To Keep, Attract, Nurture and Respect our Talents – HKAHSS’s Recommendations for the Policy Address 2021

To Keep, Attract, Nurture and Respect our Talents – HKAHSS’s Recommendations for the Chief Executive Policy Address 2021

By The Executive Committee, The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS)

(Contents of this article was sent to the Chief Executive on 19 July 2021)

Ever since its term in July 2017, the government has been actively injecting new resources for improvements in education. Measures include the implementation of all-graduate teaching force policy, strengthening the administrative support for schools as well as enhancing the support for inclusive education and non-Chinese speaking students. At the same time, HKAHSS has been actively making very solid and substantial proposals to the government as a professional body in the hope to enhance the quality of Hong Kong’s education.  

For the forthcoming Policy Address 2021 by the Chief Executive, the Executive Committee of HKAHSS is very much concerned about Hong Kong’s competitiveness and the recent problems of brain drain. It is our sincerest wish that relevant issues will be addressed with regard to the following four approaches, which bear direct relevance to education, to prepare Hong Kong to meet future challenges. 

1. To Keep Talents
The provisional estimate of the population of Hong Kong released by the Census and Statistics Department on 18 February 2021 was 7,474,200, representing a decrease of 46,600 or 0.6% from 7,520,800 at end-2019. In the year 2020, there were 10,100 One-way Permit holders flowing into Hong Kong while 49,900 residents emigrating to other countries with a net outflow of 39,800 persons.

In a research conducted in 2020 by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 737 respondents aged 18 or above were successfully interviewed.  43.9% indicated they would emigrate if they had the chance. Of those who would like to move, 35.0% had acted to prepare for the move (equivalent to 15.3% of the total number of respondents). Both percentages increased significantly over those in 2019.

The 2020/2021 School Year is drawing to a close and we received many messages from our members that schools are facing a very serious situation arising from teachers’ resignation. The loss is especially severe among the very experienced, capable middle managers. Some schools may not be able to offer subjects such as Home Economics due to the difficulty in recruiting teachers with relevant training.

HKAHSS is much concerned about the serious brain drain in the teaching profession which will result in the shortage of experienced teachers and this in turn will affect the quality of education. We therefore would propose the government to:

  1. conduct a survey on the teaching force in the territory to capture essential information which include teachers’ qualifications, experiences, mobility trends and reasons behind. This will facilitate the early detection of issues and formulation of action to address them. Measures might include the adjustment of programme provision and quotas in teacher training.
  2. genuinely listen to people’s voices and understand the reasons behind people leaving Hong Kong. Only through this can appropriate policies and measures be mapped out to regain people’s confidence.
  3. work out substantive measures to encourage students to stay, learn and grow through the local education system. Students are the future of Hong Kong. If a majority of them will emigrate or further their studies overseas, the long-term impact on Hong Kong will definitely be beyond estimation.

2. To Attract Talents

In the research report on “How to Promote Hong Kong Secondary School Teachers’ Professional Status and Social Recognition” which was released in this June[1], most of the interviewees in the focus groups of different professions indicated that even though the salary of teachers might look appealing, the heavy workload of teachers undermines its attractiveness. In the same report, data gained through the survey amongst prospective teachers also reveal that some have hesitation in entering the teaching profession mainly because of their concern for the heavy workload. From the data of other studies such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018, it is revealed that the job satisfaction of teachers is very low. HKAHSS therefore would propose the government to:

  1. delve into the root cause of teachers’ workload and have them properly addressed. This will help teachers nurture their students in a safe and favourable school environment.
  2. probe into the needs of teacher training and student learning to ensure that teacher training goals will be aligned with the challenges of the time. This will help equip teachers with the capabilities, knowledge and insight for their work.
  3. study meticulously on how to attract education talents from all over the world (similar to the Native-speaking English Teacher Scheme) so that Hong Kong will sustain our competitive edge.

3.To Nurture Talents

While the Hong Kong Government is willing to put resources into education, the resources should be used discreetly. As mentioned many times in our previous articles on relevant topics, there should be a comprehensive planning for the nurture of talents. The essential areas such as the education vision, school system, curriculum, assessment and university admission should be aligned and well-coordinated. While we need not reiterate the key points here, we sincerely hope that the government should be alert and take early action to address the following issues:   

Poverty in Hong Kong has been affecting the learning of some of our students. The problems of their serious lack in learning resources have been brought to the foreground during the pandemic. We are very much worried that the situation will further aggravate as it takes time for economic recovery. According to some figures on poverty in Hong Kong, the student population living in poverty is 170,000 which constitutes a poverty rate of 16.8%. In a survey on students’ studies conducted by The Society for Community Organization in August 2020 amongst students in poverty during the pandemic, 33.7% of those surveyed did not have any internet provisions at home.  40.2% did not have any computer facilities for internet access. In addition, there were problems of computers being too outdated, slow internet speed, inadequate net volume, lack of printing facilities, practical difficulties in looking for space to complete homework etc. Undeniably, the negative impacts of students’ low socio-economic status on their learning are gradually aggravating. According to the Human Capital model by the renowned economist Gary Becker, students’ education level does not only hinge on their talents or potentials.  The financial constraints they face also have an important role to play. For students from better-off families, their financial constraints on education and nurture of talents are smaller. On the contrary, those from poorer families face higher costs and greater constraints as far as their education is concerned. Consequently, the chance of freely developing their interests and potentials is relatively lower. In such an affluent society as Hong Kong, how to help our deprived develop their potentials to the full is a social responsibility we should shoulder.

Performance of Hong Kong Students in PISA 2018 and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019 both reported a falling trend. Shall we take this as an alarm bell to the education of Hong Kong? In the PISA report 2018, the Mathematics abilities of Hong Kong students dropped to the 4th place from 2nd in the ranking order of average scores compared to the 2015 report.  Abilities in Science have dropped for two consecutive rounds since 2015 to the 9th place. TIMSS 2019 reported similar falling trends. While the Mathematics knowledge of Primary 4 (Grade 4) and Secondary 2 (Grade 8) only reveals a slight drop (from rank order 2 and rank order 4 in 2015 to rank order 2 and rank order 5 in 2019), the rank orders of Primary 4 and Secondary 2 in Science knowledge are 15 and 17 respectively with a significant drop as compared with the 2015 report (Rank order of 5 and 6). PISA does not only measure students’ achievements in Mathematics and Science. It also measures students’ coping skills for the future. The 2018 report reveals that Hong Kong students’ ‘growth mindset’ and their belief in their own ability to perform, especially facing adversity, are far lower when compared to other PISA-participating countries and economies. In addition, TIMSS also provides other relevant data such as the falling percentage of student reaching the International Advanced Benchmark, the rising percentage of students not reaching the International Low Benchmark and the increasingly marked impact of students’ socio-economic status on their achievements. The situation is worrying indeed.

In face of the falling trend in students’ knowledge and coping abilities, we have to ask ourselves whether this is only accidental or we have not prepared our students good enough with basic skills and abilities. Furthermore, there are issues that we should not take for granted. For instance, for students with special educational needs and those who are Non-Chinese speaking, are they getting enough care or attention besides the financial resources allocated? In this regard, HKAHSS would propose the government to:

  1. promote a favourable milieu at the social and school level to facilitate innovation and growth mindset which will also embrace the differing student needs and background. Personalized learning opportunities for students are indispensable to the nurture of talents.
  2. refine the primary and secondary Mathematics and Science curriculum such as implementing a formal Science curriculum at senior primary level, replacing Mathematics Extension by Advanced Mathematics in the senior secondary curriculum as proposed by the Task Force on Review of School Curriculum so as to better align the revised senior secondary core subjects.
  3. take reference of how other developed economic regions invest in their STEM education, such as the STEM ALP which is a collaborative project of the Ministry of Education in Singapore and STEM Inc. This can set a very good example to address the problems arising from the present school-based development mode. Problems identified include unclear teaching guidelines, teachers’ insufficient experience and confidence as well as inadequate support measures.
  4. set up scholarship schemes to attract outstanding local students to stay in Hong Kong for their tertiary education.
  5. revisit the needs of different students under the neo-normal situation since the pandemic and improve relevant strategies and services. The present government provisions with regard to learning through IT is not adequate and this has definitely undermined the learning of students from the grass root level.

4.To Respect Talents

In the past two years, frontline teachers have been displaying the highest degree of professionalism despite the various challenges brought along by the social incidents and pandemic. Their focus is mainly on helping students get through this trying period. Unfortunately, the education sector has been negatively affected by distrust, social tearing and even wilful smearing. This does not only greatly hamper the harmonious and effective education system and teachers’ morale but also the sustaining and nurture of talents as well as social development.

After the turmoil, it is time for the government to rebuild the professional system, to help the public regain and strengthen their confidence in education. We therefore would propose the government to:

  1. establish a General Teaching Council (GTC) or a similar self-governing professional body to maintain the profession’s integrity and enhance teachers’ professional development. This is consistent with the recommendation to set up a General Teaching Council made in the Education Commission Report No. 7 back in 1997. In the HKAHSS research report mentioned earlier, a majority of the principals and teachers expressed their wish to set up such a professional and autonomous body. Over 80% of parent respondents and the majority of participants in the focus groups of professionals hold similar views as well. HKAHSS sincerely expects the government to conscientiously consider such a proposal as the setting up of a statutory, self-governing professional body could better enhance the professional status of educators in Hong Kong. This also allows education matters and standards to be taken care of professionally within the teaching profession.
  2. strive to ensure and respect the professional autonomy of school management and educators. When the education sector is being wilfully smeared, the Education Bureau should take fair and timely action to protect educators from unnecessary harms and disturbance.
  3. consult front-line teachers and educators to ensure ample communication and exchanges before the implementation of new measures. Clear vision, background information and rationale will better prepare front-line workers and prevent chaos during the implementation period.
  4. create an environment with harmony and love so as to facilitate learning and teaching.

Conclusion

We believe that keeping, attracting, nurturing and respecting talents can enhance the education quality of Hong Kong and contribute to sustainable social development. It is our earnest desire for the Chief Executive to consider all suggestions listed above and lead Hong Kong into its future strides.

End

[1] Research commissioned by HKAHSS and conducted by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute

「保才、納才、育才、尊才」 一一香港中學校長會對2021施政報告的建議


(執委會已於2021719日去信行政長官提出建議)

 

現屆政府自20177月上任,在教育施政上積極投放資源,改善教育生態,包括落實教師學位化、加強學校行政支援、改善融合及非華語教育等。本會亦秉持專業,多年來因應施政報告的諮詢,就教育政策及發展作出建議,冀能提升教育專業、優化教育質素。

 

本會關心現時香港的競爭力和人才流失的情況,盼望施政報告能在不同範疇就「保才、納才、育才、尊才」四方面提出對策,讓社會應付未來的挑戰。就教育範疇而言,本會執委會的意見如下:

 

1. 保留人才

 

政府統計處於2021218日發表人口臨時數字,2020年底香港人口共7,474,200人,與2019年底的7,520,800人比較,減少46,600人,跌幅0.6%2020年期間有10,100人持單程證移入香港,亦有多達49,900名香港居民移出,淨移出人數為39,800。根據香港中文大學香港亞太研究所2020年調查,73718歲或以上的受訪市民中,43.9%表示如有機會將打算移民,15.3%有為移民做準備,較2019年顯著增加。

 

2020/21學年即將完結,本會接獲不少會員校長信息,學校正面對嚴重的教師人才流失問題,特別是富經驗和具能力的中層管理人才;部分科目如家政或會因無法填補流失的專科老師而停止開設。

 

本會關注專業教師大量流失的影響,擔憂中層領導出現斷層,影響教育質素。本會建議特區政府:

 

(a) 就全港師資展開調查,瞭解現時學校教師資歷、教職人員變動情況和離職原因,及早應對教師隊伍流失問題,例如調整師資訓練課程的類別和名額;

(b) 認真聆聽香港人心聲,了解港人移民的原因,制定合適政策以挽回港人信心;

(c) 年青學生是香港未來的重要人才,大量學生移居海外,或往海外升學,對香港的未來影響難以估計。政府須對症下藥,讓學子願意留在香港教育體系內繼續學習、成長。

 

2. 吸納人才

 

本會委託香港政策研究所於本年6月完成的「如何提升香港中學教師的專業地位及社會認同」研究報告中,大部分受訪的專業人士在焦點小組指出,儘管香港中學教師的薪酬待遇頗為吸引,但教師繁重的工作量影響教師一職的吸引力。在準教師的問卷調查中,亦可見準教師對入職教師有所猶豫,有部分準教師表達有考慮其他職業,其中一項原因是擔心教師的工作壓力。此外,來自其他研究的結果,例如2018PISA,亦顯示在職老師的工作滿足感(Job Satisfaction)十分低。本會建議特區政府:

 

(a) 深入瞭解教師工作壓力的由來,對症下藥,讓教師能在安全、理想的教學環境中培育學生成長;

(b) 認真探討師資培訓與學生學習需要,確保培訓目標能與時並進,讓老師具備足夠能力及識見,協助學生發展;

(c) 仔細研究如何吸納世界各地的教育界優才來港(如現時的外籍英語老師),藉以保持香港教育的競爭力。

 

 

3. 培育人才

 

特區政府願意投放資源在教育方面,但資源須用得其所。本會過往文章已多次提及,培育人才須有全盤規劃,從教育願景、學校體制、課程、考評和大學入學等,每部分須有更好的扣連,在此不再重覆。惟仍有幾個教育現況,我們希望特區政府及早處理。

 

香港貧窮情況一直影響部分學生的學習,疫情間的學習生態,凸顯了學習資源不足問題的嚴重性,本會擔心疫情過後,經濟未及恢復,情況會趨惡化。根據2018年香港貧窮情况數據顯示,香港貧窮兒童人口為17萬人,貧窮率達16.8%。香港社區組織協會於20208月底進行了一項關於疫情期間貧窮學生學習情況的調查,受訪兒童中有33.7%家中沒有上網設備,40.2%無可上網的電腦,另外也有電腦太舊、網速不足、網量不夠、欠列印機、沒有做功課空間等現實問題。不容否認,社經地位低對香港學生學習的負面影響正逐步加劇。根據著名經濟學者 Gary Becker 的人力資源模型,學生受教育程度不僅取決於才華,還取決於他們所面臨的財務約束。家境富裕者,投放在人力資源上的約束較小;窮困家庭,學習成本較高,約束較大,學生按個人興趣發展的機會相對低。如何讓貧者仍能按個人能力、性向發展所長,是香港這個富裕社會需要承擔的責任。

 

香港學生在PISA(學生能力國際評估計劃)2018TIMSS(國際數學與科學趨勢研究)2019的表現均呈下降趨勢,是否可視為香港教育的一個警號?根據PISA 2018報告,香港學生數學能力排名由2015年的第2位跌至第4位,科學能力排名更自2015年連續兩屆排名第9位。TIMSS 2019的數據同樣呈現下降趨勢,小四及中二數學成績分別排名第2及第5位,對比於2015年的第2及第4位,只輕微下跌;惟科學方面,香港小四及中二學生則分別為第15及第17位,成績顯著低於2015年的第5及第6位。PISA不單量度學生的數理成績,更重要的是量度學生應對未來的能力。2018年結果顯示,香港學生之「成長思維」及面對逆境等能力,均遠遜於OECD國家的平均數。此外,香港在TIMSS測試中的其他數據,包括:達到國際最高基準學生比率下降、未達基準學生比率上升,以及學生家庭的社經地位對分數的影響比前顯著等,情況令人擔憂。

 

成績下降、各種應對挑戰的能力指數下降,那只是偶然失手,抑或是代表我們的教育仍未能好好裝備學生,讓他們有基本能力去面對未來挑戰?還有不容忽視的「非華語學生」、「有特殊教育需要學生」,除了財政支援,他們的學習機會又有沒有獲得足夠的關注?本會建議特區政府:

 

(a)  在社會和學校層面推動敢於創新和成長思維的文化氛圍,關注不同背景及能力學生的學習需要;個性化的學習機會,是培育人才的不二法門;

(b)  優化中、小學的數學和科學課程,例如研究在高小階段開設正規科學課程、從速落實學校課程檢討專責小組建議的以「高級數學科」取代現時高中數學科延伸部分、理順高中四個核心科目裁減後的課程調整等;

(c)  參考其他已發展經濟體投資 STEM 的教育計劃,例如新加坡教育部夥拍 STEM Inc 協作發展和推行的 STEM ALP,然後在香港推行類似的「教育局統籌」模式推動 STEM教育,解決現行的「學校為本」模式所出現的問題和障礙,包括:教學指引含糊不清、教師的教學經驗及信心不足,以及欠缺足夠支援等;

(d)  設立獎學金計劃,吸引本地成績優異的學生留港修讀學士學位課程;

(e)  重新檢視新常態下不同學生的學習需要,現時政府在電腦及網上的資助及支援仍不足,明顯不利基層學生的學習,相關政策和服務亟待完善。

 

 

 

4. 尊重人才

 

過去兩年,在社會事件和疫情交煎下,學界在能力所及的範疇,努力維持教育質素,協助學生渡過困難,一直展現香港教育工作者的專業精神。可惜互不信任的氣氛持續籠罩香港,社會撕裂仍待修補,肆意抹黑教育界的言論不斷出現,這不但破壞了原來和諧高效的教育環境,打擊教育工作者的士氣,更嚴重影響人才培育及社會未來發展。

 

動盪過後,是時候重建專業制度,恢復和加強公眾對教育專業的信心,本會建議特區政府:

 

(a)  成立法定「教學專業議會」(General Teaching Council, GTC)或類似的專業機構以提升香港教師的專業形象和地位,促進教師的專業發展。本會認同教育統籌委員會於 1997 年發表的《第七號報告書》中提倡建立教學專業議會(GTC)的建議,以體現社會重視教育專業。本會「如何提升香港中學教師的專業地位及社會認同」研究報告指出:「在焦點小組中,受訪的中學校長和教師表示,設立一個自治的專業機構,能有效提升中學教師的社會認同。不約而同地,問卷調查中有超過 80%的家長同意此建議,大多數焦點小組的專業人士亦在訪問中提出了類似看法。」我們期望政府能重新考慮成立一個具備法定地位的教學專業議會,以提升教育工作者的專業地位,讓教育專業回歸專業;

(b)  致力確保及尊重學校的校本管理和教育工作者的專業自主,當教育界被無理抹黑和攻擊時,教育局能責無旁貸地適時發聲,保護和尊重人才,免受干擾;

(c)  在推出教育新舉措前,多與教育專業團體溝通,既可及早完善教育措施,也能讓教育前線多瞭解政策的由來,以免在新政策推出時令學界陣腳大亂;

(d)  創造有利條件,讓學校可以維繫一個融洽、關愛的學習環境,讓學生可以無憂地成長,讓老師可以安全地教學。

 

 

結語

 

我們相信,「保才、納才、育才、尊才」能提升香港教育質素,促進社會持續發展。盼望行政長官能充分考慮以上建議,帶領香港應付未來的挑戰。

 

 

香港中學校長會執行委員會

 

2021719