“If CCTV is to be ‘introduced’ to the classrooms, will it ‘safeguard’ or ‘impede’ students’ learning?”
by Mr. Wong Wai Yu, Michael, Honorary Executive Secretary
29 March 2021
Have you ever seriously thought about what will happen to students’ learning in the lessons if CCTV is being installed in the classrooms?
Imagine that you are a student, either your beloved child or any young one that you care much about. You will spend most of the time 5 days in a week in lessons either in the actual classroom or on the internet. Just Imagine that you suddenly realize that CCTV cameras are everywhere in the classroom and your every move will be instantaneously recorded non-stop, the recording of which will be checked and replayed through the internet … How would you feel? Would you be more comfortable or worried to learn in front of the cameras?
We all understand how important a safe environment is to a student’s healthy development. CCTV is something which originally does not belong to the classroom. If it is installed there with such a high profile and haste and when all-time recording for monitoring proposes becomes a classroom routine, is this a blessing to students’ learning or a curse?
Imagine that you are a gifted and active child. Once, you were unexpectedly called by the teacher to answer a question. You then gave a very funny answer through natural responses and all your classmates looked around and laughed at you. Worse still, this episode was captured or clipped and uploaded, posted and reposted on the internet. In that way, a several-second interesting classroom episode becomes the hot talk in the city, the public’s comments on which are beyond your control. Would you still be responsive in class or would you just remain quiet ever since?
Also imagine that you are a student with special educational needs who dislikes being watched all the time especially when you are learning something on your own. Now, you are being watched and your every move is exposed to the eyes of numerous strangers beyond the classroom. This CCTV may become your lingering nightmare …
Because of the CCTV, many students will be troubled by the shame of making mistakes in public eyes and they would therefore shy away from any endeavours which are conducive to their learning. At the same time, there are some who will go to the other extreme in resisting either actively or passively the CCTV which they perceive as oppression from the authority. This will certainly hamper the lively and interactive lessons and cordial student-teacher relationship. Subsequently, the learning process will be seriously warped and students’ learning effectiveness greatly undermined.
Some might say that CCTV cameras in classrooms will only be on the teacher who stands in front of the blackboard, the clear purpose of which is to monitor teachers’ teaching. Yet, will this not really affect students’ learning? Those who are keen to monitor teachers through CCTV cameras do not really understand today’s classrooms. Will teachers today still only stand in front of the classroom without walking around to attend to students’ individual needs? Is teaching and learning in the classroom still one-way with teachers’ monologue and students’ quiet listening? Following teachers with cameras when they walk around the classrooms will also capture students’ every move. Is this really good to students’ learning?
Dr. Choi Yuk Lin, the Under Secretary for Education, has been a front-line teacher and served as a school principal. She has also joined educational visits before with other local educators in some advanced areas and observed their practices. Therefore, she certainly knows the downside of installing CCTV in classrooms. Her recent comments on the concerns over the issue in the Legislative Council clearly reflect the concerns shared in the education sector.
What is more, there are a number of seemingly trivial issues which should be handled seriously. Just to name a few – How and where to install those cameras? Who has the right and when to view the recording? Are there any management protocols and yardsticks? Under what circumstances and who can or cannot view the recordings? Are there any procedures to follow up complaints? How can Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance be fully observed? All these are time and energy consuming. Besides, the most fundamental question is: Why should we drain all our time and energy to handle this CCTV issue which is entirely not related to students’ learning?
No matter what your present work or job nature is, you can perhaps put yourself into the shoes of the teachers who have to stand in front of the CCTV cameras all day long.
Imagine that you are aspired after becoming a good teacher, willing to devote your time to education and take good care of each and every one of your students. However, now people are telling you that teachers are not trusted no matter how good you are. How would you feel about this? The full-scale monitoring of teachers through CCTV connotes distrust and disrespect for all teachers. Can anyone in any profession fully do well and accomplish one’s aspiration in such a climate? Furthermore, who will be able to assess whether there are any problems of a teacher’s teaching just based on the monitoring? When anyone with their own subjectivity or perspectives can evaluate or monitor classroom teaching, how great the blow would this be on the teaching profession?
Has the identity of a teacher become an original sin? Attributing all social problems to schools and over-generalizing the underperformance or misconduct of very few teachers would be detrimental to the teaching profession. Who would benefit from the destructive act to penalize the majority of good teachers just because of the very few who do not do well?
It has been the worries of our Executive Committee that over-monitoring, including through CCTV, will bring political contentions into the classrooms, and thus reducing education professionalism to laymen leadership. With such explicit or implicit actions and their motives behind, will teachers be forced to resort to very rigid and dogmatic teaching methods by just following the book, resulting in spoon-feeding teaching and learning as well as business-like student-teacher relationship? Is this something that we would like to see? Is Hong Kong determined to run in the opposite direction from its international counterparts and totally ignore the learning efficacy of students? Will Hong Kong blindly chase the illusory sense of security through the ‘teacher-proof curriculum’ which has been proved impractical and futile by many previous studies?
Besides the negative impacts on students and teachers mentioned above, schools, the government and the whole society have the responsibility to engage in very cautious and painstaking deliberations on the undesirable and far-reaching impacts on the education system lest the decision made today should inflict irreversible harm.
Our Executive Committee and I are extremely concerned about the mental health burdens of our students. According to a report released last year in the international journal The Lancet by the medical team of The University of Hong Kong, 1 in every 5 people in Hong Kong suffer from probable depression or suspected post-trauma stress disorder. This finding tallies with reports by many other experts in the field – the psychological pressure on students and teachers is on the rise! There was also a wide media coverage on this issue last week. According to the figures provided by the Education Bureau, there is a sharp increase in the number of suspected suicide and depression cases compared to years before. Figures from the Hospital Authority also reveal that patients under 18 who are diagnosed with various psychiatric problems are as high as 40,350 in the year 2019/20. On top of this, we have to be aware that the number of those who have not sought medical consultation or used the services of the Hospital Authority cannot even be estimated. No matter what the underlying causes for these mental health burdens are, the introduction of CCTV in classrooms will certainly be the last straw when all are facing the plight of COVID-19 and social dissensions.
CCTV in classrooms will be a great blow to the education reform as well. Ever since 2000, the education of Hong Kong has entered a new milestone and the development is in line with the education reform endeavours all over the world. Since then, teachers’ mindset has been shifted and innovative pedagogies adopted to facilitate and unleash students’ learning capacity. Actually, Hong Kong’s education reform efforts and the professionalism of teachers have won the high acclaims of international education institutions and organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) team and McKinsey & Company. If CCTV is installed in the classrooms for the purpose to monitor teachers, the dignity and integrity of the teaching force will be greatly undermined. Teachers’ morale will be hampered by this micro-management process, which will definitely dwindle the room for teachers’ professionalism and innovation.
Keeping such a high profile on monitoring teachers by external parties is not in line with our noble Chinese culture in paying tribute and respect to teachers. In the future, if anyone from any profession is suspected to be under-performing, would that profession be required to install CCTV for round-the-clock monitoring? Should this disrespect for teacher further go on unchecked, who would be willing to become a teacher? Who would be helping to implement the education reform, to unleash students’ motivation in learning, to help them better prepare for their future, to build up a better society and contribute to our country? Introducing CCTV into the classrooms does not only result in retrogression but more seriously it also trades off the golden opportunities for students to learn in a pleasant environment which values diversities. This will eventually lead to the loss in the momentum for sustainable development in Hong Kong.
We cannot help but ask if it is really necessary to enforce the ‘introduction’ of CCTV? Is it really worth doing so? Is the ‘introduction’ beneficial to the growth and development of our students whom we love and care so much? The senior officer of the Education Bureau has already raised to the public the concerns and objections against such an introduction, which exactly tally with views from the education sector. Therefore, it is about time to stop discussing the issue further.
Those who are deliberating any action to intervene education should think carefully: Will what is proposed realize or destroy the ideals of education?
Do think carefully! What will also be ‘introduced’ together with the ‘introduction’ of CCTV into the classrooms? Greater distrust? Greater discomfort, instability, negative energy, chaos or confusion? We have to really discern whether the “introduction’ will safeguard or impede students’ learning.
Each and every one of us should be very honest and ask ourselves: Will students, i.e. our children, eventually be the beneficiaries or victims of such a move?
課室CCTV的引進也會為教育改革進程帶來巨大衝擊。自2000年開始，隨著全球教育改革的浪潮，香港教育進入了新里程，鼓勵老師創新教學以促進學生學會學習。曾幾何時，國際教育評核機構，例如經濟合作暨發展組織（OECD）PISA研究中心及遍佈全球的McKinsey & Company等，對香港教育變革和教師隊伍專業能力均給予極高評價。假若課室CCTV的引進是專為時刻監控老師日常教學，整個教師隊伍不但尊嚴受貶，團隊士氣在微觀管理(Micro-management)下將被逐漸消磨，教學創新的專業空間亦會不斷萎縮。