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Taking forward the recommendations of the Task Force on Professional Development of Teachers

     On June 10, the Education Bureau (EDB) issued Circular No. 6/2020 on “Implementation of the Recommendations of the Task Force on Professional Development of Teachers” to set out details on implementing the Task Force’s recommendations, which include measures to support the establishment of an all-graduate professional teaching force in primary and secondary schools. The EDB expresses utmost regret over some self-proclaimed professional education bodies’ attempt to politicise everything and demonise measures that promote teachers’ professional development, and feels obliged to give a response to these accusations and set the record straight.

 
Why did the EDB issue the circular “out of the blue”?


     The Administration has actively committed itself to nurturing talent and enhancing the quality of education in Hong Kong. The 2017 Policy Address announced that task forces comprising education experts would be set up to review eight key areas of education. Upholding the “Led by Professionals” principle, the EDB set up a task force composed of experts and academics in the education sector and frontline school heads and teachers in November 2017 to examine issues concerning teachers’ professional development and conduct extensive consultation with stakeholders. After in-depth study and discussions, the Task Force put forward 18 recommendations in a report submitted to the Administration in March 2019. The recommendations were well-received by the sector. As most of the related measures will be implemented starting from the 2020/21 school year, it is high time that the EDB informed schools of all the details.

 

Has the EDB twisted the Task Force’s views to achieve political ends through schools?

     Regarding teachers’ professional development programmes, the requirements in terms of content and number of training hours mentioned in the circular are measures crucial to the implementation of a Professional Ladder for Teachers. The Committee on Professional Development of Teachers and Principals (COTAP) has been leading the implementation of these measures. COTAP has had much deliberation over the details of enhancing teachers’ professional development. For instance, it held a series of exchange sessions in March 2020 to further collect views from the stakeholders, including representatives of teacher education universities, school councils, school heads associations and teacher organisations.

     Organisations with ulterior motives have smeared the professional development programmes as “a means to achieve political ends through schools” simply because they are used to politicising everything and demonising all measures introduced by the EDB.

 

As an executive branch rather than professional academy, what purposes other than political indoctrination could the EDB be achieving through provision of teacher training?


     The EDB is the government department in charge of Hong Kong’s education. Its missions and responsibilities are clearly set out for public information. As known by many, they include formulating, developing and reviewing policies, programmes and legislation in respect of education from pre-primary to tertiary levels, and overseeing the effective implementation of educational programmes. As regards teachers’ professional development, the EDB has all along been actively providing diverse programmes/activities for teachers, including talks and seminars hosted and conducted by EDB experts. In fact, it is incumbent on the EDB to offer teacher training on topics relating to the Education Ordinance, local education policies and measures, as well as the latest education developments. In addition, training provided by the EDB also includes a wide variety of programmes and activities developed in collaboration with tertiary institutions or professional bodies to foster teachers’ professional growth by keeping them abreast with the times and apprised of the latest education developments in other countries/regions.

 

     The EDB is therefore Hong Kong’s education policy maker, designer, administrator, reviewer and monitor. It has always been one of the EDB’s tasks to promote teachers’ continuing professional development. The suggestion that the EDB is merely an executive branch of the Administration reflects either an ignorance of Hong Kong’s education system or a deliberate belittlement of the EDB’s role for the purpose of political tarnishing to serve ulterior motives.

 

Is the part on “national and international education development” something arbitrarily “built on” the recommendations of the Task Force by the EDB?


     The Task Force has recommended in its report that the EDB should support schools in providing training programmes and activities to broaden teachers’ horizons and sharpen their acumen. It has also advised that the “T-standard+” (Professional Standards for Teachers of Hong Kong) be adopted as professional development goals with a view to establishing a Professional Ladder for Teachers in Hong Kong. By “T-standard+”, teachers are encouraged to nurture students holistically through serving as role models with moral virtues, positive values and attitudes, and local, national and global awareness.

     In recent years, Mainland and overseas study visits, as well as training and exchange activities have gained popularity among serving teachers as opportunities for mutual enrichment. Since the enrolment quota for these activities is limited, providing relevant training locally can benefit more teachers by broadening their professional horizons and raising their teaching standards.

Will the EDB suspend or withdraw the decision?


     The measures set out in the circular are devised on the basis of the Task Force’s recommendations and supported by the sector. In particular, the important measures for implementing a Professional Ladder for Teachers are formulated by COTAP upon professional discussion. These are well-thought out arrangements with due regard to the needs of the sector and public expectations for teachers. The EDB hopes that these measures will promote teachers’ professional development and enhance their professional competencies, thereby further improving the quality of education.

June 11, 2020 (Thursday)