Principals fear for the future

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2011, 12:00am

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Secondary school principals are less confident than ever in the city's education system under the Education Bureau, a survey shows.

On a scale from 0 to 100, with zero as the lowest score, the principals gave an average confidence rating of 49.9 - the lowest since the first such survey in 2007.

It was also the first time that the confidence level had fallen below 50, known as a 'half-half' mark.

In the poll, commissioned by Education18.com and conducted by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme, 109 principals - 22 per cent of the 506 in the city - were interviewed last month.

Of the respondents, 53.2 per cent gave a 'half-half' response when asked how much confidence they had in the system.

Lam Tak-ming, an editor for Education18.com, said the lack of a long-term vision might explain the results.

One reason could be that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration has only a year to run, with the possibility that Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung could be moved to another post at the end, Lam said.

'So it might be safer for [bureau officials] to do less work on something that might have to be reversed later.'

Lam said the principals were upset with rash decision-making by the bureau, such as the rush to introduce a moral and national education curriculum.

Professional Teachers' Union president Fung Wai-wah said an overwhelming number of changes that had been introduced in secondary schools had damaged the confidence of school principals.

'A new syllabus, reduction of class sizes and closure of schools which have an inadequate number of students all destabilise the environment they are in,' Fung said.

He said principals were responsible for implementing changes and for firing teachers in the face of class reductions. 'They need to make difficult decisions.'

In another education-related poll by the Public Opinion Programme the work attitude of Hong Kong's university students has come under fire.

Just under 20 per cent of 1,201 respondents to an annual ranking of the city's universities thought students had poor work attitudes.

Lam said bad working attitudes had been a long-term problem that the Education Bureau had so far been unable to solve. He said employers wanted graduates to become more proactive and passionate towards their work, but the curriculum was not geared to developing these characteristics.

'One of the main purposes of university education is to train talent for society, so the government should allocate more resources towards developing students with better working practices,' he said.

Of the respondents, just over 18 per cent were authorised to recruit new staff and 24.8 per cent of them said they would consider students from The University of Hong Kong as their first choice.

Students from the Chinese University and the Polytechnic University came in a distant second and third, with 14.2 per cent and 13.5 per cent respectively.