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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- set up scholarship schemes to attract outstanding local students to stay in Hong Kong for their tertiary education.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- create an environment with harmony and love so as to facilitate learning and teaching.
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.
 Research commissioned by HKAHSS and conducted by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute
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2020年8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)2018及TIMSS(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。
(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；
(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；