15 December 2010 (Wednesday)
The 2nd East Asian International Conference
on Teacher Education Research
Speech by Mr Michael SUEN Ming-yeung, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Professor Cheung, Professor Cheng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. I am honoured to address such a distinguished audience of academics, educators and teachers who have gathered here at this hall and coming from different parts of the world. Let me extend a very warm welcome to you all. I am given to understand that there are over 600 of you from nearly 30 countries and regions attending this Conference. Apart from your physical presence here, the organising committee has received over 300 papers for presentation and discussion at the various symposiums from over 20 countries. Your participation in this Conference fully reflects your enthusiasm and dedication to teacher education, and your commitment to keep abreast of educational trends against a backdrop of worldwide changes. The exponential growth of knowledge, the advancement of information technology and the development of a knowledge-based economy have led us into an era of change.
As Professor Michael Fullan has said, nothing is more important in the 21st century than managing change through learning. Professor Fullan has pointed out that one key element in handling change is capacity building. In 1993, he wrote that "Teacher education programs must help teaching candidates to link the moral purpose that influences them with the tools that will prepare them to engage in productive change." To enhance their effectiveness in meeting the challenges brought about by educational change, teachers have to integrate their moral purpose with the skills of a change agent, getting to know the needs of students so as to enable them to develop better strategies to suit the needs of their students. This will certainly enhance the effectiveness of teaching.
In view of the importance of teachers' capacity building to face the challenges of educational change, we have attached great importance to teachers' continuing professional development or in short "teachers' CPD". In Hong Kong, we have put in place a generic Teacher Competencies Framework since 2003. The Framework is geared primarily to promoting teachers' professional growth with the specific competencies expected of a teacher at different stages. Alongside with the Framework, we have also implemented a pilot run of teachers' CPD since 2003, the aim of which is to encourage all teachers to get themselves up-to-date with the relevant skills and techniques in imparting knowledge with a view to enhancing their professionalism in teaching. For the purpose of this pilot project, we have targeted 150 CPD hours over a three-year cycle. Having run the CPD for more than six years, we published in 2009 a report on the experience gathered since the implementation of teachers' CPD. We are grateful to say that there is considerable progress in fostering a culture of sharing of experience in enhancing professional development in our schools. Furthermore, the report advocates the continuation of a soft approach to implement teachers' CPD with emphasis on the professional autonomy of schools and teachers in the planning for CPD. Through this approach, schools are encouraged to organise various activities including experience sharing session, classroom training, etc. to equip teachers with the necessary skills in teaching.
On the basis of the above development, we have laid the bedrock to a much wider acceptance by teachers to be engaged in CPD in order to meet the challenges brought about by educational changes. This is evident with the implementation of the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure in the secondary schools in Hong Kong since September 2009. The New Senior Secondary curriculum aims to promote students' whole person development and life-long learning. In order to better equip our teachers for the implementation of the new curriculum, we have conducted a wide range of professional development and training programmes. We spare no effort in enabling each individual school to run as a learning community to prepare for its successful implementation. We commissioned a study on the first cohort of students under the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure in the 2009/10 school year so as to keep track of the progress of the students. The finding is interesting in that the majority of all our respondent groups indicated that the school curriculum was set in the most appropriate way to meet the divergent needs of all students. On the other hand, it confirms our belief that schools and teachers are still concerned about the problems brought about by vast learning diversity amongst students. In response to this, we have stepped up our efforts in this regard. For example, we organised a series of CPD programmes on catering for learner diversity between August and December 2010 for school heads, middle manager and teachers in order to enrich them with the latest thinking on the subject and new techniques in alleviating the problems.
Apart from our direct involvement in the provision of professional development programmes for teachers, there are also other means to promote teachers' CPD. Projects undertaken under the aegis of the Quality Education Fund and School-based Professional Support Programmes under the Education Development Fund are two other important tools for schools in Hong Kong.
The Quality Education Fund or QEF was set up in 1998 with an allocation of HK$5 billion to finance worthwhile projects for the promotion of quality school education. A study in 2009 showed that schools undertaking projects funded by QEF enjoyed a surge in teachers' teamwork spirit. There was also evidence showing that there was greater sense of sharing efficacy, job satisfaction and attitude towards change among those teachers who took part in the projects. Moreover, there was considerable improvement in the management as well as teaching and learning in schools involved in the project. More specifically, teachers' professional knowledge and skill, sense of accountability and commitment to the school and students were enhanced through their participation in the planning and implementing of QEF projects.
In addition to the QEF mentioned above, School-based Professional Support Programmes were offered under the Education Development Fund set up in July 2004 with a grant of HK$550 million. The main purpose of the programmes, through acquiring skills and know-how by engaging external experts in the field to tailor make programmes for individual schools, is to enhance the professional competency of frontline educators and enable schools to build capacity in taking forward the education reform initiatives. A Review conducted in 2009 showed that participation in the programmes had a positive impact on teachers' performance, as perceived by the teachers themselves. They agreed that through the programme, they have enriched their knowledge and skills, were able to better assess and evaluate students' development and needs and implement more effectively the policies relating to education. It was also noted that teachers had gradually developed a sense to reflect on what they had learnt through the participation in the programmes.
And so you will see, we have provided various measures to assist our teachers in enhancing their capacity building. Both theories and practical experiences tell us that this is the best way for teachers to meet current and future changes. Our support for teachers' CPD will always be our top priority. We will continue to build on the current strengths of our existing support for teachers' CPD and we will be looking at best practices in other jurisdictions to supplement our own efforts. Our aim is simple, we are to ensure that our teachers are equipped with the technique and knowledge in teaching which in turn will benefit and meet the needs of our students. Enhancing and improving the quality of education remain our utmost important task.
Last but not the least, I would like to emphasise that it is always our strong belief that closer international collaboration and exchanges will enable us to learn from one another in our strive for excellence. I do hope that we will all benefit from each other's expertise and experience during our deliberations at this three-day conference with a view to further upgrading the overall quality of teacher education in this region.
Finally, may I wish you all a very fruitful conference and an early merry Christmas! Thank you.