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Education

Low pay and politics means Hong Kong teachers have little incentive to work in mainland China, groups say

  • Government announcement offered city’s educators the opportunity to work across the border
  • But working conditions on mainland are not to everyone’s taste
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 10:58pm

Hong Kong teachers have poured cold water on the idea they might be interested in working in mainland China.

Teaching unions were responding to a notice issued by the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, that said residents from the city, Macau, and Taiwan could take exams allowing them to teach at primary and secondary schools across the border.

Among requirements for any applicants were upholding the leadership of the Communist Party and passing a Mandarin test. Teaching groups suggested these conditions, plus the lower pay on the mainland, meant there was little incentive for Hong Kong educators to make the move.

“The policy is not attractive for Hong Kong teachers in terms of the profession as a whole,” said Wong Kwan-yu, chairman of Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, pointing out teachers in the city earn more than their mainland counterparts, and do not have much trouble getting a job.

“But the policy does provide more options for teachers who want to work on the mainland,” he said, adding pensions and medical cover for mainland teachers may prove attractive to some.

“The new measure might help further develop the ‘Greater Bay Area’ by bringing together the professions from both sides,” he said, referring to the central government’s scheme to engender an integrated tech hub in southern China.

Ip Kin-yuen, vice-president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said the requirements involving politics and educational background, might not help attract teachers from Hong Kong.

Simon Hung, a secondary school teacher and a member of education group HKEd4All, said one of the main concerns would be whether Hong Kong teachers could adapt to the different teaching culture.

He also said the employment package offered by public schools in Hong Kong was still attractive to fresh graduates.

Surviving school life in Hong Kong is not impossible

According to the city’s Education Bureau, graduate teachers earn more than HK$25,000 per month working at Hong Kong’s public high schools. In contrast, a teacher in Jiangsu province, surnamed Zhang, who had more than 14 years’ experience in the public school system, told the Post he earned HK$7,000 a month.

But international schools on the mainland offer much better salaries than public schools. For example, an international school in Shenzhen pays foreign teachers between HK$30,000 and HK$50,000 per month, depending on experience and qualifications, according to staff members who declined to be named.

A Hong Kong resident named Angela is teaching at an international school in Shenzhen with her husband. Both of them were able to teach at the school after qualifying from universities in Hong Kong and Britain.

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“I probably will not join the mainland qualification examination,” she said, adding that she did not like an education system that focused more on recital.

Ivan Zhai, an executive responsible for the overseas development of a Canadian boarding school, said foreign teachers working at international schools were recruited as foreign experts in China, and the entrance level could be very competitive.

People who taught locally needed a good understanding of the mainland education system, he added.

He said mainlanders who wanted to return to China after getting residency in Hong Kong might be interested in the new policy.