Teamwork and collaboration for restoration
The social unrest in the 2019/20 school year has brought unprecedented impacts and challenges to the school sector. In light of its development and schools’ latest situation, the Education Bureau (EDB) issued letters to schools from time to time, reiterating that schools are a place for students to learn but not a venue for expressing political demands. Also, teachers and students have been persuaded not to take part in any unlawful activities or commit acts that put personal safety at risk, and urged to uphold the rule of law as a core value of Hong Kong. To enhance schools’ capacity for formulating holistic strategies to support students and catering for students affected by social unrest, staff from the EDB paid visits to secondary schools over the past year to offer professional advice and assist schools in devising guidance and discipline strategies as well as follow-up plans, in order that schools may provide more effective support.
We learn from the exchange with school staff that schools, with students’ well-being in mind, have all adhered to the EDB’s guidelines in mobilising relevant school personnel to jointly support needy students and established liaison with parents as well as alumni, with a view to minimising the impacts of social unrest on students. While schools adopt their distinctive strategies in handling the matter, they share the common goals of timely stabilising the situation in school, supporting needy students, helping them overcome difficulties in order to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for learning. Among students involved in social unrest, some confided in their teachers that school was like a soul shelter where they could restore peace of mind and resume stable, orderly campus life after reflecting and rectifying inappropriate behaviours. It is thus apparent that a caring, harmonious and orderly school culture marked by students’ trust in teachers and mutual respect among students can help students calm down and boost their recovery for reintegration into school life.
Forging ahead in solidarity
On July 14 this year, the EDB organised a sharing session on “Caring for Students and Getting Them Back on the Right Track” to wrap up exchange visits of this school year. Apart from consolidation of schools’ experiences and sharing of effective strategies and measures by officers of the EDB, staff from secondary schools were also invited to talk about challenges they encountered and insights they obtained during the provision of support for students.
At the sharing session, officers of the EDB summarised the strategies and measures they identified during school visits into six items, namely (1) creating a caring, harmonious and orderly school environment; (2) formulating a personalised support plan; (3) reviewing/enhancing the school crisis management mechanism; (4) optimising the use of resources; (5) fostering a strong teacher-student bond and a sense of belonging; and (6) broadening horizons and nourishing hope. In addition, they explained how to make effective use of the three-tier support model (i.e. developmental, preventive and remedial) to support students. Meanwhile, school representatives used school cases to elucidate how to implement practical strategies and measures to support students under the Whole School Approach, and introduced ways to examine the effectiveness of the measures. We firmly believe that with collaboration and mutual encouragement, if schools devise strategies and measures and conduct reviews according to their circumstances and students’ needs, and make appropriate use of school and community resources, student support services can be enhanced to meet future challenges. The materials of the sharing session have been uploaded onto the EDB website (www.edb.gov.hk/en/teacher/student-guidance-discipline-services/gd-resources/index.html) for the reference of school staff.
Addressing students’ needs hand in hand
To maintain a safe and peaceful school environment for students to learn happily is a common goal among all educators. The EDB is deeply grateful to all school personnel and stakeholders who remained committed during the difficult period so that students could still receive care and support. We learn from the sharing of school personnel that when students were most perplexed and helpless, school staff demonstrated unreserved readiness to render assistance on the basis of respect and trust. Attending to students’ emotions and easing their concerns, school staff accompanied students through the hard times, guided them in self-reflection, and cultivated in them correct values and a positive mindset. Every effort was made with the ultimate aim of enabling students to resume normal school life. We also appreciate that during the turbulence over the past year or so, schools, with students’ well-being as their prime concern, strived to maintain good communication with stakeholders and, with understanding of each other’s stance and mutual respect, to safeguard our students.
It is distressing to see the recent arrests of some secondary students for suspected involvement in terrorist activities. We have zero tolerance for violence, against which we need to stay vigilant. All educators should sustain their conscientious efforts in guidance and discipline and strengthen preventive and developmental support, so as to prevent students from being poisoned by any seemingly noble yet distorted concepts, and participating in any violent and unlawful activities. In the next school year, the EDB will continue to pay school visits to help schools enhance the effectiveness of their guidance and discipline strategies. We will also join hands with different sectors of the society to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment in schools, with a view to nurturing students into committed, law-abiding and responsible citizens who will make contribution to the society by giving full play to their strengths.
18 July 2021