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Published: 21:39, August 01, 2022
Tackling issues plaguing HK education sector should be policy priority
By Jacky Ko and Megan Cheung
Published:21:39, August 01, 2022 By Jacky Ko and Megan Cheung

Students at St. Hilary's Primary School in Hong Kong have a class on April 19, 2022. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

In his speech delivered on July 1 marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of providing quality education for all students.

It goes without saying that quality education for our children should include the inculcation of patriotism among our students, and there is no better place than the schools for that purpose.

Quality education requires a healthy school environment with unbiased teaching staff who promote open-mindedness rather than political bigotry. That means schools need to do a comprehensive “housecleaning” to get rid of the black sheep among the teaching staff, who poisoned our young students with toxic ideas or ideologies in the past, as have been evidenced by the fact that many teachers and students participated in illegal activities during the 2019-20 riots, such as defacing the Chinese national flag, vandalizing public and private property, and storming the Legislative Council building.

The problems in the education sector, if they remain unsolved, could have a profound impact on Hong Kong’s status as an international center of finance, trade and logistics in the long run

The Education Bureau has received 445 complaints against “suspected professional misconduct of teachers” from 2019 to 2021. Investigations into 311 of those cases have been completed by the bureau, and charges have been made against some of those unscrupulous teachers.

Aside from the problem of remnants of politicization, the education sector is now also witnessing a surge in the teacher wastage rate. According to a report from the Education Bureau in May, at least 4,050 teachers, or 7.6 percent of the educator workforce, have left their jobs in the current school year. To provide good education to the young people, the authority must come up with workable solutions to tackle this problem, ensuring the city maintains sufficient qualified teachers. The government should focus on recruiting more qualified teachers as there is not much it can do to mitigate the wastage rate for the time being.

According to the 2022 Good Schools Guide’s talks with the principals of Hong Kong’s top international schools, Francois Xavier Gabet, head of school at FIS, believes that teachers are carefully reviewing and seeing that Hong Kong is emerging from the pandemic and that there is “cautious optimism”. However, he also noted that if things were to tip back into shutdowns and harsh quarantines, then that cautious optimism would soon evaporate.

Through the conversations with principals of schools in Hong Kong, the government should, when implementing possible shutdowns and harsh quarantines, take into consideration the impacts on the education sector.

The surge in wastage rate, the result of a combination of various factors including emigration, pandemic and other personal reasons, has created a good opportunity for many talented individuals to develop a teaching career. 

The government can also help by assuring that there will be no return to lengthy quarantines and school closures. 

The problems in the education sector, if they remain unsolved, could have a profound impact on Hong Kong’s status as an international center of finance, trade and logistics in the long run. It is incumbent on the new special administrative region administration to effectively tackle these problems.

*Jacky Ko and Megan Cheung are members of China Retold.

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