| Article on Ming Pao: Recommendations on the Policy Address 2020 on Education
(Published on 18th September 2020)
Since last year, Hong Kong is severely affected by the pandemic and the social movement. Schools are suspended; our society is in turmoil; and people are disturbed. All these pose great challenges to the education sector and students. In the coming days, all parties need to work closely together to let our society return to stability and social harmony, reboot and start again. Thus, the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) would like to propose the following three areas of work for the Chief Executive’s consideration with regard to her Policy Address 2020 on education
Ensure that “Suspension of Classes” really means “No Suspension of Learning”
The decision of class suspension in view of the pandemic came in a rush, which definitely affected students’ learning and their whole-person development. The difficulties that schools faced when practising “Suspension of Classes without Suspension of Learning” reflect that the policy on Information Technology (IT) in Education in Hong Kong is far behind the actual needs and cannot cope with challenges. In view of the pandemic, “suspension of classes” at times may become a new norm. Thus, the HKSAR Government should have fundamental reforms in the implementation strategies for IT in Education.
The online live lessons conducted during the class suspension period reflect how students’ socio-economic status and background may restrict students’ learning. To cultivate our students to make good use of IT in learning and become real independent learners, the Government should give assistance and subsidies to students for the purchase of mobile facilities for eLearning. Besides Laptop or Tablet computers, there are the issues of installation of Apps and Internet connection. These measures need to be particularly strengthened for the students with financial needs to narrow the Digital Divide. Besides, when IT in learning becomes the main learning mode, Google Classroom, Cloud Classroom, YouTube, etc. become very important learning platforms. The Education Bureau (EDB) must help the cross-border students to solve the problem of accessing Internet across the border.
At present, the quality of the Learning Management Systems available in the market varies a lot; and most of them are not directly related to the local curricula. In this long period of class suspension, teachers of different schools are exhausted in making their own eLearning platforms. The Government should take the leading role to strengthen the connection between secondary schools and different professional bodies in education (including universities and other academic institutes) to match well with the latest curriculum development. It is important to collaborate to create a quality Learning Management System for eLearning which meets Hong Kong’s needs so that schools do not need to “make their own steel individually”.
Since the beginning of class suspension, teachers work hard to strengthen their audio-visual skills so as to conduct online Learning and Teaching activities and online live lessons. Teachers’ IT skills vary; thus the Government should have more systematic planning and training for teachers’ professional development in this area to enable all teachers in Hong Kong to be familiarised with eLearning and Teaching, develop Network Classrooms and enhance teachers’ “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge” (TPACK) for the future development in education.
The pandemic brings along class suspension as well as a new learning mode. The eLearning experience of all schools during this period should not be forgotten after the end of this pandemic. It can be predicted that eLearning will enter a new stage. If the Government can grasp this opportunity and strengthen the above measures and facilities, the bud that appears in this period can grow sturdily and IT in education can be sustained.
Reduce the Impact of the Social Movement on Students and Schools
There is a great rift in the Hong Kong society because of the political contentions, which seriously affect students’ healthy growth. We do not know when the conflicts can be resolved. Though the tension may be relieved temporarily, it does not mean that our society can resume stability within a short period of time. If there is no effective restorative work, the rift will be widened and the conflicts will continue. We think the HKSAR Government should work hard on how to restore society’s confidence in the Government; and hope the HKSAR Government can ensure that schools’ daily operation can run smoothly; and that schools will not be affected by any external non-professional intervention; and that school curricula can be developed professionally, and its balanced and visionary development will not be affected by the current political environment which may be temporary in nature.
Many academic research reports show that many students’ “mental health’s safety line” is severely weakened. The crisis of a “mental tsunami” is imminent. We hope the HKSAR Government can strengthen its support measures for students who have emotional and mental health problems; increase its provision of resources for the Welfare Sector and the Medical Sector, which enables them to give more professional support to schools to help the students who are mentally disturbed because of the social movement, prolonged period of class suspension or other relevant reasons; and handle the students who are arrested because of the social movement leniently to build up constructive conditions for social reconciliation
Perhaps the way out for the Hong Kong society now is to reduce the long-term disturbance of the social movement on teenagers, and to re-ignite young students’ hope on their future and the future of our society.
Trust Schools; Respect the Education Profession
When facing the various difficulties of the last year, the education sector devoted to cultivating a stable and caring learning environment in schools for students professionally to help students to overcome the obstacles. Amidst the turmoil in society, the professional spirit of the Hong Kong educational practitioners is clearly shown. However, recently, there are some unfair criticisms towards the education sector. This does not only harm the social harmony, but also hinders the work of the education sector in cultivating the young generation for society. Thus, the HKSAR Government should safeguard and support the spirit of school-based management, and respect the professional autonomy of educational practitioners. Besides, we hope that the EDB can handle the complaints against schools or teachers with the existing mechanism in a cautious, fair, just and professional manner. Recently, the EDB receives some anonymous complaints but they are still being handled. It is very difficult for schools to follow up as no concrete information is provided. This does not only affect the teachers being complained and their work, but also cause misunderstanding among teachers which affects their collaboration and mutual trust. Besides, it unreasonably takes the schools a lot of time to investigate the anonymous complaints, which disrupts the learning and teaching activities and may even discourage some capable youngsters to join the education profession. At the end, we will lose some promising young teachers with good potential in the future.
To ensure that teachers’ professionalism will not be affected, we think that the Recommendations in the “Report of the Task Force on Professional Development of Teachers (2019)” should be fully implemented as soon as possible. This includes the planning, implementation and monitoring of the Professional Ladder for Teachers, establishing more systematic teachers’ commendation schemes at multiple levels, and establishing a large scale and well-recognised system to commend teachers. All these measures can help to enhance the quality of the education profession, and give due respect and commendation to educational practitioners who have outstanding achievements in different areas. In the long run, a Professional Council for Education which has legal status, autonomy and self-regulatory spirit under a democratic and just election mechanism should be established, which will eventually ensure the professional autonomy of educational practitioners.
Michael Wong Wai-yu
Honorary Executive Secretary
停課期間所推動的網上即時授課，反映出學生的社經地位及背景，如何牽制著學生的學習。要發展香港學生成為善用資訊科技、真正的自主學習者，政府要全面協助學生添置行動型電子學習設備，除手提電腦或平板電腦外，還有軟件及網絡裝置，特別須加強照顧家境清貧學生，以縮短數碼鴻溝。另外，當資訊科技教學成為主要的學習模式，Google Classroom 雲端教室、Youtube等成為學習的重要載體，教育局需要協助跨境生解決跨境連網阻隔的問題。
現時坊間電子學習管理系統質素參差，且大都與香港學校課程內容沒有直接關聯，在這長時間停學期間，各校老師疲於奔命，各自製作電子教學平台。政府須作牽頭，加強不同教育專業(包括大學或其他學術機構)與中學的聯繫，配合課程最新發展，攜手創建合乎香港需要的優質電子學習管理系統 (Learning Management System)，以避免學校各自煉鋼。
停課以來，全港教師惡補視頻技能，以推展網上學習及實時教學；不難發現老師們掌握電子教學的能力參差，政府宜組織系統式的教師專業培訓，讓全港教師熟悉網絡教學，發展網絡教室，全面提升教師的科技學科教學知識 (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge TPACK)，為未來教育作好預備。
為確保老師們的專業教學不受影響，我們認為該盡快具體落實『教師專業發展專責小組 (2019)』 的建議，包括規劃、執行和監察教師專業階梯、建立更具系統和多元化的表揚計劃、設立具規模和社會認受的表揚教師制度，以提升教育專業質素和表彰在不同方面有成就的教育工作者。長遠來說，該成立一個具備法定地位、真正貫徹自主自律精神、能體現公平及民主選舉機制的教學專業議會，確保教育工作者的專業自主。