Hong Kong teachers report being bullied at school

Staff writer
  • 53 per cent of educators surveyed by the Professional Teachers’ Union had encountered workplace bullying by colleagues
  • Many don’t know how to voice their complaints or are afraid because of an imbalance of power
Staff writer |

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Sadly, school can be a tough place for teachers as well as students. Photo: SCMP / Robert Ng

It’s not only students who get bullied at school. More than half the 1,200 Hong Kong teachers polled in a new survey said they had been bullied by colleagues in the past six months.

But many were reluctant to speak out, prompting the city’s biggest educators’ union to call for legislation to better protect them.

The findings released by the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) on Tuesday also found that more than 70 per cent of teachers didn’t think schools’ existing complaint mechanisms could appropriately handle their situations.

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The results came just a month after a coroner ruled a primary schoolteacher’s 2019 death a suicide, saying she had been driven to end her life by the principal who repeatedly shamed her and pressured her to resign. An inadequate complaint mechanism was specified as a contributing factor.

“Workplace bullying is a serious problem at schools,” Fung Wai-wah, president of the PTU, said.

“Under an imbalance of power, especially for temporary teachers or staff on [fixed-term] contracts, many are afraid to speak out even when they witness their colleagues being bullied.”

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The survey polled 1,283 educators, including 657 primary schoolteachers and 544 from secondary schools.

More than 53 per cent of teachers said they had encountered workplace bullying – defined by the union as an abuse of power or unfair treatment through repeated insults, isolation or threats – at least once in the past six months. About 25 per cent said they were being bullied at work at least once a month on average.

Some 71 per cent of teachers, meanwhile, “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” that existing mechanisms allowed them to express their concerns freely, while more than 56 per cent said they did not know how to make complaints when confronted by unfair treatment.

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