Schools get poor report card, seek more help
Nora Tong and Will Clem
Educators need bureau's support to tackle faults
Educators yesterday called on the Education and Manpower Bureau to offer more support to teachers after the release of a damning report card for local schools.
In the report that summarised reviews of 340 primary and secondary schools in 2005-06, teachers were criticised for not providing enough opportunities for students to participate in class and for relying too heavily on textbooks.
The report said although progress was being made in education reform, traditional teaching practices remained evident. It echoes criticisms in the previous year's school inspection report.
Although teachers knew their subjects well and were serious about teaching, the questions they asked were not stimulating, and this failed to develop in students the ability to think critically. The report said teachers in almost half of schools had low expectations of their students. Teaching materials were too easy, and classroom activities and assignments were not challenging enough.
It was also found that in English classes or subjects taught in English, some teachers spoke a mixture of both English and Chinese while others did not often encourage students to communicate in English.
The ability of half of the students to express themselves verbally in Cantonese was also mediocre.
Cheung Kwok-wah, an assistant professor of education at University of Hong Kong, said many teachers knew what should be done to improve teaching and learning, but were unable to because they were overloaded by administrative tasks.
'The [bureau] has set a goal but is not giving enough support,' he said.
Leung Yan-wing, an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said teachers were unable to use novel teaching methodologies because of big class sizes.
'How can you encourage critical thinking in a class of 40 people? The EMB should seriously consider introducing small classes,' he said.
Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, education legislator and president of the Professional Teachers' Union, said the bureau should address root causes of the problems, namely large class sizes and a big syllabus.
'Teachers often don't have enough time to teach the syllabus. And this isn't something in their control. They are helpless and passive,' Mr Cheung said.
William Yip Kam-yuen, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Heads of Secondary Schools, said many aims of education reform were difficult to implement without additional resources.
'Classrooms are small and we have a lot of students,' he said. 'It is not easy to divide students into smaller groups in this context.'
In most schools, teachers have sufficient knowledge of their subjects and are well prepared for class.
Teachers in half of the schools can organise classes to cater for students' different interests and needs.
Most schools able to devise clear and diverse assessment methods.
Interaction with students is lacking in classes at half the schools.
Teachers have low expectations of students in nearly half the schools.
In more than half the schools, teachers are unable to give constructive feedback to students.
Students in half the schools are passive; their critical and creative thinking abilities are average.