In wake of suicide, union says directives that pile on pressure should be boycotted A union has responded to the suicide of a teacher this week by calling on teachers to boycott education policies they regard as 'unreasonable, unnecessary and unhealthy'. The Professional Teachers' Union, which has more than 70,000 members, gave the instruction after a 54-year-old Kwai Chung teacher threw himself off a Tsuen Wan building on Wednesday. His wife was reported as saying he had complained of pressure at work. The PTU said in a statement yesterday: 'This is the 12th suicide attempt since the introduction of education reforms in 2000. These were possibly caused by stress.' Ten of the teachers had died. However, PTU chairman and legislator Cheung Man-kwong said the response did not amount to industrial action. 'We are only resisting unreasonable policies,' he said. A PTU taskforce set up last year will step up action to ease pressure on teachers. It will be making its views known in a Legislative Council motion on reducing teachers' workload on January 18, and is to hold a meeting next Saturday with principals on school-based assessment (SBA), which it regards as a major source of pressure. Implemented last September for Chinese and English, SBA requires teachers to assess students' work for marks counting towards the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. The PTU urged the Education and Manpower Bureau to face the problem of teacher stress upfront. Its requests include evaluating the pace of education reforms, clearing unnecessary non-teaching work, reducing the number and sizes of classes teachers teach and stopping school closures. Mr Cheung said a petition would be organised, but not immediately because the union did not want to upset the family of the teacher who died this week. Mervyn Cheung Man-ping, chairman of Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organisation, said it was 'risky' to conclude at this stage that the suicide was due to work pressure. 'There could be many reasons,' he said. However, teachers did face excessive stress as revealed in several recent surveys, including one conducted by his own organisation, he said. That found more than 60 per cent of teachers worked more than 61 hours a week. Only 6.8 per cent were happy with their workload. 'The EMB should look seriously into the causes of the suicide and the implications as far as the teaching profession is concerned,' he said. He hoped PTU members would not take action that would affect the smooth running of schools. Cheng Yin-cheong, director of the Centre for Institutional Research and Development at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said surveys by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the PTU in 2004 found that 4 per cent of teachers were suicidal. A survey by the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers last year reported that suicide had crossed the minds of 5 per cent of teachers.