Fanny Law slams teacher council

Will Clem

Investigations into complaints against teachers are 'unsatisfactory'

The education chief gave a damning appraisal of the council that follows up complaints against teachers - criticism its chairman said was unfair because the government had failed to give the body teeth.

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, the permanent secretary for education and manpower, yesterday called the two-year track record of the Council on Professional Conduct in Education 'unsatisfactory'.

The council is a non-statutory body that investigates complaints about the conduct of teachers and principals.

It said last week it had not upheld one of the 58 complaints received over its ruling committee's two-year term of office, which ended on April 30.

Twenty-seven cases are outstanding. None of the 29 complaints lodged with the council during the previous term of office, between 2002 and 2004, were upheld either.

'I don't think this is satisfactory at all,' Ms Law said. 'In fact I have recently met with the council and I said that they should really, really look at the professional ethics of our educators because it is critical.'

But the council's outgoing chairman, Pun Tin-chi, dismissed the criticism, saying the advisory board lacked the power and resources to do an effective job. It should be replaced with a council with real authority, he said.

'As [they are] advisers to the Education and Manpower Bureau, we should also refer cases to them for consideration at least to set some more concrete benchmarks for what is acceptable professional behaviour,' he said.

The council, which was established in 1994, consists of members elected by teachers and education organisations, plus three members nominated by the permanent secretary, one of whom is a representative of the EMB.

However, it has no legal powers, including the ability to comply teachers to give evidence. In a case where misconduct is found, the council cannot take any action of its own, instead making recommendations to the EMB.

In 1997, Tung Chee-hwa promised in his inaugural chief executive address to replace the body within two years with a formal General Teachers' Council, with the power to license and bar teachers. But after nearly nine years the council is no nearer to becoming established.

'Nobody is interested in that, unfortunately,' Ms Law said. But Mr Pun said Ms Law's statement 'simply doesn't match with the facts'.

'Our problem now is we have no legal authority so it is very difficult for us to gather evidence,' Mr Pun said.