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Study on Finnish Education

Dear Members,

This year is an unusual one. A student asked me, “How should teachers position themselves at this tempestuous juncture?” I replied that teachers should be objective, impartial and guided by conscience. Therefore, we ask the Government to proactively respond to the demands of our citizens and we object to violence of any kind, irrespective of whether it comes from the police or demonstrators. At a time when the political forces around us are poised to strengthen their attacks on and step up control of education, we must enhance our alertness, be united and safeguard our teachers, safeguard our children and safeguard the core values of education.

Apart from politics, we should continue to care about the development of education. In mid-September, I led a Legislative Council delegation to Finland to study its education. Finland is ranked the world’s happiest country, and Finnish students’ performance is also excellent. This is highly enviable. Through this one-week visit, we hoped to unravel the secrets of Finland’s success.

We have made a few observations:

(a) Finnish children have short class hours and little homework. Their slogan is ‘less is more’, which is in sharp contrast with our wanting-more-whatever-it-is attitude.

(b) The amount of ‘study’ for small children in Finland is small, but they learn a lot. For example, they have outside activities every day and learn through the playing of games. In addition to language and mathematics, primary school students are required to learn arts and crafts.

(c) The Finns believe that success in education lies in teachers. Teaching is a career which many people are vying for and which demands high academic qualifications. Apart from stringent teacher training, kindergarten teachers are required to be university graduates. Primary and secondary school teachers are required to be in possession of a Master’s Degree. How to enhance the attractiveness of the teaching career? Salary is certainly one of the factors, but what is more important is job satisfaction.

After collating relevant materials, we will discuss, at a meeting of LegCo’s Panel on Education, the inspiration which we can draw from Finland for Hong Kong’s education. I will share this with you in detail when opportunities arise.

If fellow workers have any views, they are most welcome to send their views to [email protected].

Study on Finnish Education
Querying Police abusing its power and using excessive force against students Condemning school harassment by HO Kwan-yiu and his Concern Group; All parties should stop exerting political pressure on schools
EDB’s condemnation letter to two teachers: Disproportionate Snapshots

Querying Police abusing its power and using excessive force against students

Protests by Hong Kong citizens against proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance have been with us for more than 100 days, during which violence – especially forceful arrests of young people and even of under-age secondary school students – has, despite the eventual ‘withdrawal’ of the amendment bill, been getting more and more serious, a situation which is extremely disturbing.

A secondary school student had his head broken and was bleeding – and a number of non-resistant youngsters and students were beaten with batons – by several riot police officers at the Tai Po Market Station of the MTR on 7 September. The force used by the police was extremely inhumane and absolutely disproportionate. This constituted serious abuse of power and went beyond legal boundaries.

As a law enforcement agency, the police must be fair and professional and should not exhibit retaliatory behaviour when executing their duty. I appeal to the senior management of the Police Force to squarely look at the problems of frontline police officers getting emotionally out of control and abusing their power, so as to avoid any aggravation of the situation. All along, I have been against violence either by the police or demonstrators. Carrie LAM’s Administration should rein back the horse right before the brink of the precipice and respond, soonest possible, to the demands of the general public and discontinue letting the police become a victim of Government's blunders in the implementation of policies.

Condemning school harassment by HO Kwan-yiu and his Concern Group; All parties should stop exerting political pressure on schools

From quite a number of schools, we have received complaints about people enquiring about class boycotts and coercing schools to reply to such enquiries. They even attempted to get into and inspect schools. This was highly disruptive and caused much inconvenience to schools.

Legislative Councillor HO Kwan-yiu and the ‘Concern Group on Monitoring Class Boycotts’ established by him paid ‘inspection’ visits to schools on the first few days of the new school year. They named and criticized schools in which students supported class boycotts. This exerted unnecessary pressure on schools and dragged them into a whirlpool of politics, causing trouble and confusion in schools at the extremely busy and difficult time of the new school term.

During the first and second 10-day periods of September and though HKPTU, I conducted a questionnaire survey with principals and teachers (who are HKPTU members) on the ‘Impacts of the Current Political Situation on Schools’. The results show that nearly 90% of the respondents felt political pressure being exerted on them by the Government and EDB. Of these respondents, more than half described such pressure as being ‘very strong’.

The amendment-related turbulence has arisen from the dereliction of duty of Carrie LAM’s Administration, leading to grave blunders which can hardly be remedied. The blame must not be shifted to the education sector and it would be ludicrous to make principals, teachers and students scapegoats for the Government’s incompetence. Furthermore, all parties should immediately stop exerting pressure on the education sector. Give schools enough space and let them handle their affairs with education professionalism and let tranquility return to campus.

EDB’s condemnation letter to two teachers: Disproportionate

To two teachers who expressed, on the social media, their dissatisfaction with the police, EDB issued a letter of condemnation and stated that any repetition would trigger consideration of the revocation of their teacher registration. I find the punishment meted out by EDB too severe and disproportionate.

As citizens, the two teachers have the freedom and right to express their views. We agree that the views they expressed on the social media were indeed inappropriate. However, considering that their views were expressed in a private domain, that they withdrew their views and offered apologies shortly afterwards and that their schools had looked into and dealt with the matter, EDB could have adopted another approach, such as issuing a reminder and helping teachers to know how improvements could be made.

The incident is now a sensitive issue because of the involvement of the police. In any case, children should, in education, be treated alike, irrespective of their parents’ careers. No special treatment should be given to students having regard to their parents’ careers. Similarly, when handling complaints, EDB should not offer any special treatment simply because the cases in question involved the police. The Government should have clear guidelines for handling complaint cases and reveal the guidelines to the public.

UK Study Visas: Success in having the processing of visa applications expedited

During the summer holidays two years ago, my office assisted in handling more than one thousand cases of students seeking help in connection with delays on the part of the UK authorities in the issue of study visas for Hong Kong students. Throughout the period of delays and after the problems had been solved, I kept in close contact with the UK authorities and offered suggestions for improvement in the processing of study visa applications, so as to prevent the problem of delays repeating itself. The procedures whereby visa applications are processed have since been much improved, a progress worthy of commendation.

The number of delay cases received by my office this year was less than 10, the delay ranging from a few days to a few weeks. After visiting the Visa Application Centre and contacting the UK authorities on the phone or via email (both at a charge), parents were invariably disappointed and turned to me for help. Upon receiving requests, my office referred the cases to relevant UK authorities with a request that they be immediately handled as a matter of urgency. We also enquired about the cause of delay. As urged by us, the UK authorities assigned officers to individually review the cases in question. Delays were mostly due to hiccups in the processing of applications. What was gratifying was that the UK side was highly co-operative and that all cases were settled within a short length of time: each case completely settled within one week.

There were a few cases in which students planned to change air-tickets (because of expected delay in the issue of visas) but in the end, they were able to receive their visas in time and to leave for the UK as originally scheduled. To the parents and the students, this was a great relief and, to me, a source of happiness. I wish the students good academic progress and a bright future!

Geotechnical Engineering Office STEM Education Day Camp

Upon the invitation of the Geotechnical Engineering Office, I attended a STEM Education Day Camp jointly organized by the Office and the University of Science and Technology on 30 August. Together with more than 50 students from 9 schools and by way of experiments, I learnt about the testing of construction materials. I hope that the students will cultivate interest in engineering and serve our community in the future!

Meeting with Parliamentarian KIM of the Republic of Korea

On 4 September, I had a meeting with parliamentarian KIM SONGSIK, who belongs to the Bareunmirae Party, the third largest political party of the Republic of Korea. When he was studying at university, he took part in the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980, for which he was imprisoned for two years. Mr KIM cared much about Hong Kong’s situation. We shared experience in the struggle for democracy in the Republic of Korea and the current situation of Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy. He also shared with me his views on the direction of Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy. They were very inspiring and enlightening.

Meeting with members of the Children's Council

Quite a number of members of the Children's Council came to the Legislative Council in batches on two consecutive days towards the end of August. They discussed with me such topics as ‘learning the Chinese Language by non-Chinese speaking students’, campus bullying, and the establishment of an open platform for communication between children and the Government. From what they said, it was clear that they came well prepared for the discussion, during which I realized that non-Chinese speaking students lacked support and faced heavy learning pressure. At the beginning of the new academic year and the new legislative year, let us continue to proactively promote children's affairs in the various posts which we hold.

Visiting Holy Cross Lutheran School for an exchange of what we had learnt about Finland’s education

During the trip of LegCo’s Panel on Education to Finland, we came across an education study tour of Holy Cross Lutheran School. I arranged with them that I would, upon our return to Hong Kong, be very happy to visit Holy Cross and exchange what we could have learnt in Finland.

As arranged, I subsequently visited Holy Cross and had a meeting with Principal WONG Shuk-fan and some teachers on 20 September. I was told that Holy Cross would introduce into the school, components and interesting experiences of Finland’s education such as floorball, the kantele, and urban planning by way of games of building blocks so as to enable our children to happily experience the Finnish culture. This prompted me to rethink what we can learn from the Finnish education system and improve ours, with a view to enabling our students to learn in an autonomous and enjoyable manner.

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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