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2019.03.11

 

The tragedy of a teacher plunging to her death reflects
problems of school-based management and other problems

Dear Members,

To the education sector, the most desolating issue last week was the tragedy of a teacher-librarian (a Ms Lam) of TWGHs Leo Tung-hai Lee Primary School plunging to her death from a building. By Ms Lam’s departure, I am saddened. For her demise, I feel sorry. In the past few days, I have received comments from quite a number of fellow teachers, saying that the incident is simply the tip of the iceberg and that teachers are facing various problems which badly need tackling.

Following up on the incident, I have, on the one hand, been in contact with the sponsoring body and teachers of the school for an understanding of the misfortune and, on the other hand, had a meeting with Chief Executive Carrie LAM and Secretary for Education YEUNG Yun-hung to convey my concerns over problems arising from school-based management.

After the incident, both PTU and I have received views and complaints from teachers of the school and people in the know. Having analyzed the information they provided, we are very much concerned as to whether the school management possesses excessive power or even abuses such power. The School Management Committee of the school will reportedly establish a Task Force to conduct an in-depth investigation into the incident and take follow-up actions. I welcome this arrangement. It is an important direction in which the facts of and possible reasons for the tragedy could be uncovered. I hope that the Task Force will uphold the principle of objectivity and fairness and that independent individuals will be included in the Task Force, so as to ensure that follow-up actions are credible and reasonable.

Ever since the implementation of school-based management, it has been the concern of the education sector that EDB often, on the pretext of school-based management, fails to thoroughly deal with complaints against schools. Following the devolution of powers from EDB, individual schools are not subject to appropriate checks and balances, resulting in autocratic dictatorship and abuse of power. With the tragedy right before us and amid our sorrows, I would, therefore, urge EDB to seriously review the current situation, adopt an effective mechanism, review, soonest possible, the policy on school-based management, and close loopholes whereby the management of schools is vested with excessive power, so as to allow teachers to focus on professionalism and teaching.

In addition, we also need to pay attention to the heavy workload of teacher-librarians. ‘Learning from reading’ is one of the four key items for learning to learn. However, the authorities have failed to set a clear upper limit of their teaching workload, which hinders the effectiveness of their efforts in promoting reading among students. Besides, all teachers are required to, apart from teaching, take up a substantial amount of administrative work and other tasks, such as coping with new policies, inviting tenders, attending meetings, writing documents and leading student exchange tours. The Government should more often listen to the voice of teachers, improve the staffing establishment of teachers and examine the duties of teachers so as to alleviate their heavy workload.

If you have any views on this matter, I would appreciate them. They can be emailed to [email protected].

The tragedy of a teacher plunging to her death reflects problems of school-based management and other problems
Responding to the Budget: Education Vaccination programme to be
conducted on a regular basis
PolyU Democracy Wall: Urging the management to publicly account for the punishments meted out Snapshots Speeches

Responding to the Budget: Education


The part on education in this year’s Budget does not, on the whole, bring pleasant surprises. Some of the measures in the Budget for education deserve our recognition. For example, the reservation of $16 billion for further construction or renovation of facilities in universities is welcomed by the higher education sector. We believe, however, that relevant facilities should not be confined to science and engineering subjects. They should similarly cover the innovation and science components of humanities, social subjects, and arts subjects.

On secondary education, we welcome the Government's response to our request for ‘One School, Two Social Workers’ and are pleased to note that the Government will allocate, on a recurrent basis, $310 million to implement this measure so as to enhance teenagers' mental health and stress resilience. Another new initiative is the deployment of $500 million to implement, in the coming three school years, the ‘IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools Programme’, under which each secondary school benefiting from the programme will be granted $1 million. I affirm this starting point of the authorities but the development of innovation and technology in secondary schools requires a comprehensive plan covering curricula, teachers, and supporting staff. What would happen once money is exhausted? To this, the Government should provide a detailed answer. What is also important is that the Government should, soonest possible, implement the ranking structure of IT Coordinators.

Most disappointing is that the Budget is almost completely silent on primary schools, kindergartens and special schools. We believe that the Government should, soonest possible, fill the void, including improving the manpower of kindergartens, implementing a salary structure for kindergarten teachers, enhancing the teacher-to-class ratios in secondary and primary schools, as well as taking care of students with special educational needs and supplementary services for primary school students.

Vaccination programme to be conducted on a regular basis

Primary schools and kindergartens successively became the ‘hardest hit areas’ of influenza outbreaks, accounting for more than 70% of the total number of cases. Schools and kindergartens had no choice but to suspend classes during the epidemic. Couldn’t the situation have been avoided? Back in 2015, I had urged the Government to look into the possibility of including influenza vaccine in the vaccination scheme for kids. Earlier on, I again submitted concrete recommendations to the Financial Secretary that the Government set a target for the vaccination rate and implement Department of Health’s in-school vaccination scheme on a regular basis so as to strengthen the protection on campus.

At a Legislative Council meeting on 20 February, the Food and Health Bureau provided an initial response to my request, undertaking to implement, on a regular basis, the ‘School Outreach Vaccination Pilot Programme’ launched by the Department of Health starting from next year. The service will cover many more primary schools and will, on a pilot scheme basis, extend to kindergartens and child care centres. I believe that the vaccination programme should be made available to all schools that would like to participate in it. The Government should no longer proceed in a haphazard manner, relying on minor adjustments every year, which has, over the years, resulted in our vaccination rates falling below effective prevention levels. The Government should, at the same time, consider the feasibility of digitizing students’ vaccination applications and records so as to facilitate data storage and reduce schools’ administrative work.

PolyU Democracy Wall: Urging the management to publicly account for the punishments meted out

Disgruntled at the way the management of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University handled the Democracy Wall, four students went to the management office to stage a protest last year. There was a conflict. PolyU convened a student disciplinary committee to investigate the incident. The four students received their judgments at the beginning of this month. One of them was ordered to drop out of the university and was never again to be admitted to PolyU, one was immediately suspended for one year and the remaining two were given a ‘community service order’.

If PolyU found the students’ behaviour on that day inappropriate and saw the need to mete out punishments, what is of concern to us is whether the punishments meted out were proportional to the nature of misbehaviour. On this, PTU issued a statement, stressing that universities, as a place for education and shouldering the mission of educating people, should embrace multiple opinions with an open attitude so as to cultivate students' ability to think independently, and that the handling of students’ behaviour should also be based on the premise of educating students.

We believe that the university’s punishment on this occasion is too harsh. I sent a letter to the management of PolyU, pointing out that while respecting university autonomy, I hoped that the management would, amid widespread public concerns and queries, clearly explain the meaning of ‘never again to admit’ the student affected and the reasons for not having an appeal mechanism, so as to dispel public worries.

(The above is extracted from PTU’s statement issued on 2 March 2019)

 

Visiting SKH Good Shepherd Primary School

Earlier, I visited S.K.H. Good Shepherd Primary School. Thanks to the school, I took part in a simulated flight in the school’s aviation training centre, which was a highly memorable experience.

In order to break through the limitations imposed by the lack of school facilities, the school has tried its best to enhance students' interest in learning by providing different teaching environments matching the design of various curricula. For example, one of the special rooms has been converted into a playroom to enable students to learn how to get along with others and to foster team spirit.

Let’s be ‘Anyone’!

Together with his staff, Director of Fire Services LI Kin-yat came to the Legislative Council on 25 February. Apart from explaining and demonstrating cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED), they guided Legislative Councillors and staff through three themes: ‘knowing how to save oneself’, ‘knowing how to extinguish a fire’ and ‘knowing how to escape’. In addition to learning how to save lives, the demonstration also enhanced our knowledge of fire prevention. Let’s all be ‘Anyone’!

 

STEM Week of Carmel Alison Lam Foundation Secondary School: Attending sharing activities

Thanks to the invitation of Carmel Alison Lam Foundation Secondary School, I attended, as a guest speaker, the sharing activities of its ‘STEM Week’ and talked about the current situation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. The Government has indeed invested tens of billions of dollars in recent years to promote innovation and science. However, in the nurturing of talents in innovation and science, if the government simply provides funding but no supporting measures, such as teacher training, curriculum design and quality teaching materials, the effectiveness of STEM education in schools will inevitably be limited.

What is more important is that we need to learn how to arouse students’ interest in STEM/STEAM/STREAM education. However, on hearing students’ enthusiastic and proficient explanations, and seeing the robots designed and produced all by themselves, their ‘Future Campus’ blueprint, their brainwave-driven four-wheel cars and other products, I believed that the students had, through these activities, learnt and applied much knowledge, apart from having fun. This was a picture educators are most happy to see.

Igniting Hope: starting with you and me

On 19 February, I attended Social Welfare Department’s 2019 Kwun Tong District Welfare Seminar and the joint meeting of the Kwun Tong District Coordinating Committee on Welfare Services and local committees. The name of the event was very interesting: ‘Strategy for Igniting Hope’, meaning ‘Igniting Hope for the Family’. The event discussed how to rebuild the family's cohesiveness, how to educate our children and how to foster family relationships.

During the discussion session, chaired by District Welfare Officer (Kwun Tong) IP Siu-ming, I discussed with Professor YIP Siu-fai of HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration and Director of HKU’s Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention (CSRP). With the 430 participants at the event, we discussed how to promote people’s well-being from the perspectives of the community, families and schools. I hope that my sharing from the perspectives of Government policy formulation and the building up of community relationships could help to establish a happier community.

 

1 March 2019: Meeting of the Panel on Education
Recommending extending the scope of the $30,000 subsidy for self-financing bachelor degree students

1 March 2019: Meeting of the Panel on Education
Expressing concern over the phenomena of ‘emphasizing research and belittling teaching’ and ‘emphasizing science and belittling arts’

28 February 2019: Meeting of the Finance Committee
Expressing disappointment over the Budget being silent on secondary school education, primary school education, kindergarten education and special school education

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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‧For enquiry and feedback, please email to Office of Legislative Councillor IP Kin-yuen: [email protected]
葉建源議員辦事處 Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
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