Hong Kong teachers with serious ‘defects’ in character and conduct could face lifetime classroom ban, education secretary warns
- Draft amendments to teachers’ code of conduct also throws lifeline to teachers to re-register after disqualification
- Education secretary said first draft of new regulations for profession now out for discussion and suggestions
Teachers found to have serious “defects” in their character or conduct could be barred from the classroom for life if draft amendments to the Hong Kong code of conduct for the profession are approved, the education secretary warned on Tuesday.
But Christine Choi Yuk-lin added that teachers who had given pupils incorrect information because of insufficient knowledge in their subjects could still re-register after a disqualification period.
Choi, speaking on a radio programme, said the bureau had finished the first draft of the latest code of conduct for teachers, which it had submitted to interested parties for discussions and suggestions.
She said the new guidelines aimed to define what it meant to be a “fit and proper” teacher in relation to professional standards.
She added the bureau would give a verbal warning to first-time and minor offenders, in the hope the disciplined teachers would learn their lesson.
But Choi said written warnings or written reprimands would be given in more serious cases.
She explained the plan was to introduce a mechanism to allow some teachers to return to the profession after several years of suspension for breaches of the code, rather than imposing life disqualification.
Choi was speaking after John Lee Ka chiu announced in his policy address last week that the new teachers’ code of conduct, first mentioned in 2021, would be on the legislative agenda by the end of this year.
The code sets out the professional conduct and behaviour expected of teachers and would also be used to decide whether misconduct hearings were required in individual cases.
Choi said instructors teaching students wrongly because of insufficient subject knowledge could be re-registered after a period of suspension and further study.
She also warned teachers not to use their subject to put across their personal views to pupils.
“We will have a group that considers how these punishments should be decided, whether the severity and length is appropriate, as well as if re-registration is allowed after teachers have addressed the issue,” she said.
Choi, a former teacher and secondary school principal, said suspension of teachers’ licences for three years was an appropriate period as it would be difficult for them to return to the classroom if the disqualification was longer.
But she highlighted that teachers who had been suspended would need strong evidence to prove they were fit to go back into the classroom again.
“But when it involves character or conduct, it would be difficult [to prove] … I guess it will be difficult to prove they are suitable to teach if they hurt the students ,” she said.
Choi told the radio show that the guidelines were not designed to deal with political cases.
“We are looking at whether the teachers have distorted the facts and attempted to do something inappropriate in their capacity. It has nothing to do with their political stance,” she said.
She explained that a new requirement for teachers would involve a knowledge test on the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, the national security law and the Chinese constitution to prove a “basic understanding”.
“This test is actually very easy, it lasts for only 30 minutes and you only need to answer 20 multiple-choice questions. If you get 10 or more questions correct, then you have passed,” Choi said.
Some lawmakers on Tuesday urged the government to teach all teachers the history of the Chinese Communist Party.
Lillian Kwok Ling-lai, a member of the subcommittee to study the promotion of national and national security education in the legislature, said the bureau should boost aspiring teachers knowledge of the history of the party because they were responsible for the national education of pupils.
Another lawmaker Stanley Ng Chau-pei, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said all teachers should understand the country’s development and the 20th party congress to help develop affection for the country.
“If they do not have the motivation to learn these things, how could they teach our students well?” Ng asked.
Jeff Sze Chun-fai, the undersecretary at the bureau, agreed teachers should learn party history and the bureau was working towards that goal.
He said some schools were considering whether to hold seminars to study the 20th party congress and that he was prepared to attend and share what he had learned.