Hong Kong's teacher professional training programme needs fine-tuning
Recently, there has been talk about the training and preparation Hong Kong teachers need to be competent at their job, which has grown much more sophisticated each year.
Teachers primarily need good knowledge and skills in teaching, learning and assessment. While they are expected to teach their subjects well, they are also expected to provide good pastoral care for students with regard to their diverse learning and developmental needs.
Since the introduction of the school-based management policy, teachers have become important stakeholders in their schools. Besides electing a representative to sit on the management committee under the new school governance structure, they must participate in groups such as student academic affairs and pastoral care committees to help keep the school functioning effectively.
Experienced teachers must also mentor novices to help them grow professionally. They may join external bodies to help advance professionalism, or involve themselves in other community endeavours as professionals.
These domains of teacher involvement in school education, and the attendant knowledge and skills, form the superstructure of a locally developed generic teacher competency framework, which has been a guiding policy document for teacher training and preparation programmes.
Also, the superstructure rests on a solid foundation of core education values, which embrace "belief that all students can learn", "love and care for students", "respect for diversity", "commitment and dedication to the profession", "collaboration, sharing and team spirit" and "passion for continuous learning and excellence".
Values are vital in guiding and promoting educational effort. At the deepest level is a basic premise that teachers can grow as human beings.
There is also a longitudinal aspect to the framework, which tries to describe a teacher's career development in three stages: the initial threshold, the middle, competent years and the final stage where they are most accomplished. For each one, there are descriptors to help teachers know how they fare and decide what sort of development they need to do their jobs better.
This competency framework was a product of effort begun 10 years ago by academics, frontline educators and education officials, who laboured to build it, taking into account local contexts and good practices abroad. Since then, much effort has been made to publicise it among local teachers and those who train new teachers at institutions and schools. It is intended to be a useful self-evaluation or peer-evaluation (not performance appraisal) tool to help teachers develop their growth plan and career path.
A certain degree of success has been achieved. But more effort is needed so that those in the profession all speak the same language. It is inessence a paradigm and cultural shift, which takes time to achieve.
Hong Kong can be commended for some good traditions the profession has maintained. For example, our teachers regard organising extracurricular activities or joining functional groups as part of their job and do not expect to be paid for them, whereas in many schools abroad, such tasks would be regarded as extra work that should attract extra pay.
After 10 years, the competency framework might need a review in the light of new developments and societal needs. But I would advise fine-tuning rather than dismantlement. To do the latter would waste 10 years of promotion effort. Given the complexity of a teacher's job, the framework has done a good job capturing its essence. More workshops are needed to help teachers use it better.
Robin Cheung is a retired school principal