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Meeting the Chief Executive and

Presenting to her Suggestions on Education Issues

Dear Members,

The Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, announced a new measure of financial support on 17 April : introducing in all secondary and primary public schools in Hong Kong a reading grant scheme under the theme ‘Discover and Share the Joy of Reading’ for the purpose of promoting reading. The reading grant scheme is a recurrent expenditure item. A primary school will receive $40,000 per year and a secondary school $70,000 per year. The annual expenditure is estimated to be $48 million.

I welcome this measure. I take it as the Government putting a chaotic thing right and, once again, sending a positive message of encouraging students to read!

Several Legislative Councillors and I (all belonging to the Professionals Guild) had dinner with Mrs LAM on 6 April for a discussion of Government policies. Over dinner, I mentioned to her that EDB’s abrupt abolition earlier on of grants under the Chinese Extensive Reading Scheme and the English Extensive Reading Scheme would in the long run make it more difficult for schools to promote reading and would send a message to the public that the Government did not promote reading. For this reason, in my Budget Preview, which was published before the announcement of the Budget, I urged the Government to annually allocate to each secondary school, primary school and special school a sum specifically for the purchase of books and related materials, so as to encourage the development of a reading atmosphere among students. I also recommended that the Government attach importance to the functions of public libraries and school libraries so as to facilitate the development of a reading habit among students and members of the public.

I also mentioned to Mrs LAM that the Budget had failed to allocate resources to secondary schools and primary schools in respect of education issues on which there was already consensus, with the result of the measures taken falling far behind the needs. I suggested expediting actions on those issues on which consensus had already been reached, such as increasing the proportion of GM/APSM Posts and expanding the establishment of teachers, so as to enable teachers in primary and secondary schools already equipped with a university degree to, soonest possible, be accommodated in graduate posts and to enable more teachers on contract terms to be accommodated in permanent posts.

Furthermore, I raised with Mrs LAM the issues of ‘One School, One Social Worker’ and TSA. I pointed out that the number of Student Guidance Teachers (SGTs) in primary schools and their guidance work should not, because of the presence of school social workers, be scaled down. Otherwise, this would not bring about improvement. Rather, it would lead to regression. We should build on our existing foundation and strengthen our guidance function. It should be ‘1 + 1’ and not ‘1 replacing 1’. On TSA, it was imperative to ensure ‘no drills’ under the new measures. Allowing schools to, without any restrictions, choose entire-level participation was a worrying development. The Government must ensure the existence of a monitoring mechanism effective in averting mutual comparisons among school-sponsoring bodies and among schools.

There are, of course, many other education issues which require follow-up actions. I will proactively forward my views to the Government. If fellow workers have any opinions, please send them to [email protected]

Meeting the Chief Executive and Presenting to her Suggestions on Education Issues
One School, One Social Worker’ Policy for Primary School Insisting on 1 + 1 Counselling Service PTU’s survey indicates that 66% of our teachers did not have an opportunity to express their views on TSA
The 8th International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP) Snapshots Speeches

One School, One Social Worker’ Policy for Primary School Insisting on 1 + 1 Counselling Service

Currently, responsibility for counselling work in aided primary schools is mainly borne by Student Guidance Teachers (SGTs) employed by the school and partly by counselling personnel (teachers/social workers) employed by the school under the Top-up Student Guidance Service Grant. To enhance counselling service for primary school students, the education sector and the social work sector generally support the ‘1 + 1’ model, i.e. simultaneously increasing support to both SGTs and social workers so as to achieve synergy.

However, EDB indicated at the end of March to people concerned that EDB would, in the long term, replace SGTs with social workers. Not only will this be a regression, it will also weaken the counselling capability of primary schools. In view of this, together with 26 non-establishment Legislative Councillors, I immediately sent a letter to Hon CHIANG Lai-wan, Chairman of the Panel on Education, and succeeded in urging the convening of a meeting on 13 April to seek an explanation from EDB.

Subsequently, I had several discussions with EDB and succeeded in securing its agreement to postpone the issue of a circular originally scheduled to come out after the Easter holidays. We hope to have more time and more space to clarify doubts and worries on the matter.

PTU had earlier (on 7 April) conducted an urgent meeting on primary school counselling service, at which as many as 70 primary school SGTs and counselling staff members were present for a discussion of the impact of the ‘One School, One Social Worker’ policy on fellow workers involved in counselling work. I will, together with fellow workers, continue to fight for the implementation of 1 + 1 counselling service, the retention of the existing counselling structure and professional personnel in primary schools as well as an assurance that each school will be equipped with an SGT and a social worker, each filling a permanent post.

PTU’s survey indicates that 66% of our teachers did not have an opportunity to express their views on TSA

In response to questions raised at a Panel on Education meeting held on 13 April, HKEAA revealed that about 180 primary schools would, in an entire-level manner (i.e. with all students at the level of primary 3 present), take part in Primary 3 TSA. They account for about 38% of public schools in Hong Kong. Most shocking of all is that the number of government primary schools that will have entire-level participation in Primary 3 TSA stands at 30, accounting for almost 90% of government primary schools (of which there are 34 in total). It is believed that those government primary schools that have not opted for entire-level participation are mainly those that have students from ethnic minority groups.

Last week, PTU conducted a survey with its members on schools’ wish to take part in Primary 3 TSA. Initial finding is that almost 70% of primary school teachers did not have an opportunity to express their views on ‘whether or not the school should apply for entire-level participation’. Besides, nearly 50% of primary school teachers indicated that their schools did not consult parents before opting for entire-level participation. More than 65% of teachers surveyed indicated that entire-level participation in Primary 3 TSA would lead to pressure for drills and almost 80% of them indicated that entire-level participation would lead to everyday teaching being influenced by the types and models of TSA questions.

Secretary for Education YEUNG Yun-hung had earlier said in public that schools should consult teachers and parents when applying for entire-level participation in Primary 3 TSA. I suspect that EDB has failed to inform schools of this requirement. I am also concerned that school sponsoring bodies require schools to opt for entire-level participation for the very purpose of obtaining school performance reports for the sake of comparison.

Having regard to the findings of the survey, I hope that the authorities will, for Primary 3 TSA, establish a stringent procedure to ensure that schools – before entire-level participation – systematically consult and respect the views of teachers and parents, and establish a monitoring plan, such as conducting questionnaire surveys with teachers and parents, to get to know whether or not Primary 3 TSA has led to alienation and to ensure that TSA will not generate excessive pressure on teachers and students and will not continue to distort the normal teaching programmes of primary schools.

I would also suggest that the authorities impose a requirement that a school’s TSA performance report be restricted to the eyes of its school management committee and teaching staff and its use be confined to teaching purposes. In case serious situations of Primary 3 TSA drilling and alienation are detected and found to be in breach of monitoring standards, the authorities should, for the welfare of students, decisively make changes, including abolishing the arrangement whereby schools applying for entire-level participation are given their school performance reports.

The 8th International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP)

In the latter part of March, I took part in the 8th International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Lisbon,Portugal. It was a special summit at which ministers of education and union leaders from various countries discussed education issues of international concern.

In my presentation at the plenary session, I pointed out that following our strenuous efforts over the years, the Hong Kong Government had eventually come to realize that education needed constant support and not just short-term piecemeal funding allocations. This was good news in recent years. However, support had to be effective and be able to achieve what was intended. Otherwise, goodwill might lead to opposite results. For example, while putting students with special education needs (SEN) and non-Chinese speaking students in mainstream education was intended to help them integrate into the community, there must be adequate policy support. Without an adequate number of teachers with relevant training and without a suitable curriculum, the result might simply be isolation in mainstream schools. This was a problem which Hong Kong had to overcome.

On the issue of teachers’ well-being – which was a major issue for discussion – I told the plenary that teachers in Hong Kong worked long hours and were exhausted, for which there were various reasons: incessant externally-imposed reform items, increasingly complicated classroom environment, long teaching periods, a lot of miscellaneous duties, staff establishment lagging behind, ….... However, the amount of time actually used for teaching was getting less and less, with job fulfilment declining, quite a number of teachers taking early retirement and even more teachers feeling anxious and worried, ……

The mental and physical states of teachers have a direct impact on students’ well-being. I made a number of suggestions to the plenary:

1. Externally imposed reforms must be carefully selected. Having more externally-imposed reform items is not necessarily a good thing. Efforts must be focused.

2.  High expectations must be adequately matched with high levels of support.

3. Time is the most important asset to teachers. To achieve professionalism, the priority is to give time to our teachers.

4. Establish, once again, the central aspect of teachers’ work. Priority should be to enable teachers to be more focused on doing education work, to have more time to contact students, instead of doing non-teaching-related administration work, promotional work, etc.

Responsibility to achieve such changes rests squarely on the Government. Teaching colleagues should also strive to do our best!

Meeting with a delegation from UK’s All-Party Parliamentary China Group (APPCG)

Together with six other Legislative Councillors, I had a meeting with a 6-member delegation from UK’s All-Party Parliamentary China Group on 9 April. Among the seven of us, four were from the democratic camp and three from the establishment camp.

With the objective of understanding Hong Kong’s current situation and its future, the UK delegation raised quite a number of questions, including the implementation of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Naturally, the visitors heard different views from the two camps of us.

Subsidized places for physiotherapists back to square one

According to Government’s projection, there will be a shortage of almost 1,000 physiotherapists. However, the number of subsidized places for producing physiotherapists will be increased only by 20, bringing the total number to 150 per year, the level we had before the curtailment of subsidized places for physiotherapists 20 years ago (in the academic year 1998/99).

Now we find ourselves stuck with ‘zero growth’ in the number of subsidized places and the professional assessment mechanism being not yet ready for the newly introduced self-financed training programme. Apart from increasing the number of subsidized places in the training programme, the Government must ensure its quality. If the programme fails its professional assessment, our graduates will not be able to get registered and practise.

Checking with the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod about the progress of investigation into the ‘Chan Sui-lam Incident’

We continue to pay close attention to the progress of an investigation conducted by the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod into the ‘Chan Sui-lam Incident’. On 28 March, we sent a letter to the Lutheran Church, seeking to know soonest possible the progress of investigation, the identities of persons conducting the internal investigation and whether or not the investigation report will be made public so that we could see whether there are procedural aspects which could be improved.

Guided tour to the Legislative Council

On 7 April, I hosted a guided tour for PTU’s members coming from universities, secondary schools, primary schools and international schools. Within the short time of slightly more than one hour and for a close contact with the Legislative Council, I led them to Legislative Council’s Chamber and the Roof Garden on the 5/F (both of which are accessible to members of the public only when they are accompanied by a Legislative Councillor).

During the guided tour, the teachers raised many questions, including the allocation of seats in the Chamber and the sequence in which Members speak. At the end of the tour, we had a useful exchange on a number of education issues, such as integrated education, TSA and the ecology of schools. Absolutely, it was a meaningful morning!

13 April 2018: meeting of the Panel on Education
Government should treat HKDSE as part of Hong Kong’s free education

11 April 2018: Legislative Council meeting (Time for putting questions to the Chief Executive)
Government should establish a mechanism to monitor the implementation of TSA

8 April 2018: Committee on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill
Expressing concern over the legal position of the Bill

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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葉建源議員辦事處 Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
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