Surge in Hong Kong teachers quitting leads to hiring difficulties for schools in subjects like English, education minister says

  • Schools are struggling to recruit teachers for subjects such as English language and home economics
  • Secretary for Education Christine Choi vows to liaise with institutions to adjust training quotas for teachers, denies study tours in mainland China are brainwashing attempts

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Schools are having difficulties recruiting teachers for certain subjects. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong schools are struggling to fill positions for subjects such as English language and home economics as the number of teachers leaving has drastically increased, the new education minister has revealed, while pledging to liaise with institutions to adjust training quotas.

Secretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin on Sunday also denied that study tours to mainland China for senior secondary school students – part of the revamped citizenship and social development subject – were attempts to brainwash the children.

Choi admitted that some schools were facing difficulties in hiring teachers for certain subjects even though there was adequate training provided.

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“During our recent meetings with school principals, some of them told us that it was difficult to recruit teachers for certain subjects such as English language and home economics,” she said during a radio show. “In the future, we will further connect with teacher training institutions to see how we can adjust the quotas of their places, so that the supply of [teachers] can be more adequate.”

The Education Bureau revealed in May that the number of teachers who had left public and direct subsidy schools had jumped to 4,050 in the current academic year, a 70 per cent increase from 2,380 in the previous one.

The reasons for leaving included retirement, pursuit of further education, new employment opportunities in private or international schools, change of profession and personal reasons.

Secretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin. Photo: Nora Tam

Choi added different factors contributed to the large number of departures.

“One of the reasons is that some teachers chose to change their career fields. For example, [people specialising in] information technology and English language are also in high demand in other industries,” she said.

The bureau last week released a new guideline, saying schools must submit plans for mandatory study tours on the mainland by the end of this month for students from Forms Four to Six, as part of the citizenship and social development subject. The trips will be fully subsidised by authorities.

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The subject replaced liberal studies at the start of the academic year, with a stronger focus on appreciating Chinese culture and nurturing students’ “sense of national identity”.

Choi said parents should not be “too negative” about the trips, denying claims that authorities were attempting to brainwash the children.

“Children will face the world, which is massive, in the future. [During those trips], we will allow them to have first-hand experiences in the field. How will it be brainwashing?” she said.

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“When the students come back from the trips, they have to share their experiences with their classmates and reflect on the experiences. This is multifaceted and all-rounded learning.”

On how teachers could talk about topics such as the Cultural Revolution during lessons, Choi said those events were just a small part of the 5,000 years of Chinese culture and students should have a comprehensive understanding of the country’s history.

Teachers were allowed to discuss challenges or negative events that happened in the country’s past, but their discussions should always focus on how to make improvements and prevent similar incidents from happening, she added.

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