A survey has found that school staff and students are increasingly stressed due to the severity of the current social situation. There also needs to be broader counselling services in school.
The survey was conducted among 233 teaching staff in Hong Kong, including 61 teachers, from their respective school counselling teams, 101 class teachers, and 23 school-based social workers. The Hong Kong Association of Careers Masters and Guidance Masters collected all the responses within a week in February. This survey was a follow-up to a study that they did in September last year.
Respondents had to give a score out of 10 for different questions, with 10 being the healthiest. When asked to rate the mental state of different groups, they gave an average of 5.5 for secondary teachers, 5.6 for junior secondary students and 4.4 for senior secondary students.
The mental state of senior secondary students fell more than one point from the score given in the previous survey, which was conducted in September.
Teaching staff from Kowloon West district gave an average of 3.8 for the mental state of senior secondary students – the lowest score in all districts.
For secondary school students, teaching staff rated the “social atmosphere” as the most important contributor to secondary students’ unfavourable mental condition, with an average score of 4.6 out of 5. “Media information” and “coronavirus” were also key reasons for the stress, with average scores of 4.4 and 4.3, respectively.
School-based social workers chose “feeling less hopeful towards the future”, “helplessness”, and “stress” as the most common issues among secondary school teachers and students.
Teachers and students’ mental stress was also higher than in September of last year, when the same questions were posed. The deterioration can be attributed to the prolonged class suspension and more uncertainties about the future.
Social workers also said it was important that schools provide more mental health management training for both teachers and students.
The respondents also offered some suggestions about how to improve the situation, such as asking the government to offer more permanent job positions for school-based counsellors, rather than contract-based jobs. This could increase the quality of the counsellors and ensure their constant availability, so they can follow up on students’ cases more closely in the long run.
“It’s also the government’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for teenagers and educators to express their opinions,” one of the respondents pointed out in the survey. “It should encourage schools to be a safe space for free expression with mutual respect.”