Critics dismiss it as bid to take heat off EMB rather than address workload issues The long-awaited report on teachers' stress has been dismissed by educators as a 'superficial whitewash'. And the chairman of the committee that produced it responded to the criticism this week by admitting the study had been given a positive spin. The 45-page report by The Committee on Teachers' Work was released during the Christmas break. Committee chairman Edmond Ko In-ming said: 'If the criticism is that our report is positive, then I stand guilty. We tried to do that.' Professor Ko said he had intentionally avoided 'finger-pointing' and 'negativity' and that the report 'should be read in that light'. 'We tried to sound positive because in our work we honestly found that the system was full of good, encouraging news [more] than the public usually believes in. 'I don't see anything wrong with being positive.' But critics of the document - the result of a 10-month study by the seven-member commission - say it focuses on side issues while skirting what many consider to be the main sources of teacher stress, such as declining student numbers, school closures, increasing competition between schools, the scope and pace of education reforms and the way they have been implemented. The committee was established in January last year, the day after a 7,500-strong teacher protest. 'I thought that the aim of the commission was to find ways to relieve the pressure on teachers but it seems from the report that they have simply tried to relieve the pressure on the Education and Manpower Bureau after 10,000 teachers took to the streets,' said Cheung Man-kwong, president of the Professional Teachers' Union. 'The report does not properly address class reductions and school closures, and does not recommend reducing class sizes. They are not really trying to solve the problems.' Mr Cheung also questioned the timing of the report's release on the same day the EMB announced the renaming of Shue Yan College as a university, and that the full report was not given out until a day after Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung's press conference. 'I think [Professor Li] was simply trying to avoid reporters' questions on the subject,' he said. Mervyn Cheung Man-ping, chairman of Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organisation, said the wording of the report was 'highly evasive' and focused on side issues. 'I wouldn't refute the validity of their recommendations but the problem is that they have not looked at the wider perspective,' he said. 'It's a whitewash.' Alex Cheung Chi-hung, chairman of the Aided Primary Schools Heads' Council, said the committee had made only a superficial attempt at finding the source of teacher stress and the report was misleading about working hours. 'We know that their estimates are much lower than the real situation. Most teachers are working 12 hours a day during the week. If they have no time for proper rest, their work can only suffer.' The report said teachers were working roughly 10 hours on weekdays and 4.6 hours a day at weekends and holidays and failed to find a link between workload and stress. But figures in the report appear to tell a different story. Some 32 per cent of teachers identified as having low stress and high job satisfaction worked eight hours or less a day, while 19 per cent put in 10 or more. For teachers on the other end of the scale, with high stress and low satisfaction, those figures were 25 per cent and 26 per cent. But Professor Ko warned against 'eyeballing the data'. 'You can't read the data that way,' he said. 'The maths does not show a correlation, that is all we are saying. It is not a one-to-one correlation. It goes through some other variables.'