Ms Cynthia Chan
Principal Education Officer (Special Services)
Looking back on the 2019/20 school year, the social incidents have posed unprecedented impacts and challenges to the education sector. Apart from joining class boycotts, chanting slogans and forming human chains, quite a number of students took part in demonstrations and processions outside school, or even engaged in unlawful activities. According to the announcement of the Police, students arrested for suspected involvement in unlawful activities accounted for about 40% of the total number of cases. Recently, there have been more prosecutions and convictions involving students. The situation is distressing and worrying.
I believe all educators would agree that we shall never give up on students who have violated the laws or even students convicted by courts. In June this year, the Education Bureau (EDB) issued a circular memorandum to public sector and Direct Subsidy Scheme secondary schools, urging them to enhance follow-up work and relevant support at the school level for students who need guidance and discipline support, nurture positive values and positive thinking among students suspected of violating the law and those convicted by courts, formulate and implement a personalised follow-up plan for individual students in order to bring them back on the right track, and enhance preventive work at the school level in light of overall circumstances. The EDB has all along maintained liaison with schools to understand their general situation and needs, and offered assistance to the sector, including provision of information on relevant community resources, with a view to helping students rectify deviant behaviours and re-establish positive values with concerted efforts.
Strengthening support with collaborative efforts
At the end of last month, the EDB held an inter-departmental online seminar on “Caring for Students and Helping them Get Back on the Right Track” for local secondary schools together with the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), the Correctional Services Department (CSD) and the Hong Kong Playground Association (HKPA) which was commissioned by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to operate the Community Support Service Scheme (CSSS). A total of some 250 teachers and discipline and guidance personnel attended the seminar. Through case analysis, sharing on follow-up actions and support measures taken, school staff gained a better understanding of relevant legislation and handling procedures, and learnt more about how relevant stakeholders could help students cope with crises while complementing the efforts of the departments and organisations concerned during the course of handling, and how different external resources could be drawn on to support students at the individual and school levels.
During the seminar, representatives from the HKPF explained the relevant laws and strategies against juvenile delinquency, and gave an overview of the newly introduced Support Service for Arrested Youths under the CSSS which provides referrals, counselling and support for arrested youths and their families, in concerted efforts with the SWD. Social workers from the HKPA further elaborated on the CSSS to apprise school staff of how to help students in need, and how to better motivate those suspected of breaking the law to embrace positivity, develop a stronger awareness of law-abidingness and discipline through individual emotion counselling, positive life training and life planning. On preventive work, representatives from the CSD outlined a series of featured activities under the Rehabilitation Pioneer Project, such as educational talks, meetings with inmates and experiential visits, which allow students to recognise the importance of respecting the law. In particular, the experiential activity The Reflective Path was most appealing to students. Through mock trials and first-hand prison experience, students came to realise how heavy the price could be if they committed a crime.
Whole School Approach to Guidance and Discipline
At the school level, the Whole School Approach to Guidance and Discipline has taken root in schools for many years. Through collaboration between school professionals (school social workers, school-based educational psychologists, etc.) and guidance/discipline teachers, and with external support secured when necessary, the Whole School Approach has laid a solid foundation for helping students with deviant behaviour. In view of the social incidents and students’ unlawful and violent acts last year, I hope that school staff can, with continued adherence to the principles, beliefs and essence of discipline work, use the strategy of “prevention before cure” to strengthen schools’ guidance and discipline work at the first level, in particular nurture students’ self-management skills. To consolidate students’ understanding of the importance of law-abidingness and self-discipline, we have re-developed lesson plans for teachers’ use in guidance lessons at upper primary and junior secondary levels. Through activities centering on game rules, home rules, class rules, etc., students can have discussions and reflection on the effectiveness of rules and implications of disobedience. Moreover, to enhance students’ resilience, positive thinking and sense of care and respect for others, schools are encouraged to participate in programmes with different themes on students’ personal growth, and create a positive and caring school culture in which students are inspired to establish correct values and virtues for their healthy development.
The materials of the seminar have been uploaded onto the EDB website (www.edb.gov.hk/en/teacher/student-guidance-discipline-services/gd-resources/index.html) for school staff’s reference. Taking into account social development and the needs of the school sector, we will organise sharing sessions and workshops for school staff, provide professional advice and arrange school visits for schools in need, as well as continue to support schools in bringing students back on the right track and helping them thrive in a caring, harmonious and orderly school environment. The EDB counts on the continued collaboration with the schools and different sectors of society to nurture students into committed, visionary, law-abiding and responsible citizens in the future.
6 September 2020