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2019.08.30

 

Getting prepared for the start of a new school year

Dear Members,

This year is an unusual one with its summer holidays marked by turbulence and tempestuousness. The conflict between the police and the people, triggered by the proposed legislative amendments, has yet to subside, and violent incidents still occur from time to time. All along, I have been opposed to the use of violence of any nature, be it the excessive use of force by the police or the violent behaviour of demonstrators besieging and injuring individuals suspected to be from the mainland at the airport earlier on. These are unacceptable. I believe that demonstrators should stick to the principle of peace, rationality and non-violence in order to convince people of their stance and to gain their support.

The new school year is about to begin. I have earlier written a letter to principals and teachers offering some suggestions on arrangements relating to the start of the new school year for their reference. Quite a number of teachers have, in view of the prevailing political atmosphere, expressed to the HKPTU and to me their concerns over leading cross-border students across the border and leading students to the mainland on exchange tours, as well as teachers themselves going to the mainland for professional exchanges.

In view of this, the HKPTU conducted an online questionnaire survey. Within the short span of 48 hours, 1,665 replies came in promptly. Of the respondents, 75.9% expressed that they were ‘seriously worried’ about themselves and their colleagues being detained by the mainland’s law enforcement agencies when leading study tours or cross-border students to the mainland; those indicating that they were ‘quite worried’ accounted for 17.7% of the respondents. As regards possible detention of their students, 74.6% of the respondents expressed being ‘seriously worried’ and 16.8% ‘quite worried’. Among different contingency measures, 1,297 respondents (79.8%) considered that ‘a temporary suspension of study tours to the mainland’ can effectively reduce teachers’ worries over themselves and/or students being detained when crossing the border.

While paying close attention to developments of this issue, the HKPTU has invited Secretary for Education YEUNG Yun-hung for a meeting to discuss safety problems relating to mainland exchange tours and cross-border students going to schools and to ask the Education Bureau to take concrete steps to alleviate worries of the education sector. The HKPTU also urges the management of schools to, for the sake of the safety of their teachers and students, discuss with front-line teachers and parents so as to find a way acceptable to various parties concerned and to set up an appropriate contingency plan. If it is not possible to ensure the safety of teachers and students, the management of schools should temporarily stop sending study tours to the mainland.

In any case, we hope that Hong Kong will be able to survive this difficult time. We also hope that the Government will, soonest possible, positively respond to the public's reasonable demands, alleviate social conflicts, and enable education and the daily lives of teachers and students to return to the right track as soon as possible. I hope that justice will be done, conflicts will be resolved, and tranquility will return to campus.

If fellow workers have any views on the predication in which Hong Kong finds itself, they are most welcome to send their views to [email protected]. Let us all move forward with Hong Kong!

Getting prepared for the start of a new school year
Perfecting the school-based management system and discharging the responsibility of supervision A few problems arising from pegging all teaching posts in schools at the GM/APSM level
Safeguarding the next generation and airing the voice of conscience Snapshots

Perfecting the school-based management system and discharging the responsibility of supervision

There have, in recent years, been quite a number of cases of chaotic school administration, which exposes hidden problems of school-based management. On the actual implementation of school-based management, the HKPTU conducted a questionnaire survey with its teacher members. The findings show that respondents have a fairly low overall rating for school-based management.

Salient points of survey results:

(a) 76.1% of the teachers disagree that ‘the existing school-based management system is working well’ and the rate of disagreement expressed by grass-roots teachers stood as high as 80.9%

(b) 77.4% of the teachers disagree that ‘teachers’ complaints can be properly handled under the existing complaints mechanism of the school-based management system’.

(c) In their participation in Incorporated Management Committee (IMC) issues, some teacher managers have been subjected to unreasonable restrictions, including being asked to sign confidentiality agreements (37.5%) and being asked to abstain from IMC meetings (43.8%). Less than half of the teacher managers are able to freely express their views at IMC meetings and find their views respected.

In view of the survey results, I believe that the authorities should conduct a comprehensive review of the school-based management system to ensure that the school's governance power is subject to proper checks and balances, enhance the transparency of governance and teachers’ participation and attach importance to teachers' views. Specific improvement proposals include improving the complaints handling mechanism and restoring the consultation system. The Education Bureau should also strengthen its supervisory role to ensure the effective operation of the system.

Separately, when announcing earlier on the findings of its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident of TWGHs Leo Tung-hai Lee Primary School teacher LAM Lai-tong jumping to her death inside the school, the Incorporated Management Committee (IMC) immediately dismissed the school’s principal LAW Yuen-yee, and accepted a 19-point improvement proposal. I think that the school's affirmation of Ms LAM’s school performance can give some comfort to members of her family and that the immediate dismissal of the principal reflects that her performance was unacceptable. The incident has also revealed problems in the implementation of school-based management. The Government and school sponsoring bodies should immediately review the current practice.

A few problems arising from pegging all teaching posts in schools at the GM/APSM level

Following strenuous efforts on the part of the education sector over the years, we now see the official implementation of pegging all teaching posts in schools at the GM/APSM level starting from the new school year in September. This is an important milestone in the professional development of the education sector. There exist, however, a few technical problems under the new policy, which need to be dealt with as soon as possible so as to avoid giving rise to loopholes under the policy.

For example, with the implementation of the policy of pegging all teaching posts at the GM/APSM level , the authorities no longer accept the entry of CM (Certificated Master/Mistress) teachers, leading to the possibility of some teachers who hold a degree and were trained to teach secondary school students being unable to take up an APSM post in their original schools in the new school year and hence unable to be recruited to teach in primary schools. With the policy ‘closing the gate’ all of a sudden, a few secondary school teachers for whom arrangements have been made to teach in primary schools in the new academic year may reportedly lose their entry qualification under the new policy.

In addition, teachers trained to teach secondary school students and now teaching primary school students on contract terms will not get employed because they have not been occupying a regular teaching post. The issue of ‘One School, Two Systems’ establishment in special schools will also have a certain amount of impact on schools’ operation and on the stability of the teaching staff.

Good policies should be accompanied by an appropriate degree of tolerance. The authorities should exercise discretion, allow an appropriate transition period for policy implementation, and properly resolve the few problem cases which have arisen.

Safeguarding the next generation and airing the voice of conscience

More than 22,000 people took part in the ‘Safeguarding the Next Generation and Airing the Voice of Conscience’ procession organised by the HKPTU on 17 August. It is our next generation that will be affected by the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders’ Ordinance and by the series of events arising therefrom. To express their opposition to the amendment exercise, many of our young people and students have taken to the streets; some have even got injured and arrested.

The Government has, however, been ignoring public opinion. Not only has the Government refused to respond to the five major demands, it has even condoned police brutality. As at 26 August, 883 people have been arrested, many of whom are students. As teachers, we should courageously stand up and speak out for our students, for our youth, and for the future of Hong Kong; for righteousness and for conscience. we should make our voice heard.

Together with four other Legislative Councillors of The Professionals Guild, I sent an open letter to President Xi Jinping on 1 August in connection with the press conference organised by the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office on Hong Kong’s situation. In our letter, we conveyed our belief that the Central People’s Government has not been able to respond to the prevailing problems in Hong Kong and that the remarks made by officials of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office reflect that they have not as yet been able to completely and accurately grasp Hong Kong people’s sentiments and have misjudged Hong Kong’s situation.

Quoting President Xi's remarks in the past, “People's heart is the greatest politics, and righteousness is the strongest force”, we reflected to President Xi that establishing an ‘independent investigation committee’ to look into the entire issue of oppositions to the amendment exercise is the mainstream opinion of the Hong Kong community.

Participating in ‘Celebrity Storytelling’ at Book Fair

On July 18th, I was invited to the Hong Kong Book Fair to tell stories to the children. The skills of storytelling are totally different from those with which Legislative Councillors make speeches. I chose the beautifully illustrated ‘The Ugly Duckling and the Black Bunny’ picture book to share with the children.

Going to the United States to meet with US lawmakers to discuss Hong Kong’s situation

Upon the invitation of The Maureen & Mike Mansfield Foundation, a delegation of six Legislative Councillors (comprising myself and five others) went to the State of Montana for meetings with US lawmakers. The meetings focused on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the China-US trade war.

Attending the graduation ceremony of Munsang College Primary School

Upon invitation, I attended as the officiating guest at the 90th graduation ceremony of Munsang College Primary School on 6 July. I have had a long history of interactions with Munsang College. I have witnessed the entire Munsang community (management and staff) evincing a strong sense of unity in my co-operations with its supervisors and principals on education matters in the past as well as in last year’s efforts to seek, together with Mansang’s teachers and students, funding appropriation for the construction of an auditorium. Even more thankful was meeting many of my former students at the ceremony. They are teaching in various education institutions of Munsang. I sincerely wish the graduates a bright future and good health, both physically and mentally.

Attending a joint graduation ceremony of the kindergartens of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups

On 26 July, I attended a joint graduation ceremony of the kindergartens of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups. The theme of the graduation ceremony was ‘the enjoyment of play for our children’. I was much impressed by some parents, when sharing their experience, expressing their wish not to have to be ‘monster parents’. In fact, play is very important to children’s physical and mental development. It is also a learning process. In a competitive environment, parents should try and have fun with their children!

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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