case in this research. research. As mentioned mentioned in the methodol methodology ogy section, section, a reading reading of the relevant news items items had been done prior prior to the search to ensure that that the keywords were the most co common mmon terms. In addition, the same set of keywords matched items found in the other two Chinese papers and the Oriental Daily News outside News outside the period period of June 2000. It is reasonable to believe that there there were technical problems within the database system during the searching process, but as it was not feasible to do the data collection for a second time, the analysis could only be based on the original set of data. A division between the popular and elite press in coverage composition also found in the newspapers’ coverage of the benchmark test but it was not as significant as in the case of the instruction medium. Excluding the Oriental Daily News, News, as for that of the instruction medium, in relative terms the Apple the Apple Daily had Daily had fewer news reports and more commentaries than the elite press. pres s. In the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, non-news articles, including commentaries, editorials and letters-tothe-editor together, comprised approximately 48 per cent of its coverage of the benchmark issue (see Table Table 4.8). Non-news Non-news articles articles accoun accounted ted for about about 30 per cent of the Ming Pao Daily News’s News ’s coverage and about 20 per cent of the South China Morning Post ’s ’s coverage of the issue (see Table 4.7 and Common Common Table 4.9). The difference between the popular popular and elite press was smaller in this case.
WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE BENCHMARK ASSESSMENT ISSUE There Th ere were 21 groups groups of news news source sourcess found found in the news report reportss and and featur features es about about the benchmark assessment assessment issue. issue. In total 960 statements statements were recorded from 226 226 news reports and and the only one feature. feature. The two most frequent frequently ly quoted sources sources were “teache “teachers rs and teach teacher er organi org anisa satio tions” ns” led by the Profes Professio sional nal Teache Teachers’ rs’ Union Union and the “educ “educati ation on autho authorit rities ies”, ”, including incl uding the Education Education and Manpower Manpower Bureau Bureau and the Education Education Department. Department. As shown in Table 6.2, teachers obtained about 39 per cent of the news coverage and the education authorities about 34 per cent. Together, they occup occupied ied about 73 per cent of the news reports and fea features. tures. As shown in the tables 6.3, approximately 90 per cent of the statements were attributed to regular sources. sources. Table 6.4 presents the grouping of advocates advocates and and arbiters. About 88 per per cent of the total 960 statements are attributable attributable to the advocates. The regular sources and and the advocates were largely the same groups of organisations and individua indiv iduals. ls. Among Among the arbiters, arbiters, “scholars “scholars and experts” experts” and the “universi “universities” ties” consisted consisted the largest two groups. groups. However, quotes quotes of these two groups accounted for only about 7 per cent cent of all the statements. As for commentaries and letters-to-the-editor, the analysis found that the public was highly concerne conc erned d about the benchmark benchmark issue. In total, 82 commentarie commentariess in newspaper newspaper forums forums and opinion opin ion pages, pages, and 16 letters letters were collected. collected. Members Members of the public public wrote 19 commenta commentaries, ries, which accounted for approximately 23 per cent of all the commentaries, and 11 letters, which comprised comp rised about about 69 per cent of all the letters. letters. In this group of item items, s, about 31 per cent were were provid pro vided ed by indivi individua duals, ls, thus thus indica indicatin ting g that that the public public were were highly highly concer concerned ned with with the benchmar benc hmark k issue. The second second largest largest source of non-news non-news content were by scholars scholars and they wrote 23, the largest largest number of commentaries commentaries about the benchmark benchmark issue. In total, their articles
comprised 25 per per cent of this group of of content. Newspaper columnists columnists were also a main source of commentaries and they wrote 17 articles about the issue.
Individual Newspapers’ Use of Sources The results of a comparison of news sources quoted in news reports and features in each newspaperr have been organised in tables 6.6 to 6.9. newspape It was no surprise that two advocates who were also regular sources, “teachers and teacher organisations” and “education authorities”, were the two most frequently quoted sources in all newspape news papers. rs. On the Ming the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, the South China Morning Post and and the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, the teachers gained gained slightly more coverage than than the education authorities. authorities. For example, 42 per cen centt of the the stat statem emen ents ts reco record rded ed from from th thee Ming Pao Daily News wer weree att attrib ribute uted d to teache teacherr organisations and individual teachers and about 36 per cent of the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News News’s quotes were attributed to the education education authorities (see Table 6.6). The other two newspapers’ newspapers’ figures are very close to that of the Ming Pao Daily. Daily. On the Oriental Daily, Daily, the education authorities gained more coverage than the teachers. The Apple The Apple Daily, Daily, which had the most imbalanced treatment of major news sources in its cover coverage age of the instru instructi ction on medium medium and the univer universit sity y fundin funding g issues issues,, produc produced ed the most most balanced coverage of the two sides in the conflict over the benchmark issue. As for the sources of commentaries and letters-to-the-editor (see Table 6.10), the main source sou rce of commenta commentaries ries for the two elite papers papers was from scholars and members of the public. The Apple The Apple Daily, Daily, although it had a large number of articles, was more dependent on its own columnists to provide commentaries, and it seemed that relatively less scholars wrote in to the Apple Daily. Daily.
ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE Coverage of the benchmark benchmark assessment assessment issue reached reached its peak in June June 2000. As shown in Table Table 6.11 6.11,, in th thee pe peak ak mont month, h, a to tota tall of 84 re rele leva vant nt news news it item emss were were publ publis ishe hed d in th thee th thre reee newspapers. newspape rs. The peak month coverage consisted consisted of 62 per cent news news reports (52 items), about about 34.5 per cent of commentaries commentaries (29 items), and approximately approximately 4 per cent editorials (3 items). As for coverage by individual newspapers, as found in the other cases about pre-tertiary educational issues, the popular press had a relatively larger proportion of non-news articles in their peak month coverage, and the more popular the issue, the larger the number of non-news articles. There were in total 122 relevant statements recorded from the peak month news reports and features and 85 statements from commentaries commentaries and editorials. editorials. In total 65 themes was was coded and regrouped into 11 11 aspects, as shown shown in Table 6.12. In the peak month, month, the anti-benchmark camp occupied occupied the majority of news coverage of the be benchmark nchmark issue. Three groups, including including the Professional Teachers’ Union, some individual education professionals, and the Democrat legislators, together together had 65 per cent strong strong of the peak month coverage coverage (Table 6.12). 6.12). The probenchmark camp, led by the government and supported by parents, students and business groups, obtained 30 per cent of the peak month coverage. The debate debate of the benchm benchmark ark as asses sessme sment nt issue issue focuse focused d on thr three ee aspect aspects, s, the “anti“antibenchmar benc hmark”, k”, “policy substanc substance”, e”, and the “policy “policy alternatives alternatives”. ”.
Coverage Coverage about about these these three
aspects comprised comprised almost 60 per cent of the peak month coverage of the bench benchmark mark issue. These as aspec pects ts were were str strong ongly ly promot promoted ed by the Profes Professio sional nal Teach Teachers ers’’ Union Union and and other other indivi individua duall educators. It was evident evident that the union union was very very effective in gaining news coverage. Coverage of the Profession Professional al Teachers’ Teachers’ Union and other individua individuall education education professional professionalss together together accounted for 48 per cent of the peak month coverage, which was a result of the massive teacher protest. The event boosted boosted the coverage of the union union and individual representatives representatives of the union who were also also were legislators. legislators. These powerful powerful and well-organised well-organised sources sources put forward their
arguments effectively. effectively. Hence, unlike the the coverage of the instruction instruction medium issue, issue, which was full of emotion, coverage of the benchmark issue had more substance. The union and other individual teachers stressed that the benchmark test was an insult to teachers. The “insult” theme was the the second most common common theme in the peak month coverage. coverage. Teachers also argued that the compulsory assessment was not only putting more pressure and workload on teachers’ shoulders, but it was also demoralising and was not effective in improving the education quality and ensuring a high language standard (see Table 6.13). Other than criticising the policy and the government and expressing their emotions, the teachers’ union, as an organisational actor, did make a great deal of rational comments on “substance” “substanc e” of the proposed policy and put forward forward their “alternatives”. The union emph emphasised asised that the benchmark assessment in fact denied or de-legitimatised current tertiary education and professional teaching teaching qualifications; qualifications; the policy was also unfair to student student teachers. The union required an exemption for in-service teachers and future teachers who held a degree in language subjects. Facing strong opposition, opposition, the gove government rnment relented and negotiated with the union union on exemption exem ption criteria. criteria.
The union union put put forward forward their their sugges suggestions tions of policy policy altern alternative atives. s.
requested a total abolition of the benchmark test and instead advised the government to develop a comprehensivee continuous training and assessment system for teachers. comprehensiv The government contended that an assessment was necessary as a choice for teachers to meet the benchmark and and as an objective quality indicator indicator of language teachers. Parents, students and business groups all supported the benchmark assessment and considered a compulsory test an effective means for maintaining and improving teaching quality. As the thrust of the coverage was driven by the protest, the protest itself also became part of the debate. As a response to the the benchmark policy, policy, the teachers’ protest was questioned questioned by otherr stakeholders othe stakeholders,, particula particularly rly the parent parent groups. The education education professiona professionals ls were also not united on this matter. matter. While the Professional Professional Teachers’ Union and some teachers teachers were in favour
of the protest and suggested that it be a universal rights for all citizens, the pro-China Federation of Education Workers, some teacher groups, such as the Education Convergence, and the Hong Kong Institute of Education were cautious about the protest and worried that it might damage the social image of teachers. teachers. Parent and business groups groups condemned condemned the action, saying that teachers teachers were thus a bad example to their students. In total 85 relevant statements were recorded from commentaries and editorials in the peak month. As shown in Table 6.14, individual individual education professionals professionals and scholars contributed contributed the majority of commentaries and each of these two groups had about 20 per cent of the peak month coverage. In the commentaries and editorials, editorials, the most arguable aspec aspectt was who was responsible for the language language problem. Some scholars scholars and columnists columnists did support support the teachers teachers and argued that the teaching quality is not the only reason reason of the decline of language ab ability ility in students. This in fact was the most common common theme in the peak peak month commentaries commentaries (see Table 6.15). Scholars also als o conten contende ded d the idea idea that that benchm benchmark arking ing reflec reflects ts and follow followss the busine business ss doctri doctrine ne of standa sta ndardi rdisat sation ion,, so treati treating ng ed educa ucatio tion n as a valuevalue-ad added ded proce process ss tha thatt needs needs qua qualit lity y contr control. ol. Teachers Tea chers who wrote to the newspapers newspapers argued that the governmen governmentt was shifting responsibilit responsibility y and defended their protest action, while parent groups condemned teachers for being a bad example to students. students. In some newspaper newspaper editorials, writers supported supported the teachers’ proposal proposal that, instead of the compulsory benchmark assessment, a comprehensive continuous training and assessm ass essment ent system system be required. Discussi Discussion on about this idea was one of the five most common themes in the commentaries. Interestingly, the policy process was focused on in some commentaries and editorials. Themes regarding the policy process and criticism of the government were also among the five most common themes (see Table Table 6.15). The government government was mainly condemned condemned by scholars, columnists and teachers teachers for its authoritarian authoritarian and bureaucratic bureaucratic attitudes. The question about about the
government’s legitimacy legitimacy was also raised. raised. Some newspaper newspaper editorials urged the government government to engage with teachers and the public in developing a teacher training policy for the future.
Individual Newspapers’ Issue Definitions The newspapers’ peak month coverage of the benchmark issue was similar in having the same first three aspects, the “anti-benchmark assessment”, the “policy substance” and the “policy alternatives”, but but with different emphasis emphasis (see Table Table 6.16). The three main main aspects comprised comprised approximately 60 per cent of each newspaper’s peak month coverage. In the Ming the Ming Pao Daily, Daily , the most prominent aspect was “policy substance”, whereas, in the Apple Daily, Daily, the “anti-benchmark assessment” assessment” was given given the largest coverage. The South China China Morning Post emphasised emphasised more on policy alternatives. In the peak month, a majority of commentaries and editorials were published by the two Chine Chi nese se newspap newspapers ers (Table (Table 6.17). 6.17). There There was only only one edito editoria riall found found in the South China Morning Post ’s ’s peak month coverage. One of the focuses of the commentaries found in the Ming the Ming Pao Daily News and the Apple the Apple Daily was Daily was the question about who should be held responsible for the language problem in Hong Kong students students (Table 6.17). Apart from that, that, in Ming in Ming Pao Daily News’s News’s articles, writers (mainly scholars and the public) also focused on the protest itself, the Apple Daily’s Daily’s writers (mainly the public and the paper’s paper’s own columnists) charted the “a “anti-benchmark nti-benchmark assessment” assessment” aspec aspect. t. Some columnists were sceptical about how effective the policy would be to improve the standard of teaching. In its editorial, the South China Morning Post expressed expressed that the paper supported the idea of benchmarking in general and suggested the benchmark assessment should be considered as a professional recognition.
Chapter 7 Sexual Discrimination in the School Place Allocation System
THE ISSUE AND THE STAKEHOLDERS The issue to be examined in this chapter is about sexual discrimination in the Secondary School Places Allocation Allocation System (“school placement” placement” will be used to label label this issue). In Hong Kong, children are allocated a Form-1 (Year 7) place through the Secondary School Places Allocation Syste Sy stem m after after six years years of primar primary y level level educa educatio tion. n.
The The system system,, howev however, er, syste systema matic ticall ally y
discriminated against against female students. The news coverage coverage which covered covered the start of the issue issue and and the later later develo developme pment nt of a legal legal battle battle betwee between n the educat education ion author authority ity and and the Equal Opportunities Commission who finalised the issue will be analysed. The allocation system has been been running since 1978. 1978. In the system, all primary students are classified into five bands, from band-one band-one to band-five. band-five. Band-one students students are those those who have the highest academic academic merit and band-five band-five students are those those who have the the lowest. The banding is based on exam results of a centrally administered Academic Aptitude Test and the results of examinations within schools. schools. In the allocation process, students students have to submit a list of preferred schools, and the system matches students with their choice of schools based on the students’ academi aca demicc merits. Before Before the “freedom of information information laws” were enacted enacted in 1998, banding banding informatio infor mation n was not revealed revealed to student students. s. The Education Education Department Department only informed informed students about about whic which h school schoolss they they were were all alloc ocate ated. d.
Howeve However, r, under under the news laws laws,, the Educ Educati ation on
Department had to reveal the banding information and this triggered the sexual discrimination issue.
In 1998, some parents discovered that, while their children were not allocated a place in their preferred schools, schools, their classmates classmates entered the schools schools with lower banding banding scores. Hence, they the y believ believed ed their their ch child ildren ren were were unfair unfairly ly treate treated d in the all alloca ocatio tion n system system and they they made made compl complain aints ts to the Equal Opportun Opportuniti ities es Commis Commissio sion. n.
Respo Respondi nding ng to that, that, the commi commissi ssion on
launched an investigation in August 1998 and released the result a year later. The Equal Opportunit Opportunities ies Commissio Commission n declared declared that the allocation allocation system system was indeed discriminatory and favoured male students. students. The investigation investigation discovered more boys than girls had been admitted to their first three choices of school during 1996 to 1998, and the 1998 allocation results showed that girls in eleven out of eighteen school districts needed a higher score than boys to get into top-ranked schools, but in seven other districts, boys needed higher marks than girls. Under mounting pressure from the public and the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Education Department admitted that some practices35 in the allocation system might be violating the Sex Discrimina Discrimination tion Ordinance. Ordinance. However, However, it defended defended the use of the long long-stan -standing ding and complex banding banding method. The Education Education Department explained explained that girls consistently consistently perform better than boys in school exams and as school examination results are an important element of the banding system, the different academic performance between the two genders have to be taken tak en into into accoun accountt in the allocati allocation on metho method d in order order to ensure ensure the overal overalll fairne fairness ss of the education system. Despite the Equal Opportunities Commission repeatedly and publicly requesting a revision of the system, the Education Department apparently did not want to make any changes in the short-term because it planned to abolish the Academic Aptitude Test 36 and the Secondary School 35
There were three long-standing practices which were deemed discriminatory by the Equal Opportunities Commission investigation report. Firstly, “boys and girls are separated in the banding banding process, resulting in different scores dividing the bands which determine what secondary schools they will attend”; secondly, “boys and girls in the same school have their final grades allocated separately and are ranked within their sex” group; and thirdly, “coeducation schools are required to admit a fixed proportion of boys and girls, regardless of academic results” (SCMP ( SCMP 6/7/2000). 36
The Academic Aptitude Test Test was abolished from 2001.
Places Allocation Allocation System in two to three years time. Instead of making any modification to the system, the Education Department sought an exemption of the use of the Sex Discrimination Ordina Ord inance nce to oppose oppose the system system by defini defining ng those those accuse accused d practi practice cess as specia speciall measu measures res.. Respo Re spondi nding ng to that, that, the Equal Equal Opport Opportuni unitie tiess Commis Commissio sion n launc launched hed a lawsui lawsuitt agains againstt the Education Department Department in July 2000 to seek a judicial judicial review of the allocation allocation system. About a year later in June 2001 the High Court ruled that the allocation system was biased against against girls. Under these circumstances, the Education Department anticipated that the verdict would causee a flood of appeals caus appeals by parents who were unsatisfie unsatisfied d with the 2001 allocati allocation on result. The education community strongly suggested reallocating all form-one students by processing boys and girls together. The Education Departm Department, ent, however, decided decided to set up an appeal mechanism as a temporary temporary measure measure to accept appeals and to reallocate reallocate those students students whose appeals were su succ ccess essful ful..
This This create created d a sit situat uation ion which which was describ described ed by the media media and and the educati education on
community as chaos. chaos. By the end of July 2001, 3,001 3,001 out of 7,722 appeal cases we were re successful. Theree were, however, Ther however, limited places available available.. Thus, Thus, the Education Education Depa Departmen rtmentt assigned a random number to each of those 3,001 students and eventually 2,261 students were given places in their preferred schools. The other 740 students students whose random number number came at the bottom of the priority order were not reallocated, and this raised further grievance among those students and and th thei eirr pa pare rent nts. s.
Some Some of th them em pl plan anne ned d to reso resort rt to lega legall acti action on th thro roug ugh h th thee Equa Equall
Oppor Op portun tuniti ities es Commis Commissio sion. n.
In additi addition, on, the Office Office of the Ombudsm Ombudsman an launc launched hed a direc directt
investigation into the failure of the Education Department to rectify the problem in the allocation system. To ease the tension, the Education Department eventually required twelve schools to add extra classes classes to accommod accommodate ate all students. students. Even though though those schools schools were given two extra teachers and money for renovations, some classes still had no permanent classroom or they took place in small temporary classrooms.
NEWS REPORTING AND POLICY PROCESS Chartt 7.1 showed the shifting Char shifting of intensity intensity of news coverage coverage about the school placement placement issue. As mentioned above, the Equal Opportunities Commission launched an investigation of the allocatio allo cation n system in August 1998. However, However, as can be seen in the char chart, t, there was almost no news coverage coverage about about this event. The investigat investigation ion was clearly not considere considered d an even eventt worth covering, and also also the investigation report report was not yet released released (it was in August 1999). Despite the report report confir confirmin ming g there there was sexua sexuall discri discrimin minati ation on in the all alloc ocati ation on system system,, the school school placeme plac ement nt issue had not become become a media media focus. Only about about 20 stories about the report report were published in the four newspapers. Thee la Th laws wsui uitt file filed d by th thee Equa Equall Oppo Opport rtun unit itie iess Comm Commis issi sion on agai agains nstt th thee Ed Educ ucat atio ion n Departmen Depa rtmentt was a turning turning point in the developmen developmentt of the issue. issue. However, However, similarly similarly to the investigation, it did not catch catch media attention. As shown in the chart, chart, only about 10 stories stories about the launch launch of the lawsuit lawsuit were published. published. The issue was being being watched watched but it received received little media attention until the High Court pronounced its verdict, which it did in June 2001, only a month before the release of the 2001 2001 allocation results. Hence, the event intensified intensified the coverage of the school placemen placementt issue. The media media focused on the release release of the allocatio allocation n results and how the government government responded to the High Court decision. Coverage of the issu issuee peaked in July July 2001. 200 1.
There There were 91 news news items items collecte collected d from from the four four newspa newspape pers rs in July July 2001; they
accounte acc ounted d for about 42 per cent of the total coverage coverage of the issue. Ther Thereafte eafter, r, coverage coverage of the school placement declined dramatically in August 2001 as the appeals were settled.
PRESS COVERAGE OF THE SCHOOL PLACEMENT ISSUE
In total 218 news items related to the school placement issue were collected from the four newspapers newspape rs (see Table 7.1), which comprised comprised almost 16 per cent of all news items items.. In terms of
word count, coverage of the school placement issue also accounted for approximately 16 per cent of all news coverage coverage examined examined in this study. In quantitative terms, the the school placement placement issue ranked third in the four cases in this research (see Table 4.2). As for the composition of the coverage about the school placement issue, the pattern was similar to that found in the coverage coverage of the benchmark as assessment sessment issue. Coverage consisted consisted of all five types of articles. articles. Close to 70 per cent cent of the items were news news reports and the the remaining 30 per cent cent were were non-ne non-newsws-rep report ort items. items.
This This pattern pattern was was simila similarr to the covera coverage ge of the
benchmar benc hmark k assessment assessment issue. As for front-page front-page reports, reports, the school placement placement issue made the front pages seven times, which was greater than that given to the benchmark issue. Although the coverage composition of the school placement and the benchmark issues were also close, the coverage of the school placement coverage was notably smaller than that of the benchmark issue issue (see tables 4.4 and 4.5). The results suggest that that the school placement issue was less newsworthy than the benchmark assessment issue.
Individual Newspapers’ Coverage As shown shown in Table 4.2, 4.2, in the Ming Pao Daily, Daily, the Apple the Apple Daily Daily and and th thee South China Morning Post , the school placement issue ranked third by size (word count). As for the composition of the newspapers’ coverage of the school placement issue, the Ming Pao Daily’s Daily’s coverage consisted consisted of 75 per cent of news news reports (see Table Table 4.7). Comparing to the paper’s coverage coverage of other issue, issue, this level of concentration concentration fell in the middle. The overall pattern was similar to that found for the coverage of the university funding. The Apple The Apple Daily’s Daily’s coverage included included 66 per cent of news news reports (see Table Table 4.8). This was greater than its coverage of the benchmark assessment issue but obviously less than the paper’s university funding coverage.
The composition composition of the South China Morning Post ’s ’s coverage of the school placement was similar simil ar to the paper’s paper’s coverage coverage of the benchmark benchmark test issue. The paper’s paper’s school school placement placement coverage accounted for 19 per cent of the paper’s total word count (see Table 4.2), consisted of all types of articles, and 74 per cent of the were news news reports (see Table 4.9). The results suggest suggest th that at the South China Morning Post considered considered this issue as important as the benchmark test issue. In the the Oriental Daily, Daily, the coverage of the school placement issue (30 per cent of the Oriental Daily’s Daily’s total word count) was smaller than the paper’s coverage of the instruction medium medi um issue but significa significantly ntly larger larger than that of the universit university y funding issue. issue. The scho school ol placement issue accounted accounted for 30 per cent (word count) of its total coverage (see Table 4.2).
WHO SHAPED THE NEWS AGENDA OF THE SCHOOL PLACEMENT ISSUE There were 13 groups of news sources found in the news reports and features about the school placement issue (see (see Table 7.2). A total of 990 statements were recorded recorded from 152 news reports and 3 features. The two most frequently frequently quoted sources were the the “education authorities”, authorities”, that is th thee Educ Educat atio ion n an and d Manp Manpow ower er Bure Bureau au an and d th thee Educ Educat atio ion n Depa Depart rtme ment nt,, an and d th thee Equa Equall Opportunit Oppo rtunities ies Commission. Commission. The treatment treatment of these these two sources sources by the newspape newspapers rs was quite balanced, with 31 per cent (309 quotes) of the total coverage of school placement issue being attr attrib ibut uted ed to th thee ed educ ucat atio ion n auth author orit itie iess and and 27 per per cent cent (2 (263 63 st stat atem emen ents ts)) to th thee Equa Equall Opportunities Commission, Commission, and about 88 88 per cent of all these these statements were paraphrased. paraphrased. The two sources together occupied about 58 per cent of the news reports and features. When the data was regrouped by adopting the typologies to the news sources, the analysis found 85 per cent of the statements were attributed attributed to regular sources (see Table Table 7.3). Table 7.4
presents the grouping of advocates and arbiters: about 91 per cent of all recorded statements were attributed to the advocates. advocates. As shown in Table 7.4, it can be seen that the legal professionals, as arbiters, were quoted more than the scholars. scholars. The legal professionals professionals were not quoted quoted in the coverage of other other issues. Journalists selected them because the focus of the school placement issue was the court case. Thee legal Th legal profes professio siona nals ls were were not only as aske ked d to comme comment nt on the lawsui lawsuitt but also to give give suggestions to parents. As shown in Table 7.5, columnists and scholars contributed the most commentaries, with each eac h of these these two sources writing writing more than 20 per cent of the comme commentarie ntaries. s. Unlike Unlike for the instruction medium and the benchmark issues about which the public showed strong concern, the public was less interested interested in the school placement placement issue. Members of the public contributed contributed 12 per cent (or 6 articles) of all non-news articles.
Individual Newspapers’ Use of Sources The analysis found that three Chinese newspapers gave the education authorities and the Equal Opportunit Oppo rtunities ies Commission Commission a largely largely equal equal share of news coverage, coverage, while in the South China Morning Post the ed educa ucatio tion n author authoritie itiess were were given given much much larger larger cover coverage age than than the Equal Equal Opportunit Oppo rtunities ies Commission. Commission. Table Table 7.6 shows shows statements statements by the education education authorities authorities and the Equal Opportunities Commission respectively comprised around 30 per cent of each Chinese newspaper’s newspape r’s total coverage of the school school placement issue. issue. As for the South China Morning Post , the education authorities received 43 per cent (112 quotes) of its coverage, while the Equal Opportunities Commission only received 29 per cent (74 quotes). In this case, the characteristics of the major advocates were different from those in the other three cases where the two major sources were the government and a non-government source. sou rce. Regarding Regarding the school placemen placementt issue, issue, the two major advocates advocates were governmen governmentt-
related bodies. This could explain the balanced balanced coverage of the two sources, as they cou could ld have the same access to the media and addressed the media in a same manner. With the use of arbiters, all newspapers had quoted legal professionals, particularly in the Apple Daily where Daily where 15 of its 16 quotes were from legal professionals. As for authors of commenta commentaries ries and letters-to-t letters-to-the-e he-editor, ditor, most articles articles in the elite papers papers were written by scholars, columnists, columnists, and members members of the public (see Table 7.1 7.10). 0). This basically repeats the pattern found in the previous cases. The Oriental Daily very Daily very much relied on its own columnis colu mnists, ts, with 10 of its 13 non-news articles articles being being written by columnist columnists. s. The Apple Daily also had very few articles also articles from the public. public. So the results suggest suggest that readers readers of the popular popular press were generally not interested in the school placement issue.
ISSUE DEFINITION IN PRESS COVERAGE Coverage of the school school placement issue peaked peaked in July 2001. As shown by Table 7.11, a total total of 91 peak month month items were collected collected from the four newspape newspapers. rs. The peak month month coverage coverage consi consiste sted d of approx approxima imatel tely y 75 pe perr ce cent nt of news news report reportss (68 items), items), about about 19 per per cent cent of commentaries (17 items), approximately 4 per cent of editorials (4 items), one letters-to-theeditor, and one feature written by the South China Morning Post . As for coverage of individual individual newspapers, similar to the pattern found for the coverage of pre-tertiary education, the popular press had a relatively larger proportion of non-news articles in their peak month coverage. In total 144 statements related to 56 themes were recorded from the peak month news reports and features. The themes were regrouped regrouped into seven aspects as as shown in Table 7.12. The peak month coverage of the school placement issue was more about technical than social values or or ethical issues. The most promine prominent nt aspect of the peak month coverage was was the “appealing and reallocation mechanism” mechanism” which occupied almost 40 per cent of news and features in the peak month. In addition, “suggestions “suggestions for parents” made by different different groups in relation to
the appeals appeals process process comprised comprised approxima approximately tely 14 per cent of the coverage. coverage. Altogethe Altogether, r, the content related to the appealing and reallocation process accounted for almost 54 per cent of the news and features features in the peak peak month. Among the news sources, the analysis analysis also found found (Table 7.12, continued) the government gained the largest coverage in the peak month where it was given give n 35 per cent of the coverage. coverage. In the whole coverage coverage of the school placemen placementt issue, issue, the Equal Opportunities Commission was the second most frequently quoted source, but statements attributed to the commission only accounted for about 13 per cent of all recorded statements from the peak month coverage. Parents and students, who were waiting for the release of the allocation results and hoping for a fair resolution to be implemented immediately, were highly concerned about how the government would respond to the High Court verdict, what would be its plan and how it would operate. oper ate. As a result result of this, the peak peak month covera coverage ge focused focused on the operati operational onal issue. issue. More than a half of the 51 quotes attributed to the government related to the appealing and reallocation mechanism (see Table 7.12) and a large part of what the government said in relation to the appeals process process was about how the mechanism mechanism would operate (see (see Table 7.13). Apart from the operation oper ation of the appealing appealing and reallocation reallocation process, process, before before the release of the allocation allocation results results and the start of the appeals process, the government also projected the results of the reallocation and and warned warned parent parentss and stude students nts that that there there was “not “not enough enough place placess for reallo reallocat cation ion;; the possibility to change change school successfully successfully is low”. Schools were also also aware about this situation. situation. With regard to the appeals process, the Equal Opportunities Commission, which led the debate on the issue, had little to say at this stage except telling parents and students students that it would offer to help by accepting complaints about the appeals process. The government tried to “persuade parents to accept allocation results” but the Equal Opportunities Commission and some legal professionals argued that parents had the right to resort to legal action action (see Table 7.13, 7.13, note 4). “Suggestions for parents” who were confused by
the govern governmen ment’s t’s arrang arrangeme ement nt were were offere offered d by differ different ent source sourcess who who were were sought sought out by journalists. The government and schools urged parents to “think carefully and not to lodge an appeal just for luck”. The government government also joined others, including including social workers, scholars scholars and teachers groups, to suggest that parents should take into account “the psychological effects made by the appeals on students”. Apart from the appeals process and the reallocation, the allocation system itself also became an important important part of the peak month cove coverage rage of the school place placement ment issue. As shown in Table 7.12, coverage about the allocation system comprised approximately 15 per cent of the news coverage coverage and was the second second aspect aspect of the peak month month news and features. features. Read Reading ing the content about the allocation system, one could have a strong impression that a vast majority of parents pare nts and students students condemned condemned the allocation allocation as “unfair”. “unfair”. The governmen governmentt replied replied that the allocation method would be totally changed in 2002. The media close closely ly watche watched d the release release of the all alloc ocati ation on result resultss and how the appea appeall mechanis mech anism m worked. worked. Teacher Teacherss and parent organisati organisation on urged the governme government nt to reallocat reallocatee all Form-1 students in 2001 2001 but the government government refused to do so. The appeal me mechanism chanism started but the process process was not smooth. The Professiona Professionall Teachers Teachers Union and other education education groups groups described the situation as chaotic chaotic and resulted resulted from the government’s government’s maladministration. maladministration. The union also criticised criticised the government as incompetent. incompetent. Not surprisingly, the government government defended defended its position, saying the situation was h hardly ardly chaotic. Whether it was or wasn’t wasn’t may not be worth arguing, but the wrath of the parents and students was real enough and they spoke out against the sy syste stem’s m’s injust injustice ice by floodi flooding ng the Educa Educatio tion n Depart Departmen mentt with with more more than than seven seven thousa thousand nd appealing and reallocation applications. Forty-eight relevant statements were recorded from commentaries, letters-to-the-editor and editorials in the peak month. month. From Table 7.14, it can be be seen that 35 per per cent of the statements in non-news articles articles were recorded from newspaper newspaper editorials. The editorials played a vital part
in interpreting the school school placement issue. Besides, colu columnists mnists and scholars scholars were the two other largest groups of writers who contributed to the discussion of the issue. Unlike the non-news articles about the other three issues, which focused on social values and ethical issues associated to those issues, the non-news articles about the school placement focused on practical practical problems. Comments about about the “allocation system” system” (25 per cent) consisted consisted the largest aspect of the non-news non-news content, content, which included included discussio discussion n about about the allocation allocation method and the the effect of reducing banding categories. categories. Writers also suggested suggested a comprehensive comprehensive review of the allocation allocation system. However, this aspect did not contain contain the strongest strongest theme. theme. The strongest single theme was the suggestion made by newspaper editorials, columnists and scholars that the psychological impact of the appeals process on students should be taken into account when parents decided to lodge an application for an appeal and reallocation, with 5 out of the 48 quotes relating to this theme (see Table 7.15). The release of the 2001 allocation result was the second largest part of the non-news report content. Newspaper editorials described described the situation as chaotic afte afterr the release of the allocation result and the start of the appealing mechanism, but instead of accusing the government of maladministration, the newspaper editorials, columnists and scholars recognised that the chaos wass cr wa crea eate ted d by th thee re redu duct ctio ion n of ba band ndin ing g cate catego gori ries es and and th they ey desc descri ribe bed d it as a ki kind nd of egalitaria egal itarianism nism and communism communism (negative (negative usage). usage).
Regarding Regarding the appeal appeal mechanism, mechanism, some
legislators and the Professional Teachers Union made their point that the mechanism was illegal. However, the government insisted on its decision and refused r efused to reallocate all students.
Individual Newspapers’ Issue Definitions The peak month coverage of the school placement issue in different newspapers was largely the same. The dominant aspect aspect in each newspaper’s newspaper’s coverage was the “appealing and reallocation reallocation mechanis mech anism”. m”. In the Apple the Apple Daily, Daily, content related to the appealing and reallocation mechanism
compr comprise ised d 29 per cent of its peak peak month month coverag coverage. e.
In all other other newspap newspapers ers,, this this aspec aspectt
accounted for more than 40 per cent of their peak month coverage (see Table 7.16). The other two aspects, the “allocation system” and “suggestions for parents”, were either the second or or the third most reported reported aspects in all newspaper newspaper coverage. coverage. In absolute terms, the actual coverage coverage size of each of the two aspects aspects was very close. The newspapers, newspapers, whether elite or popular, Chinese or English, had largely the same coverage about the school placement issue. With regard to the non-news articles about the school placement issue, the newspapers were split split along along the reader readership ship line. line. Both the the Ming Pao Daily and Daily and the South China Morning Post had had published only three articles in the peak month while the Apple Daily had Daily had ten and the Oriental Daily Daily had seven (see (see Table 7.11). 7.11). Also, Also, each of the two popular popular papers papers provided provided around 40 per cent of all statements from non-news articles (see Table 7.17). The difference between the two types of newspapers was not only significant in volume but also in content. content. The non-news non-news articles articles in the elite press only only cover three aspects aspects of the school placement issue: the “allocation system”, the “ 2001 allocation result” and “suggestions for parents”. The content of the articles articles in the popular press press cover six aspects aspects but emphasised emphasised three main ones. Discussion about the allocation allocation system itself was focused focused on in the articles and popular papers) were interested in commentating on the situation raised by the release of the 2001 allocation result and made suggestions for parents with regard to the appeals process.
Chapter 8 Conclusion
Compar Com paring ing the amoun amountt of ne news ws report reportss and non-news non-news articles articles given given to each each of the four educationall issues, it was clear that the instruction medium issue (333 news reports and 250 noneducationa news articles) is the the most newsworthy one (see Table Table 4.4). This issue was not only considered considered the most important by the press but also attracted the most public atte attention. ntion. Table 4.5 shows the instruction medium has the largest number of commentaries (149 articles) and letters-to-theeditor (62 articles). The second most most newsworthy issue was was the benchmark assessment assessment issue, followed by the school placement issue, and finally the university funding issue. When charting the criteria for news selection, the deputy news editor of the Apple the Apple Daily said, The “scope “scope of impact” impact” is an important important consideratio consideration. n. The larger larger the number number of people people is affected affe cted by an event, the more coverag coveragee will be given to it. That’ That’s why we cover more primary and secondary education than tertiary education. The above quote explains explains why the policy of the instructio instruction n medium medium was the most significa significant nt issuee and why the university issu university funding funding issue received received the smallest smallest coverage coverage.. The impact impact of the policy of compulsory mother-tongue teaching was more far-reaching to the public than all other policies. Almost the whole population of secondary secondary students students and their families were were affected. Compar Com pared ed to that, that, the univer universit sity y fundin funding g issue issue was was obviou obviously sly much much less less import important ant,, as the number of tertiary students students is much smaller smaller than that of the pre-tertiary pre-tertiary students. The benchmark benchmark test issue was very important to the teachers. teachers. Although it also affected affected students, the impact impact was not as direct direct as for the instructi instruction on mediu medium m policy policy..
The sex discrim discrimina inatio tion n in the school school
placement system system was also an issue related to primary and se secondary condary educ education. ation. However, only a small number of Form-1 intake students were affected by the change of the system in 2001.
NEWS COVERAGE AND POLICY PROCESS Wheree in the policy Wher policy process media media does coverage coverage occur? occur? The content content analysis analysis found press press coverage cove rage of education education policy policy issues issues was more concentrat concentrated ed in the last two stages stages of the policy process, the construction and implementation phases (Bhatia, 1997), although coverage also occurred in the consultation consultation phase, phase, as in the coverage coverage of the instruction medium medium issue. Beyond that, the intensity of news coverage of education policies shifted during the policy process. In the case of the instruction medium issue, the coverage increased moderately in the consultation phase and boomed boomed in the implementation stage; then shrunk sharply after the release of the list of English-med English-medium ium schools schools (see Chart 4.1). The coverage coverage of the university university funding issuee peaked at the constructio issu construction n stage but with virtually virtually no coverage coverage before and after that (see Chart 5.1). In the coverage of the benchmark benchmark assessment assessment issue, the intensity of press coverage coverage shifted shif ted several several times between between the consolidation consolidation and the implementa implementation tion phase (see Chart 6.1). Although the implementation of the benchmark test had quite substantial coverage, the coverage was concentrated on the teachers’ protest which occurred during the construction phase of the policy process. The school placement placement issue did not not go through a normal normal policy cycle. In the sense that that it was unexpecte unexpected d by the governme government nt and the society, society, the evolution evolution of the issue issue did not follow a normal policy process; it was a disturbance for the government administration rather than a policy pol icy issue. issue. In spite spite of that, that, the issue did go through through a proces processs in which which a problem problem was identified and a decision decision was made for solvin solving g it. The coverage of the school school placement placement issue star starte ted d with with th thee in inve vest stig igat atio ion n of th thee al allo loca catio tion n sy syst stem em th that at coul could d be cons consid ider ered ed as th thee conceptu conc eptualisa alisation tion phase. phase. The coverag coveragee in that stage was was quite small. small. There There was virtually virtually no coverage cove rage between between the investiga investigation tion and the pronounceme pronouncement nt of the High Court verdict. verdict. The pron pronou ounc ncem emen entt of th thee ve verd rdic ictt was was no nott gi give ven n a larg largee amou amount nt of cove covera rage ge;; rath rather er,, it was was concentrated concentrate d around the release of the 2001 allocation results and the appeal process.
The concentration of news coverage in the last two phases has two main explanations. Firstly, tensions and conflicts do not normally occur in the early stages of the policy process as typically policy issues are then still not clearly defined, and there is still a great deal of latitude for different parties to act and negotiate. negotiate. Secondly, the lack of immediate impact on the public make ma kess even events ts in th thee early early st stag ages es,, su such ch as a re rele leas asee of a publ public ic cons consul ulta tati tion on pa pape per, r, no nott newsworthy. The shifting of the intensity of news coverage indicated that media coverage was not fundamentally driven by the policy process process but rather by independent independent news events. events. This implied thatt the fluctu tha fluctuati ation on in media media covera coverage ge result resulted ed from from the interp interplay lay be betwe tween en journa journalis lists’ ts’ professional judgement of the intrinsic newsworthiness of individual events and news source activities. There was a coincidence between the content analysis data and the answers given by journalists in their interviews. As pointed out in the discussion about news values in chapter 3, the newspapers, in particular the popular press, prefer news events with immediate impact, public resonance, and simple implications that can be comprehended “straightforwardly”, as the Apple Daily’s Daily’s editor said. The content analysis analysis found all the events events receiving intensive coverage coverage had one or more of these characteris characteristics. tics. These These included included the release of the list of EnglishEnglishmediu me dium m school schools, s, the massiv massivee teache teachers’ rs’ protes protest, t, and the conflic conflictt betwee between n the univer universit sity y chancellors and the education authority. authority. Also, in the school placement placement issue, the m majority ajority of the coverage was given to the release of the allocation results and the appeal process rather than the courtt case, which has long-term cour long-term implication implicationss for education education developme development nt in Hong Kong. Kong. All these events involved conflicts and human dramas that were appealing and had no complicated plots that could bore readers. readers. This suggests that that journalists’ perceptions of of newsworthiness have have a crucial role in building the media-agenda of education policy and confirms the findings in other newsmaking literature, such as Gans (1979) and Tiffen (1989).
The other factor affecting affecting news coverage coverage is the activities of news news sources. In addition to agree agreeing ing with with the relati relative ve autono autonomy my betwee between n journa journalis lists ts and news news source sourcess empha emphasis sised ed by Wallace’s (1998) study of media-source relationship with regard to the construction of education policy, polic y, this study study found found that that news source sourcess are capable capable of genera generating ting news news coverag coverage. e.
example, in the coverage of the benchmark test issue, the teachers’ protest most gripped media attention. It can be inferred that if the Professional Professional Teachers’ Union ha had d not organised a mass massive ive protest, it is very likely that the more intensive coverage of the issue would occur in June 2001, in which the result of the first benchmark benchmark assessmen assessmentt was released. released. In fact, the release of the result is the second highest peak in the whole coverage (see Chart 6.1) and generally speaking the media always pay attention to the release of open examinations results.37 Another example is the employers’ group in the coverage of the language proficiency issue. In the early stage stage of the development development of the language proficiency proficiency issue, the employers’ groups, the Hong Kong Language Campaign had successfully drawn media and public attention to the issue issue by organisi organising ng a series series of commun community ity activitie activities. s.
The The newspa newspaper perss reflec reflected ted the
influence influ ence of the the business business groups. groups. The South China Morning Post wrote wrote that “the Language Campaign has helped to raise the consciousness of the community at large about the threat of a declining level of English to the continuing success of Hong Kong as an international business community” (South (South China Morning Post 14-11-1989, 14-11-1989, cited cited in Pun, 1996: 1996: 136). In another report titled “Exam results show English skills in decline” (South ( South China Morning Post 24-5-1994, cited in Lin, 1997: 429), the Hongkong Bank, one of the biggest employers in Hong Kong was selected by the South China Morning Post to to comment on the results released r eleased by the Hong Kong Examinations Authority which showed a drop in the number of pupils passing the Use of English examinati exam ination. on. Although Although from the late 1990s onward onward business business groups groups were not as active active they remained pivotal in shaping shaping coverage of the language language proficiency issue. The content analysis of 37
The deputy news editor of the Apple the Apple Daily said, Daily said, “The release of open examinations’ results is an annual focus of the education beat.”
news items about the language proficiency issue published between 1997 and 2001 found that business groups were quoted the most.
WHOSE AGENDA? The above discussion showed how the news values of journalists and news source activities influence news coverage coverage of public policy policy during its formation. It is clear that not all sources are valuable and not all source activities are newsworthy. newsworthy. So it is logical logical to ask who are are the major contributors to the media agenda agenda on education education policy? How do sources appear appear in the news, and does the publicity gained by news sources has any impact on the agenda-building of education policy. The content analysis found press coverage of education issues was dominated by a few advocates although although the press have have access access to a wide range of potential potential news source sources. s. In all four case studies, 60 to 70 per cent of quotes recorded from news reports and features were attributed to three news sources, although there were 19 groups of sources recorded in the coverage of the instruction medium and university funding issues, 20 group of news sources featured in the benchmark test coverage, and thirteen groups of sources found in the coverage of the school placement issue. Not surprising surprisingly, ly, governmen governmentt sources sources and influential influential stakehol stakeholders ders related related to education education issues38 had the most press coverage, as they were at the pinnacle of the wider power structure and, and, more more pa partic rticula ularly rly,, are primary primary to the making making of those those specific specific policie policies. s.
The finding finding
suggests the source structure of education news reflects the broader power structure in Hong Kong Ko ng societ society. y.
Genera Generally lly speaki speaking, ng, organi organisa satio tions ns had more advant advantag agee than than unavai unavailab lable le
individuals as news news sources. The study found found that the more institutionalised institutionalised the sources sources were, 38
The school managements of those schools unable to gain permission fromfor English-medium teaching and the
Equal Opportunity Commission are the second most quoted sources in the coverage of the instruction medium and the school placement issues; the teachers organisation (mainly the Profession Teachers’ Union) and the university chancellors are the most quoted sources in the coverage of the instruction medium and the university funding issues.
the more freque frequent nt an and d strong stronger er an ap appea pearan rance ce they have in the news. news.
For instan instance, ce, when
competing for media coverage with the education authorities, the Professional Teachers’ Union, in the case of benchmark issue, had more advantage than the school managements in the case of the instruction instruction medium medium issue. This is not only because because the Professional Professional Teachers’ Teachers’ Union Union is powerful and resourceful but more importantly because the union is highly organised and has the ability to create newsworthy events, events, such as a massive massive protest. As for individual sources, except except those who are endorsed by organisations, such as the university chancellors, individuals such as stude stu dents nts,, parent parentss and individ individual ual teache teachers rs have have very very limite limited d acce access ss to the media. media.
They They are
commonly passive, unorganised, and represent no one but themselves. Generally speaking, the amount of coverage given to major advocates broadly concluded the main contenders. contenders. Only in the popular papers’ papers’ coverage of the instructio instruction n medium issue was the education authority given significantly larger coverage than were the school managements, who was competing with the authority in the instruction medium coverage. Two points about about the concentration concentration of news sources sources need to be further discussed. discussed. Firstly, having the ability to secure regular access to the media does not necessarily secure positive coverage cove rage.. For example, example, the government, government, in the coverage coverage of the instruction instruction medium issue, issue, and the Professional Teachers’ Union, in the coverage of the benchmark assessment issue, were negatively represented and faced public antipathy. There The re se seems ems to be a co coinc incide idenc ncee betwee between n media media treatm treatment ent of news news source sourcess and and the ne newsp wspap apers ers’’ own positi positions ons on educat education ion issues issues and and journa journalis lists’ ts’ own judgem judgemen ents ts of news news sources. The Apple The Apple Daily’s Daily’s editor said, Our paper definitely opposed the instruction medium policy…Chinese-medium teaching might be correct theoretically but English is important to Hong Kong as an international city to maintain its status.
Commenting on the benchmark issue, the editor also said, “Teachers are wrong to oppose the benchmark test; test; they did it to save save face”. face”. An article published published in the South China Morning Post commenting on the benchmark assessment issue was critical of teachers, saying: It is to be hoped they [teachers who have a good command in English] will support the benchmark test as a measure of recognition of their own ability and to encourage their weaker counterparts counterparts to reach the required required standards. The authorities might might have erred in failing to consider consider the ‘face’ factor factor when introducing the benchmarking benchmarking exercise. But all teachers should embrace it, both in the interests of maintaining their own professional image and to spare their own children the misfortune of being taught English badly ( South China Morning Post , 29-6-2000). This coinciden coincidence ce did not suggest suggest that the negative negative representa representation tion of news sources sources was a direct direct result of the media’s position on the policies and journalists’ perceptions of news sources. However, the critical attitude of the journalists towards some news sources could limit the definition defin itional al power power of news sources sources because because journalists journalists could raise critical ques questions tions that news sources must respond respond to, and can critically comment on the source sources. s. For example, the education education authority, in the implementation phase of the instruction medium policy, was forced to respond to accusations, such as creating labelling and dividing the education community, from teachers, students and parents after the release release of the list of English-medium English-medium schools. schools. The coverage coverage was damaging to the government and helped to amplify public antipathy. Second Sec ondly, ly, the press tended tended to use news sources sources who held the most radica radicall views views to represent the debates of education issues and ignored many others who were situated in the middle midd le of the spectrum spectrum of opinions. opinions. In the coverage coverage of the instruction instruction language language,, teachers’ teachers’ support of the idea of mother-tongue teaching and their caution about the implementation of that policy polic y was reflected reflected in news coverage coverage in the consultation consultation stage. stage. However, However, the majority majority of teachers’ voices were like a little raindrop compared to the large outcry from those of schools that failed to gain permission permission for English-me English-medium dium teaching. teaching. Furthermor Furthermore, e, in the sense that teachers are the ones most closely associated with the work of education and they are pivotal in making policies succeed, succeed, the lack of strong media exposure of teachers’ views was a weakness in
the representa representation tion of the issue. It is questiona questionable ble that if the sophisticate sophisticated d view of the teachers teachers towards the issue had been highlighted to the public in the early stage of the policy process, the government would have have opted for a different strategy to imple implement ment the policy. A senior member of the Education Convergence who is also the vice-principal of a secondary school concluded that the mother-tongue teaching policy is the “right” policy but implemented in a “bad” manner. Before finishing this part of the conclusion, a few words about the arbiter needs to be noted. note d. The arbiters arbiters were were given given very little little coverage coverage in news news reports reports and feature features. s. Among the the arbiters, the most important group are the scholars and columnists as they supplied the majority of non-ne non-news ws articles articles..
Except Except for the analysi analysiss of the univers university ity funding funding cover coverage age in which which
sc schol holars ars were were consid considere ered d an import important ant advoca advocate, te, in the other other three three cases cases the acade academic micss commented on the the issues in quite a valuable way. However, the influence influence of the commentaries commentaries writte wri tten n by academi academics cs and co colum lumnis nists ts seems to be minute. minute.
A signif significa icant nt exampl examplee is the
benchmark assessment assessment coverage. coverage. Both scholars and columnists columnists suggested that “teaching “teaching quality is not the only reason for the decline of students’ language ability” and “the government shifted responsibility and made teache teachers rs the scapegoat” scapegoat” (see Table 6.15). 6.15). These two themes themes were the mostt promin mos prominen entt in the non-new non-newss articl articles es related related to the benchma benchmark rk test test issue. issue.
Howev However, er,
compared to the prevailing public antipathy towards teachers, the influence of the arbiters on both public opinions and journalists’ perceptions of the issues is slight.
INTERPRETATION INTERPRETA TION OF EDUCATION ISSUES Although the coverage of education issues concentrated on a few conflicts, the coverage was not necessarily lacking lacking in substance substance and merely merely sensational. As routine journa journalistic listic practices and news values are constants in the production of news, when a policy issue appears in newspapers which aspects of the issue highlighted vary with the performance of news sources.
Conflicts attract media attention. attention. As conflicts in different different phases of the policy process bear bear different diffe rent natures, natures, the characteri characteristics stics of the conflicts conflicts are reflected reflected in the news. The content content analysis of the education issues suggests that when conflict over an issue involves organisational actors and occurs in the construction phase, news coverage coverage of the issue has more substance, as in the case of the benchmark benchmark assessment issue. issue. When the conflict involves a group of actors actors who are loosely organised and occurs in the implementation phase, the coverage seems inevitably to focus on technical problems, as in the coverage of the school placement and the instruction medium issues. The coverage coverage of the benchmark benchmark test issue concentrate concentrated d on the teachers’ teachers’ protest. protest. As the protest occurred in the construction phase of the policy process in which the focus was the detailed measures of the policy, the story, although still sensational, by no means indicates a lack of concern concern about about policy substance. substance. As found, “policy “policy substance” substance” and “policy alternativ alternatives” es” together toge ther comprised comprised approximatel approximately y 38 per cent, cent, the largest part, of the peak month coverage coverage of the issue (Table 6.12). The performance performance of news sources is also critical. In the teachers teachers protest, the protagonist protagonist was the Professional Professional Teachers’ Teachers’ Union. Union. It was well organised. organised. Its leaders leaders were well prepared prepared for facing facing the media. They gripped gripped the chance chance to effectively effectively put forward their their arguments. Compared to the benchmark test coverage, coverage of the instruction medium and school placement issues issues concentrated on the implementation implementation of the policies. The press focused on the operation of the appeal and vetting process, the emotional outcry of parents and students, and the responses of a few schools. schools. Responding to the strong resistance, resistance, the government government was in damage control. The coverage is, thus, far from a true public deb debate ate on the merits of the policy. When a policy moves into its implementation phase, all the details and measures of the policy have been decided upon, the dynamic of the policy process cannot be stopped, unless a very dramatic dramatic event event occurs. In the implementa implementation tion phase, phase, the government’ government’ss main job is to
enforce enfo rce the policy, policy, and the media’s media’s job is to discover discover the effects of the policy. policy. Thus, Thus, news coverage at this stage focuses focuses on technical issues, issues, and this was found in the case stu studies. dies. In both ca cases ses of the instru instructi ction on medium medium an and d the sc schoo hooll place placemen mentt polici policies, es, the protag protagoni onists sts were were individual schools, schools, parents and students. students. These sources sources are diverse, unorganised unorganised and concerned concerned about problems on on an individual level level rather than at an institutional institutional level. They were sought sought out by journalists to give their personal testimonies as a representation of the whole picture of policy implementa imple mentation. tion. However, However, what was not represente represented d in the news coverage coverage,, such as for the coverage of the instruction medium issue, were the views of a majority of schools, teachers, pare parent ntss an and d stud studen ents ts who who migh mightt not not embr embrac acee th thee poli policy cy but but who who di did d hope hope fo forr some some improvements. The present study also found a change of issue definition in the news coverage as the policy polic y process develope developed. d. For example, example, in the case of the instruction instruction medium medium issue, between between March and May 1997, before and after the consultation over the compulsory Chinese-medium teaching, newspapers such as the Ming the Ming Pao Daily and Daily and the Apple the Apple Daily 39 had commentaries and reports repo rts from different different sources, sources, including including teachers, teachers, school school headmaste headmasters, rs, scholars, scholars, and other other commentators who supported the principle of mother-tongue teaching but were skeptical about the feasibility of of the policy. The coverage coverage of the issue is by no means negative. Those articles articles explored the issue from not just an economic aspect but also from an educational, historical, cultural and administrational administrational aspect. The ideas refle reflected cted in the news coverage coverage were div diverse erse and the implementation problem problem was clearly identified by many arbite arbiters. rs. However, the coverage coverage did not trigger more public debate debate on the issue issue while the policy policy was still under construction. construction. When conflict occurred in the implement stage of the policy process, the coverage concentrated on the unfolding the human drama and it became totally negative.
For example, the Ming the Ming Pao Daily: Daily: news report on 25-3-1997, commentaries on 4-4-1997 and 11-4-1997. 11-4-1997. The Apple Daily: Daily: commentaries on 29-3-1997, 4-4-1997 and 5-4-1997.
The development development of the benchmark test issue issue followed the same pattern. In 1997 when the pilot scheme of the benchmark assessment was first announced, an article written by a scholar indicated the problem of unqualified unqualified lang language uage teache teachers rs was caused caused by a system system failure. failure. The article mentioned the fact that a majority of the language teachers were not trained for language teaching and suggested the benchmark test would only be a part of the solution to the problem and that better training for teachers was more important ( Ming Pao Daily, Daily, 21-321-3-1997 1997). ). The Ming Pao Daily reported (17-4-1997) on a government survey which found that only half of the English Engl ish teachers teachers had training in teaching teaching English. English. The Profession Professional al Teachers’ Teachers’ Union did a survey too and it found that about half of the teachers agreed with the principle of benchmarking but they opposed it as a “compulsory and punitive” policy ( Ming ( Ming Pao Daily, Daily, 23-6-1997). The news coverage showed showed that the teaching community did not initially reject the benchmark policy. It seems that the government tended to ignore the questions spelled out by the different parties and opted for a simple solution to the problem. problem. When tensions accumulated accumulated in the later stages of the policy process, communication between the main political actors became extremely difficult. A commentator wrote that “many details of the policy needs to be discussed by the related parties; rejecting dialogue is not a way to solve the problem” ( Ming Pao Daily, Daily, 14/10/2000). However, in conflicts the media functioned as a tool for advocacy rather than as a platform for rational public debate. Constructive debates of the education issues issues were formed in the early phase of the policy process. However, However, news coverage of the issues issues in the consultation phase is norm normally ally too small an issue to bring to public attention and too weak to signal the government about the complexity of many issues. It is arguable whether interest groups groups and the government sho should uld put more effort to facilitate public debate of policy issues in the early stage of the policy process.
POLITICAL IMPACT OF EDUCATION NEWS What are the effects of news coverage on the development development of education policies?
The former general manager of the Apple the Apple Daily said, Daily said, I do believe we [the Apple [the Apple Daily] Daily] have the ability to set the public agenda. Mass media can trigger public discussion. discussion. The more people talk talk about an issue, issue, the higher the pres pressure sure on the government to respond…I also found we are able to bring new concept into the debate. A good example example is the debate debate of education education voucher vouchers. s. Very few people people know and talked aboutt education abou education vouchers vouchers before we publishe published d some articles articles on this topic. topic. Now many people know what this term means and it has become a part of the whole public discussion about Hong Kong education. education. Although the government government rejects the idea, at the the very least, it responded to the debate debate and did not turn its back back on the public. I believe this is the effect of involving the idea of education vouchers in the media discourse of education. The above assertions clearly indicate that the press are aware of their power in determining priorities of public issues and and in interpreting them. The statement also corresponds corresponds to the media effects model as suggested by the theoretical framework of of this research. However, as there there is no reliable survey data about public knowledge of the four educational issues available, the discussion about the media effects on public opinion cannot proceed. In summary, these four case studies found that the press coverage of education policies in Hong Kong is a result of an agenda-building process that involves the media and only a few powerful news sources. sources. Despite the political political and media systems systems in Hong Kong Kong being different different from those in Western liberal democracies, as concluded in many media studies of Western societies, such as by Gans (1979) and Tiffen (1989), this study suggests that news values, mainly those of the media organisations rather than the personal values of individual journalists, play a pivotal pivo tal role in determining determining education education coverage coverage in Hong Kong. News values values affect how the newspapers assess education news at large (reflected in the size of education coverage in the different newspapers) newspapers) and how they assess assess and cover different different educational issues issues.. Those news values to a large large extent reflect the media’s media’s perceptions of of audience interest. interest. Hence, education education coverage is mainly driven by economic imperatives of news production. Besides, the source structure in education coverage mirrored the wider power structure of Hong Kong society, society, as major decision decision makers are the most covered. covered. However, secure secure privileged media access access does not necessarily give give major advocates definitional definitional advantage. Media hostility
towards some advocates seems to come come from journalists’ own values and the positions taken by their organisations towards policy issues. issues. In addition, arbiters arbiters did not play a significant role in defining education education issues. This is different from what what Deacon and Go Golding lding (1994) found in their study of news and poll tax policy in Britain where arbiters were influential in shaping the media’s attitude towards policy issues and that the prominence of news sources in routine newsmaki news making ng secured them privilege privileged d access access and in turn definitiona definitionall advantage advantage.. Finally, Finally, as a result of the interplay of news values and news source activities, coverage of educational educational policies concentrates on conflicts that normally occur in the construction and implementation phases of the policy process.
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