A teachers' union yesterday described as 'absurd' the fact that nearly all teachers in primary schools had degrees but almost half of them were paid the lower salaries of non-degree teachers and were required to do administrative work from which degree-linked posts were exempt.
The Education Employees General Union said the situation was a continuing sore that damaged teachers' morale. 'Some half of the qualified degree teachers are forced to take up non-degree teacher posts. It is not only a waste of human resources, but is also unfair,' chairwoman Eva Yu Yee-wah said.
She also questioned whether the government was sincere in its stated goal of upgrading primary education.
'Is it not absurd? The government still accepts that half of the primary school teachers are non-graduates. A majority of our primary teachers are qualified but there are not enough graduate posts for them,' said Yu, who urged the government to fund more graduate posts.
Graduate teachers, who earn up to HK$40,000 a month, usually do not have to do administrative work, unlike non-graduate teachers, who earn up to HK$32,000.
In the early 1990s, the government pledged to turn up to 35 per cent of primary school teaching posts into graduate posts by 2007. In 1997, it promised to bring forward the target from 2007 to 2001 - and that target was met. In 2007 it announced the proportion would be increased to 45 per cent in the 2008-09 school year and 50 per cent in the 2009-10 school year. Those targets were also met.
Education Bureau figures show the number of degree-holding teachers in primary schools has increased from 16,000 in the 2004-05 school year to more than 20,100 in 2009-10. There are still 2,084 primary school teachers who do not hold a degree.
An Education Bureau spokesman said: 'It is the government's long-term target to upgrade all teaching posts... To this end, the government will continue to keep in view all relevant factors, including affordability and prioritisation of resources.'