1 June 2021
Research Report on
“How to Promote Hong Kong Secondary School Teachers’ Professional Status and Social Recognition”
Teachers indisputably play a significant role in the nurturing and upbringing of children during their formative years in myriads of ways, such as imparting knowledge and offering guidance and advice to students. However, as the twenty-first century sees unprecedented changes in all dimensions of the world, especially the drastic shift in knowledge structure and core competencies, the demand for enhancing teachers’ professionalism to meet the educational needs has been on the rise. Just like any other teaching profession in the rest of the world, teachers in Hong Kong also face the same challenges.
To promote the professional status and the social recognition of Hong Kong’s teaching profession, the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) commissioned the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute (HKPRI) in early 2019 to conduct a research titled “How to Promote Hong Kong Secondary School Teachers’ Professional Status and Social Recognition”. Mixed research methods were designed and used to assess the different facets of teachers’ professional status and social recognition with different target subjects. They include questionnaires distributed to principals, serving teachers, parents, and prospective teachers; focus group interviews with principals, teachers, professionals and parents; and media count during the period from July 2018 to May 2019 and documentary search on government policy data and publications. 107 questionnaires from principals, 443 from serving teachers, 99 from prospective teachers and 2,030 from parents were received. 14 focus group interviews with a total of 59 interviewees were conducted.
Major Research Findings
This section summarises the major findings on “professional status” and “social recognition” with reference to our conceptual framework.
- Over 80% of secondary school principal and teacher respondents saw their fellow colleagues as professional across the four domains of professional competencies.
- Parent and professional respondents generally had confidence and trust in teachers’ competencies and advice in the domain of Teaching and Learning.
- In the survey distributed to principals, serving teachers and parents, the teaching profession and parents showed similarities in their views on statements related to teachers’ Professional Values and Conducts.
- Close to 40% of principal and teacher respondents saw that there was still room for them to further strengthen their professional competencies in the domains of School Development and Professional Relationships and Services. The qualitative responses from teacher and professional focus groups reflected that more space and time were needed for teachers to reach out to other sectors or the community.
- Over 70% of the parent respondents of the survey showed confidence in teachers’ professional competencies in the domain of Student Development, including the provision of whole-person development support and career planning support. Enriching teachers’ exposure, knowledge and understanding of different occupations would further enhance their professional support on career planning for students.
- It was noted that over 70% of the parent and professional respondents had high regard for and placed trust in Hong Kong secondary school teachers.
- At the same time, most professional focus group interviewees observed that unlike other sectors, the qualitative aspects of teacher-student relationship and long-term impacts could not be easily quantified.
- Most of the professional focus group interviewees commented that despite Hong Kong secondary school teachers’ rather attractive salary package, the occupation’s attractiveness to graduates was seen to be affected by teachers’ rather heavy workload and difficulty in securing a stable teaching position. In the survey for prospective teachers, respondents who would consider other careers stated that they were concerned mostly with teachers’ great working pressure and difficulty in getting a teaching post after graduation, which was similar to the views held by professional focus group interviewees.
- All parent and professional focus group interviewees agreed that teachers were one of the key stakeholders in education policy discussion. Yet, teacher focus group interviewees remarked that teachers’ participation in education policy discussion was often limited by their heavy workload, largely school-focused job nature, and their worries over the potential reputation risks their free expression may incur on their serving schools and sponsoring bodies.
- The social recognition of secondary school teachers was undermined by the lack of their voices in public discussions on education policies.
Research objective (1): To promote professional status of Hong Kong secondary school teachers
- Teachers’ training regime can be further strengthened, on top of the existing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training, to reinforce holistic promotion of professional competencies. This may entail refinement of the existing model of sabbatical leave, and extension of the support for and infrastructure of Professional Learning Circles scheme to encourage teachers’ creative initiatives.
- More opportunities and engagement in broader school policy discussions and reforms could be created to engage all teachers to promote competencies of School Development domain. Initiatives include carrying out studies of recent education-related topics and impacts of trends on school’s development planning, and revamping junior teachers’ training and overall school succession ladder with restructured mentorship programme.
- Structured encouragement and sufficient space for engagement in external activities in the Professional Relationships and Services domain should be created, such as more external seminars and exchanges with the community while balancing teachers’ workload.
- A wider range of collaborative efforts should be designed to commend teachers’ innovative initiatives and facilitate interdisciplinary engagements to promote teachers’ career advice and support of Student Development domain. One possible way is to refine the secondment system to allow teachers to collaborate with more stakeholders, such as non-profit organisations, universities and non-education sectors.
Research objective (2): To promote social recognition of the professional status of Hong Kong secondary school teachers
- Greater community engagement with education stakeholders is needed to facilitate public’s thorough understanding of the teaching profession’s job nature and its technicalities beyond teaching and learning. This may take the form of wider publicity campaigns by the Education Bureau (EDB) and greater media coverage of more successful or positive teacher-student stories. Teachers are also encouraged to open up and present their teaching initiatives and achievements in the public arena.
- Greater respect and empowerment of professional bodies would greatly promote the teaching profession’s social recognition, such as more frequent exchange between the EDB and the education sector to understand stakeholders’ needs.
- As one of the key stakeholders in education policy, secondary school teachers’ authority in education policy discussion could be buttressed by greater advocacy by the teaching profession.
- The setting up of a self-governing professional body for the teaching profession could significantly promote social recognition of secondary school teachers, as reflected by a majority of principal and teacher focus group interviewees. Over 80% of parent respondents in the survey and the majority of professional focus group interviewees concurred with this recommendation.
- Alternatively, the EDB may grant the Council on Professional Conduct in Education (CPC) with statutory power to become a self-regulatory body to maintain the professional standard and practices of the teaching profession.
Research objective (3): 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
- The distribution of survey to prospective teachers was severely affected by the serious situation of COVID-19 with a less than ideal sample size. The validity of the findings from prospective teachers’ survey should be read against such restraints. It is thus strongly recommended that though the data cited in this research may be treated as a reference, future research on prospective teachers should be carried out.
- One area for further research is on prospective teachers’ career choice. Close to 70% of respondents chose to become a teacher because of their passion for education, and teacher’s occupational stability and high-income level. Those who consider other careers stated that they were concerned mostly with teachers’ great working pressure and difficulty in getting a teaching post after graduation, which was similar to the views held by professional focus group interviewees.
- Prospective teachers’ views on key competencies of teachers may also be further explored. More prospective teachers rated subjects relating to teaching and learning as very important than on subjects of broader education policies. Such perception could explain why half of the teacher focus group interviewees observed that some of their colleagues were hesitant to comment on education policy.
Research objective (4): How HKAHSS can assist to enhance secondary school teachers’ professional status and its social recognition
- While it may not be entirely realistic at this stage for HKAHSS 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. They have also made a bold attempt to share their thinking aloud in Chapter 6 of this report to solicit comments and alternative thoughts. With these inputs, the Executive Committee will have further discussion to map out short, medium and long term plans to put thoughts into action.
- In spite of recent social and political atmosphere, HKAHSS would remain steadfast and persist in their efforts in promoting good and quality education, such as continuing their previous attempts of organising education colloquia and professional gatherings for professional dialogues.
- HKAHSS could play a proactive role in the enhancement of CPD regime to broaden members’ horizon on the global trend and development in education. HKAHSS’s potential arrangement of cross-sector collaboration would undoubtedly improve the quality and depth of CPD programmes for principals and teachers alike.
- To facilitate greater enhancement in teachers’ professional status and social recognition, HKAHSS would continue its role as the government’s longtime critical friend and work partner to urge the EDB to take the lead to collaborate with various institutions and professions. This may take the form of promotion of teachers’ good practices and life changing stories to the public on top of existing recognition campaigns and structured plans to free up teachers’ space to engage in professional development.
- If it is not possible for the CPC to become a statuary body to fulfil the function of enhancing professionalism of the teaching profession, HKAHSS believed that the establishment of a General Teaching Council (GTC) or a similar self-governing professional body would maintain the profession’s integrity and enhance teachers’ professional development, which is also consistent with the recommendation made in the Education Commission Report No. 7 back in 1999. HKAHSS would advocate strongly for such proposal, as the setting up of a statutory, self-governing professional body could better enhance the professional status of educators in Hong Kong.
For any enquiry concerning the research, please contact the following persons:
Principal Lin Chun Pong
The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools
Tel: 5505 9911
Mr. Jacky Fung
Researcher of Centre for Education Research and Development
Hong Kong Policy Research Institute
Tel: 3920 0603 / 6072 2676
The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools
Established in 1964, the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) has over 450 members who are mainly secondary school principals from Aided schools, Grant schools, Government schools, Direct Subsidy Scheme schools or schools which run in other modes. The HKAHSS aims at promoting the professional development of principals and enhancing the quality of secondary school education in Hong Kong. The work includes advocating new and innovative ideas and development on education; promoting professional exchange and experience sharing; organising education colloquia and forums; studying educational issues; and engaging in discussions with the Education Bureau and different educational bodies and organisations on education.
Hong Kong Policy Research Institute
A nonprofit and independent public policy think tank set up in 1995, with the objective to contribute, through public policy research, to the success of “Hong Kong People Administering Hong Kong”. Hong Kong Policy Research Institute’s (HKRPI) mission is to conduct quality research and provide effective recommendations by polling together local, mainland and international minds, and to create social impact by collaborating with stakeholders to form policy communities.
Below are the links for the Executive Summary and the Full Research Report:
- 受訪家長和專業人士普遍對中學教師的專業能力及其在教與學（Teaching and Learning, TLD）方面提出的建議抱有信心。
- 接近四成受訪中學校長和教師認為他們在學校發展（School Development, SDD）、專業群體關係及服務（Professional Relationships and Services, PRS）兩方面的專業能力仍有進步空間。受訪教師及專業人士在焦點小組亦反映，中學教師需投放更多空間及時間接觸其他界別及社區。
- 問卷調查結果顯示超過七成受訪家長對中學教師在學生發展（Student Development, STD）範疇，如學生全人發展、生涯規劃等方面的表現抱有信心。中學教師若能增進對不同行業的知識和理解，相信可進一步加強他們對學生生涯規劃的專業支援。
- 除了現行的教師持續專業發展（Continuing Professional Development of Teachers, CPD）培訓外，建議教育界加強教師培訓制度，以全面提升教師的專業能力。教育當局應增加教師進修機會、完善進修假期制度，並擴大對「專業學習社群」計劃的支持和配套，以鼓勵教師創新。
- 一個可行的方法是教育局授予教育人員專業操守議會（Council on Professional Conduct in Education, CPC）法定權力，讓它成為一個專業組織，以確保及維持教師的專業水平。
- 雖然在現階段談香港中學校長會就研究結果所得的具體跟進計劃，言之尚早，但執委會在審議研究結果的過程中，已開展如何跟進的討論。他們在這報告大膽提出一些想法，期望收到各方意見， 以便集思廣益，作進一步討論，以制定短、中、長期計劃。
- 若政府未能授予教育人員專業操守議會（CPC）法定權力，香港中學校長會認同教育統籌委員會於1999年發表的《第七號報告書》中提倡建立教師公會（General Teaching Council, GTC）或類似的專業機構的建議，以維持及加強教師的專業發展。香港中學校長會認為成立具法定地位的專業自治機構，能更有效提升香港教育工作者的專業地位。
香港中學校長會主席 連鎮邦校長（5505 9911） 或
香港政策研究所教育政策研究中心研究員 馮智政先生（3920 0603／6072 2676）