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Persistence is getting even more important amid difficulties

Dear Members,

The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the National Security Law) was announced at 11 p.m. on 30 June 2020 and took immediate effect. The direct intervention by the Central People’s Government in the daily governance of Hong Kong unprecedentedly weakens ‘One Country, Two Systems’, which provides for ‘Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong’ and ‘a high degree of autonomy’, and plunges, all of a sudden, the entire city into tremendous consternation.

Education is inevitably affected. Article 10 of the National Security Law requires that ‘national security education be promoted’. Late on the night of 3 July, EDB issued a circular to secondary schools, primary schools, special schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong, pointing out that schools must let their personnel at all levels and students understand the National Security Law and remind them to abide by it. However, what schools should do was not clearly stated in the circular. Schools can only wait for further advice from EDB. Indeed, it is feared that even the most senior official is not confident of how to interpret the National Security Law. Officials of EDB may well be in a quandary as to what the things are that need to be done and how they should be done.

Whatever happens, what is of great importance to teachers is persistence in adhering to the original intention of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the Basic Law, and safeguarding the original characteristics of the Hong Kong education system. According to the Basic Law, education falls within the scope of self-administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Tracing to its source, it was solely because of the difference in social systems – Hong Kong implementing an open capitalist system and the mainland implementing ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ – that education was put under ‘Two Systems’. The concept of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is to, concurrently with the return of sovereignty to the motherland, give due regard to the different social systems and lifestyles of the two places, with each place administering itself, without affecting the other.

What are the characteristics of Hong Kong's original education system? Several points are particularly prominent. First, the political and ideological flavours of the mainland system are very strong, and clearly perceptible on campus ranging from a school’s organisation to curriculum teaching. The Hong Kong system is basically non-politicized and non-ideological, the purpose of education being to develop in individuals ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics (plus religious education in religious schools) and to nurture talents for society. There are no strong political or ideological goals even when cultivating students’ sentiments for the country and for the family.

Secondly, although great importance is attached to the cultivation of morality in the education of both places, the mainland has, relatively speaking, a set of top-down established standards and codes of conduct, with considerable political and ideological flavours, which are difficult for Hong Kong citizens to accept. Hong Kong has a certain amount of openness and allows children to learn step by step, and eventually form their own independent thinking. The educational philosophy of Hong Kong inherits the ancient motto of our country's philosophers: ‘learning, interrogating, thinking, discerning, and practicing’, which is in line with the thrust of progressive education of Europe and America. Also because of this, Hong Kong’s higher education particularly cherishes academic freedom and institutional autonomy, which are provided for under Article 137 of the Basic Law.

Thirdly, teachers on the mainland strive for both ‘redness’ and professionalism, while teachers in Hong Kong only emphasize professionalism. On controversial political issues, the Hong Kong system believes that teachers should put to one side their own beliefs during teaching and, in an impartial manner, allow students to be exposed to different perspectives and viewpoints. Professional teachers should not impose their own political views on students. Teachers are like this; schools are like this. Mainland schools accept the Party’s leadership, while schools in Hong Kong hope that external political forces do not interfere with the campus, no matter where the political forces come from.

The education sector has all along hoped that the education system in Hong Kong will not get distorted or deteriorate. The education sector hopes, even more earnestly, that the campus is not affected by political forces, so that teachers can teach and students can learn at ease. The emergence of the National Security Law has led to situations in Hong Kong taking a sudden nosedive. Its impact on the education sector is difficult to assess. However, I hope that further circulars from EDB will not forget the original intention but will respect the provisions of the Basic Law, the spirit of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, and the wishes of the people of Hong Kong and the education sector, so that the campus can enjoy tranquility.

Persistence is getting even more important amid difficulties! With prospects being uncertain, it is inevitable that we feel perturbed. However, as long as we are teachers it is our responsibility to safeguard the free learning environment of our students. As citizens, we should, as far as possible, live our lives as usual. As teachers, we should, as far as possible, do our teaching as usual. HKPTU will definitely walk side by side with our teachers and, together, we will meet future challenges.

(Rewritten from an article published in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on 6 July)

Persistence is getting
even more important amid difficulties

The book selection plan should respect the professionalism of teacher-librarians and respect the reading interest of students Schools can use the Life-wide Learning Grant to cover study tour expenses
Legislative Councillors of the pro-establishment camp attempting to exert stronger pressure on the education sector Snapshots Speeches

The book selection plan should respect the professionalism of teacher-librarians and respect the reading interest of students

80% of teacher-librarians consider the book selection plan not up to standard. HKPTU urges EDB to reveal the booklist and extend the deadline for the purchase of books.

Launching a ‘Books impart knowledge: Book offering and reading’ Plan (Reading Plan) earlier on, EDB required that schools complete, within 13 school days, the ordering of books selected from a designated booklist and that schools and students can select books only from the booklist.

On this issue, HKPTU conducted a questionnaire survey earlier on. The findings showed that 80% of teacher-librarians considered that the Reading Plan was unable to score a passing mark because it failed to meet the needs of students, and could even lead to ‘transfers of interests’. Teachers also believed that the Reading Plan was being implemented in a rush, with EDB requiring schools, while handling a lot of work during the resumption of classes, to simultaneously complete the selection and ordering of books within 13 school days, which was something hardly possible for teachers.

HKPTU held a press conference earlier on to announce the results of the survey. At the press conference, HKPTU asked that EDB, when implementing the Reading Plan, respect the professionalism of teacher-librarians and the interest and characteristics of students, reveal the booklist and extend the time-limit so as to allow teacher-librarians to, within a reasonable timeframe, purchase books having regard to students’ reading ability and interest. This way, the Reading Plan will be able to achieve the objective of enhancing students’ interest in reading.

Schools can use the Life-wide Learning Grant to cover study tour expenses

Following EDB’s announcement in late January of class suspension, schools, acting in accordance with EDB’s instruction and according priority to the health of teachers and students, requested travel agencies to postpone or cancel the study tours or exchange tours. During that time, we received complaints from many schools, saying that some travel agencies unilaterally confiscated the full amount of their deposit for the tour or charged an exorbitant handling fee. Many of the tours had been organised under the Life-wide Learning Grant launched this school year. It has all along been EDB’s requirement that public funding cannot be used to cover activities which are not completed according to plan or which are cancelled. Because of this requirement, schools and parents were, through no fault of theirs, left to suffer the loss.

In view of this, I assisted schools in lodging appeals to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, which is responsible for regulating travel agencies. At the same time, I wrote to EDB, requesting that, in view of the special circumstances, the scope of use of the Life-wide Learning Grant be extended to cover the forfeited deposits and extra tour-postponement fees, thus reducing the burden on schools and parents.

I am grateful for the follow-up actions taken and assistance rendered by EDB. On 26 June, I received a formal written reply from EDB accepting the suggestion the schools and I had made and saying that EDB had decided, as a one-off support measure, to allow schools to make use of the Grant to cover the expenses incurred due to the cancellation of learning activities triggered by the epidemic, subject to specified conditions being met and the coverage being capped at the amount schools had originally budgeted for the learning activities under the Grant.

Legislative Councillors of the pro-establishment camp attempting to exert stronger pressure on the education sector

Whilst Members vetoed holding a meeting, Regina IP LAU Suk-yee, Chairwoman of the Panel on Education, exercising her power as Chairwoman, insisted on convening a special meeting, which became aborted due to the lack of a quorum. However, for a subsequent regular meeting, she changed the agenda without consulting Members, striving to put ‘Development of textbooks and teaching materials for kindergartens, primary and secondary schools’ on the agenda of the Panel on Education.

At the Panel on Education meeting on 5 June, Members voted to veto holding a special meeting to specifically discuss the development of textbooks and teaching materials for kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools. Subsequently, Mrs IP ignored Members’ views and, exercising the power of the Chair, forcibly convened a special meeting, which was aborted due to insufficient quorum. This showed that Members were not very keen to discuss that issue.

On 3 July, that is, two working days before a regular meeting, Mrs IP – without prior consultation with Members – put ‘Development of textbooks and teaching materials for kindergartens, primary and secondary schools’ as the first item on the agenda and deleted the discussion item ‘Promotion of STEM education’, which had been waiting for 3 years. Her action came as a complete surprise! Immediately, thirteen Members belonging to the democratic camp jointly wrote to Mrs IP to express objections to the change of agenda.

At the meeting, Members of the democratic camp repeatedly queried Mrs IP’s abuse of Chairwoman’s power and her failure in being impartial when presiding over the meeting. At the meeting, some Members of the pro-establishment camp even proposed the installation of closed-circuit television to monitor each activity of all teachers, which was unreasonable monitoring of teachers. Such a proposal, further to biased accusations, anonymous complaints and open criticisms, only serves to create fear. In addition, personal views of individual teachers are referred to as ‘violations of professional ethics’. All these developments make the education sector feel being under very strong political oppression. Now, added to these is a discussion on the development of teaching materials. It is obvious that the education sector is being attacked at all levels and from all perspectives.

I hope that the Government and the pro-establishment camp will understand that this approach brings nothing good at all to the development of education in Hong Kong, and makes it impossible for the education sector to do its own work well.

Calling for blessings to be sent to teacher YEUNG Pok-man

In a judgement rife with doubts, teacher YEUNG Pok-man was convicted on 12 June of assaulting a police officer and sentenced by Magistrate NG Chung-yee to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre for a mental health report. The case was adjourned to 8 September for formal sentencing.

On the morning of 15 June, a good friend of teacher Bok-man and I paid him a visit at Siu Lam. His friend brought some daily necessities and books, hoping to give him a little comfort in the difficult days ahead.

Although many people are furious about the verdict, the most important thing now is to support teacher Pok-man in respect of his needs. I told him that HKPTU would do its utmost to support him and to ensure that he would be fairly treated in respect of his teaching post in the school and that his teacher registration would not be affected during the appeal period.

HKPTU will also provide financial and legal support, including support for his family, so that he can calmly wait for the appeal process and its results. I would urge you to send your blessings to teacher Pok-man. I also hope that the difficult time will soon be over and that he will return to his normal teaching life.

EDB skirted my written request for clarification: ‘giving guidance on teaching’ or ‘exchange and collaboration’

Earlier on there were on the Internet quite a number of notices entitled ‘Notice on selecting primary school teachers, secondary school teachers and kindergarten teachers to work as instructors of teaching in Hong Kong and Macao’ issued by the education authorities of Hunan, Sichuan and other provinces recruiting mainland teachers to come to Hong Kong in the name of ‘teaching-guidance teachers’. However, according to a document from EDB on Mainland-Hong Kong Teachers Exchange and Collaboration Programme, they will be here for ‘exchange and collaboration’. In this connection, I asked EDB to clarify the role and positioning of mainland teachers when they come here under the Programme. In its reply, EDB skirted my question and simply said that the terminology used on the mainland was determined solely by the Ministry of Education.

According to information provided by EDB, about 30 to 50 mainland teachers will come to Hong Kong every year under the Programme. They will be assigned to different secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong. It is, therefore, crucially important to have a clear positioning of the incoming mainland teachers: will they be here for ‘giving guidance on teaching’ or ‘exchange and collaboration’? A clear positioning will define their role and how they will affect the contents and methods of teaching in the various domains of education in Hong Kong.

Resumption of classes of primary schools and junior secondary schools

8 June was the day when students from Primary 4 to Secondary 2 resumed classes. On that day, I went to SKH Kei Wing Primary School in Prince Edward to observe the epidemic-prevention arrangements during class resumption. Although it was raining heavily, things proceeded smoothly. I would like to thank its Headmistress, Ms HUI Wing Fan, for kindly making arrangements for me to have an on-the-spot observation.

There are currently more than 300 Primary 4 to Primary 6 students in Kei Wing Primary School. Ms HUI pointed out that in order to avoid large gatherings of people outside the school, the arrangement was for students to go directly to the assembly hall, where students, in batches according to the grade to which they belong, have their temperature taken by means of temperature measurement instruments. Students whose body temperature did not exceed the standard could proceed to their classroom. The school had originally arranged for students to wash and sterilize their hands in the playground after body temperature measurement. The school had earlier on made a video to explain the procedures to parents and students. On the morning of my visit, teachers, administration staff, and prefects were seen assisting students, and the overall process was very smooth. I also had a useful exchange with Ms HUI on epidemic prevention on campus, online teaching, Primary 5 SSPA Exam, cross-border students, etc. to better understand the actual needs of schools.

Resumption of senior classes of kindergartens

15 June was the day on which class teaching resumed for senior kindergarten classes. I went to Five District Business Welfare Association Cheung Chuk Shan Nursery School Cheung Chuk Shan Kindergarten. Thanks to Headmistress CHOW, I was able to witness the important moment when 41 K3 students were returning to class.

Regarding epidemic prevention, the school had taken various measures. For example, infrared thermometers had been installed to detect the temperature of teachers and students. Students were required to bring along a pair of ‘indoor shoes’. Upon entering the school, they were required to replace their ‘outdoor shoes’ (now removed and put in a bag) with ‘indoor shoes’ so as to reduce the possibility of bringing viruses from outside into the school. All visitors were required to put on shoe covers to ensure safety.

There were also special arrangements in the classroom. Two students shared a table, with their seats a little further apart than usual and with a board in between so as to avoid droplet transmission. As the school is a long full-time one, students could take their lunch at school provided by their parents. The school also arranged for the students to sit more sparsely. These were just a part of the measures, but I believe that parents can feel at ease with the school’s arrangements.

26 June 2020 Finance Committee
Plan for the expansion of three universities passed Hoping that the pro-establishment camp will not override education with politics

5 June 2020 Panel on Education
Expressing concern over Government’s plan to restructure the Committee on Self-financing Post-secondary Education

3 June 2020 Legislative Council Meeting on ‘National Anthem Bill’
Seventy percent of teachers are worried about inadvertently falling into the net of justice, definitions in the Bill being ambiguous

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
HON IP KIN YUEN Newsletter : May 2019June 2019Jul-Aug 2019Sep 2019Oct 2019Nov 2019Dec 2019Jan 2020Mar 2020Apr 2020May 2020
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Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
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