LEGCO QUESTION NO.6(ORAL REPLY)
Date of sitting : 9 October 2002
Asked by : Hon Audrey EU
Replied by : SEM
It is learnt that, in the recruitment of teachers, some aided schools specify the acceptance of particular religious beliefs as one of the conditions for appointment or give preference to job seekers who share the same religious belief with their school sponsoring bodies. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
- the relevant authorities received complaints against the above practice in the past five years; if so, of the number of such complaints received and, among them, the number found substantiated; and
- it has taken measures to prohibit aided schools from discriminating against people with different religious beliefs in the recruitment of teachers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
- In view of the freedom in religious belief and the spirit of school-based management, aided schools are allowed to formulate their own school mission and to organize various school activities (including religious activities) in conformity with their religious belief.
The Home Affairs Bureau received a total of five complaints and referrals of the kind in the past five years. Of these cases, two could not be pursued owing to unidentified targets of complaint or insufficient information. Another two involved requirement of applicants to indicate their religious beliefs in the resume. It had not been mentioned in the recruitment advertisements that a particular religious belief would be a condition or preference for appointment. As such information was for the schools' reference in consideration of the appropriate candidate, the cases were not pursued further. The remaining one was a case referred to the Home Affairs Bureau in late August. The complainant cited examples of recruitment advertisements of teachers and principals involving more than 10 aided schools found in the newspaper in the past 7 years. The case has now been referred to the Education Department (ED) for follow-up. The content of the advertisements showed that most of the recruitment advertisements only required applicants to indicate their religious belief. 4 of the examples stated a preference for certain religious belief in the appointment of teachers and 2, for the recruitment of principals, required the applicant to have religious belief. Our initial contacts with schools indicated that the schools had identified a need to appoint teachers to lead the schools' religious activities. The ED will follow up further.
- Aided schools have always been required by the ED to adopt the principle of fairness and transparency in staff recruitment and to draw up defined personnel policies and procedures with reference to the relevant legislation and code of practice as well as circulars issued by the ED from time to time. As to the general principles for staff selection, the "School Administration Guide" compiled by the ED provides in clear and definite terms that recruitment advertisements put up by aided schools should not carry any information suggestive of any kind of discrimination. Besides, the assessment criteria employed should all be based on the job requirement. In the recruitment of teaching staff, priority should be given to persons with professional qualifications and relevant experience. According to the Administration Circular of the ED on "Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination", schools should promote the concepts of fairness and equality by eliminating all forms of discrimination. At present, although there are no specific measures in this regard, the ED will follow up on individual cases of possible discrimination to ensure that schools observe the principle of fairness and transparency in their recruitment exercises. In handling individual cases involving religious preference, the ED will also take into consideration the school's manpower and expertise requirements for the various school activities (including religious activities).