PTU News Reporter
Last week, Ip Kin-yuen, our representative in the Legislative Council, moved a motion criticising Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim and the Education Bureau for failing to address pressing issues in education. He urged Mr. Ng to reflect deeply on himself, and called on the government to improve the implementation of its education policy and increase spending on education so as to rebuild public confidence in our education system. The motion was eventually defeated.
The education sector’s growing frustration with the Secretary of Education is manifested in our recent survey. In the survey, members from different education sub-sectors were asked to rate the performance of Mr. Ng and the Education Bureau on a 0-5 point scale. Half of the 2,798 respondents gave Mr. Ng 0 point, and one third gave him 1 point. If 2.5 is the passing mark, 97% of the respondents thought Mr. Ng failed in his job. Regarding the performance of the Education Bureau, 47% of the respondents gave the EDB 0 point, while 35% gave 1 point. Secondary school teachers were the most dissatisfied with the performance of Mr. Ng and the EDB, while kindergarten teachers had the lowest approval of the education policy in relation to their sub-sector.
These numbers are shocking but not surprising, considering how pathetic Mr. Ng’s performance has been. In fact, his suitability as Secretary of Education has been subject to question from the beginning, as his work experience is primarily in human resources management.
The Secretary’s incompetence is compounded by his rigidity and insensitivity to the needs of the community and the education sector. In face of the decline in secondary one population, the influx of cross-border children and the growth in primary one population in districts like Yuen Long, Kuen Tong and Tai Po, Mr. Ng and his team were like groping in the dark, incapable of devising effective plans to address these problems before they turned into crises.
We have reached a consensus in support of free early childhood education, which is also included in Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying’s election platform. Contrary to public expectations, Mr. Ng has yet to offer a blueprint for its implementation. He has also turned a blind eye to the occupational stress of teachers and the shortage of permanent teaching posts. Notwithstanding all these pressing issues that require immediate action, Mr. Ng continued to make overseas visits.
Yet nothing is more damaging than placing education in the service of politics. Right after he took office in July 2012, Mr. Ng pushed forward the development of moral and national education as an independent subject in spite of the opposition from the majority of the people. The government backed down only after more than a hundred thousand people took to the street to protest against the programme. Last month, Mr. Ng publicly denounced the ‘Occupy Central’ movement as unlawful and warned that teachers have to face ‘consequences for their careers’ if they participate or arrange for students to participate in the movement. His remarks amount to open intimidation and interference with professional independence.
This is the worst of times; yet there is no place for despair. We as education workers should remain steadfast so that we can sail through the storm even with an incompetent captain.