Some Thoughts on Teachers’ Professional Status and Social Recognition
Research and Development Task Group
The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS)
31 May 2021
HKAHSS’s Research on Teachers’ Professional Status and Social Recognition: Motives and Rationales?
Is the professional status of teachers declining?
How is their social recognition?
These are questions not just unique to Hong Kong.
Scholars have discovered that devaluation of the professional status of teachers has become a serious issue in recent years: teachers’ professional status is found to have declined from the 1980s to the 2010s (Hall & Langton 2006; Ochs, 2011). Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) (2012) even discovered that teachers did not feel that their competencies and innovative teaching were recognised sufficiently by society and schools.
In 2007, the McKinsey Report pointed out：‘Once teaching became a high-status profession, more talented people became teachers, lifting the status of the profession even higher… Where the profession has a low status, it attracts less talented applicants, pushing the status of the profession down further and, with it, the calibre of people it is able to attract.’
As whether the professional status of the teachers have devalued or not seemingly will not bring any immediate social or economic impacts on society, this issue has not yet aroused any serious social concern. Even at times, some casual acts might have hampered teachers’ professional status. However, when the education profession can no longer attract talents, this will seriously affect the education quality. How would this affect Hong Kong as a knowledge-based society in the long run?
Established in 1964, The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools aims at enhancing professional development and promoting understanding of education in Hong Kong especially in secondary schools. We strongly believe that the quality of education is closely linked with the professional status and social recognition of teachers. We are therefore much concerned about the comments raised by scholars. If the decline is also happening in Hong Kong, what can we do to address the situation?
In 2017, we conducted a self-initiated pilot study amongst the Native English Teachers (NET) in Hong Kong, the aim of which was to explore the professional status of educators and their social recognition in other parts of the world. Furthering the insight and findings gained, we endeavoured a study in the Hong Kong context. The study was commissioned to The Hong Kong Policy Research Institute in early 2019 with the following 4 objectives:
- To promote the professional status of secondary school teachers in Hong Kong;
- To promote the social recognition of the professional status of the secondary school teachers in Hong Kong;
- To explore the expectations of prospective secondary school teachers on the social recognition of the professional status of the secondary school teachers in Hong Kong; and
- To explore how HKAHSS can assist to enhance secondary school teachers’ professional status and its social recognition.
A Trivial Matter or A Hot Potato?
Some might ask if the research is conducted in response to the recent social and political incidents as well as cases on teachers’ professional conduct.
Actually, when we conceived the research idea back in 2017, professional status and social recognition of teachers was not a hot topic, and not even when we formally engaged in the present research in 2019. As said earlier, many take teachers’ professional status and social recognition for granted. However, under the present social circumstances, this seemingly trivial matter has become a hot potato. So it is good for us to have more discussion on the topic at this particular juncture in Hong Kong’s history.
Findings of the Research: Expected or Unexpected?
The research team is now working on the final stage of the research, the full report of which is expected to be released in June. To give our members a preview, summary of the findings and recommendations would be presented in the forthcoming Annual Conference on 1 June. Professor A. Lin Goodwin (Dean and Professor, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong) has been invited to present a speech on the relevant topic. Members are encouraged to join the Annual Conference to meet Professor Goodwin and the research team for a fruitful professional dialogue.
The Way Forward: A Herculean Task?
While it may not be entirely realistic at this stage to list any future plans, the Executive Committee has already embarked on the journey towards the direction highlighted by the research and throughout the deliberation process. We are making a bold attempt to share our thinking aloud with members to solicit comments, support, alternative thoughts and even criticisms. With these inputs, the Executive Committee will surely have further discussion to map out short, medium and long term plans to put thoughts into action.
The pilgrimage ahead will certainly call forth much vision, passion, determination and commitment. The Executive Committee also fully understands that further action also calls forth the serious review of HKAHSS‘s work and positioning. Despite that, we believe if we have the company of other colleagues who share the same vision, we will be able to turn a new page in Hong Kong’s education professionalism, which will eventually benefit our students.
While focusing on HKAHSS’s niche and uniqueness, the Executive Committee understands and embraces the beauty of collaborating with relevant parties to achieve the desired goals. The government’s leadership and cross-sector involvement are indispensable and will bring along understanding and synergy of efforts and resources.
Finally and the most importantly, the Executive Committee strongly believes that the quest for the enhancement of professionalism, autonomy and accountability should take root at educators’ personal level and within the teaching profession itself instead of relying on any external regulatory forces or extrinsic incentives, which are not the ultimate solutions to the core issues. It is the heart work that really matters. It is only with teachers’ real commitment, dedication and professionalism will the education of Hong Kong be heading towards the right and bright path.
教師專業地位有否下降？是否得到社會認同？這些議題並不是香港獨有。近年，不少國際教育學者均指出，教育工作者專業地位正持續下降。教師專業地位從1980年代至2010年代一直在下降 (Hall & Langton 2006; Ochs, 2011)。[i] 經濟合作與發展組織(Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD)於2012年亦提出，教師認為社會及學校對教師的專業及教學創意未有足夠的認同。
2007 年McKinsey Report 指出，當教育工作者的專業地位高，更多高能力者會加入教育行列，提升教育工作的專業地位……當教育工作者的專業地位下降，便只有能力稍弱者願意加入，那將進一步推低教育的專業地位。“Once teaching became a high-status profession, more talented people became teachers, lifting the status of the profession even higher… Where the profession has a low status, it attracts less talented applicants, pushing the status of the profession down further and, with it, the calibre of people it is able to attract.”[ii]
說了那麼多，到底這研究的細節及結論是甚麼？是否與現時社會一般論述相近？稍安毋躁，研究已進行至尾聲，研究報告亦即將面世，請容許我們暫時賣個關子。香港中學校長會將於6月1日的周年大會中與校長們分享研究報告，我們邀請了香港政策研究所團隊向大家詳述研究所得，並邀請了香港大學教育學院院長 Professor A. Lin Goodwin 分享她對教育專業的看法。誠意邀請各位會員參加我們的周年大會，互相交流。