Bidding farewell to the Legislative Council

Dear Members,

My greetings to you. Eight years have lapsed since I took office as a Legislative Councillor in 2012. With my imminent departure from the Legislative Council, I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for all the support and encouragement you have given me. While I will be leaving the Legislative Council on 1 December, I will continue to serve as a Vice-President of HKPTU and will continue to safeguard the work of the education sector.

Undoubtedly, we are at a very difficult time, but we should not lose hope. Looking back over the past eight years, the first five years were almost hopeless. My counterpart was a Secretary for Education who was more enthusiastic about travel than education. All our requests elicited no response. It was like calling out to the sea and receiving no echoes. However, not for a moment did we cease sowing seeds. Our appeals time and time again (such as making expositions on teacher-to-class ratios, conducting surveys on contract teachers, and expressing concern over a salary scale for kindergarten teachers) gradually formed a social consensus, and eventually blossomed and bore fruit in the initial period of the new-term Government. The improvements in the establishment of teachers, the pegging of teaching posts at the GM/APSM level, the increase in university research funding, the expected emergence of a salary scale for kindergarten teachers, etc. seen in 2017 were certainly not fortuitous. In times of difficulty, we must continue to sow seeds.

With the authorities wielding power to oppress, and the pro-establishment camp unceasingly intensifying their criticism, the difficulties we face today have become particularly forbidding. At a time when society is torn apart and when distortions and smears are rampant, we must be more united than ever. We will continue to adhere to peaceful means in defending ‘One country, Two systems’. We must also protect our team and our beloved seedlings with meticulous care. We must – without being servile nor supercilious – hold fast to education professionalism.

One’s integrity emerges in the face of adversity and those who evince it will go down in history. The essence of education is hope. We are pinning our hopes on the next generation. Difficult days, even worse than now, will eventually be gone. What matters is to persevere, keep our conscience, continue to sow seeds, and hope that once the difficulties are over, we will be able to be greeted by beautiful flower seedlings all over the place.

IP Kin-yuen

Legislative Councillor (Education)

Vice-President, HKPTU

November 2020

Responding to the Policy Address relating to policies on education Responding to an open letter issued by four police staff associations condemning President TUAN Sung-chi of CUHK Responding to EDB cancelling the registration of a Ho Lap Primary School teacher
Cancellation of a teacher’s registration implicates headmaster and colleagues: 70% of headmasters consider this unreasonable Snapshots Speeches

Responding to the Policy Address relating to policies on education

The overall impression one gets from the new Policy Address is the strengthening of monitoring and control. One cannot see Carrie LAM having had any sincere self-reflection over the serious problems confronting Hong Kong over the past year or so. She simply criticizes the public and puts the blame on external factors. She has not reflected on the Government’s serious blunders in the whole process. Nor has she offered any apologies or responded to people’s request for an independent investigation. With such an attitude – which can be likened to ‘seeking fish by climbing up a tree’ – it would not be possible to restore people’s trust in the Government, a wish she mentioned when concluding the Policy Address.

For the public’s grievances – caused by Government’s implementation blunders – LAM put the blame on education, teachers, and Liberal Studies. As teachers, we are very much saddened to see 2,000 secondary and primary school students arrested. It is, however, important that LAM recognise the existence of indiscriminate arrests. Glutted with a large number of new infrastructure projects, the Policy Address is – apart from co-ordinating with developments in the Greater Bay Area – seriously deficient in new initiatives in education. There is no mention whatsoever of issues eagerly awaited by the education sector such as a salary scale for kindergarten teachers, rationalizing the remuneration structures for headmasters and middle-level management in primary schools, and improvements to sub-standard school premises.

The Policy Address highlights the importance of cultivating morality and proper values education. This is something to which we certainly agree and to which teachers have all along attached importance. This, however, should not be done at the expense of the cultivation of high-level thinking, such as independent thinking. As regards LAM’s emphasis on taking so-called ‘follow-up’ actions on the conduct of teachers, I would like to reiterate that the current mechanism used by EDB for handling complaints lacks transparency and the results therefrom have been unreasonable. If the Government continues to adopt the same approach in handling complaints, this amounts to nothing but using the complaints mechanism to carry out political suppression and create white terror. I pray that our teachers can embrace hope and overcome difficulties together.

Responding to an open letter issued by four police staff associations condemning President TUAN Sung-chi of CUHK

The four police staff associations condemned President TUAN Sung-chi in the form of an open letter. I find the tone in the letter highly frivolous with a sense of sarcasm. Issuing such a letter to a leading figure in the post-secondary, intellectual and education circles is profoundly disrespectful.

If the police staff associations do represent the Police Force, I question the self-reflection ability of the Force. The open letter pointed out that ‘admitting one’s own faults is a prerequisite for starting anew’ and asked ‘whether one should first check the mistakes one has made’. The four police staff associations and Police Force should also be able to do what they preach. The Police Force should pledge to offer society an opportunity for verification, an investigation – to be conducted in a fair, just and open manner – into what they did in the past year. For this, the Police Force should no longer refuse an independent investigation. Only when the Police Force accepts an independent investigation will the public be convinced. Unilaterally accusing President TUEN is also inconsistent with the status of the four police staff associations.

Responding to EDB cancelling the registration of a Ho Lap Primary School teacher

On 12 November, EDB announced the cancellation of a teacher’s registration. HKPTU has been following up on the case. We consider that the punishment is out of proportion. The teacher admittedly made mistakes in teaching. Never have we, however, seen such mistakes leading directly to de-registration instead of EDB offering assistance or meting out punishment of a general nature.

EDB’s press release mentioned that the teacher had inadequate subject knowledge and had not done sufficient lesson preparation resulting in mistakes being made in the teaching of the Opium War and the four great inventions of China. It should, however, be noted that the teacher had already apologized for the teaching content of the Opium War and provided corrections. On China’s four great inventions, the teacher clearly, when replying to EDB, stated that the content was based on information available on Educational Television. The teacher’s explanation was, however, ignored, and the teacher was not given an opportunity to present his case in person, which reflected violation of procedural justice on the part of EDB.

Since the incident came to light, the pro-establishment camp kept criticizing the teacher and demanding that EDB immediately dismiss the teacher and cancel the teacher’s registration. We very much question whether these pressures have eventually led to EDB cancelling the teacher’s registration. HKPTU will continue to help the teacher to secure fair comments and treatment and to lodge an appeal. We are most infuriated to see EDB abusing ‘capital punishment’. We believe that many teachers have, since the exposure of the case, become very much worried, quietly saying that a mistake could have serious consequences and may easily lead to the ‘capital punishment’ of de-registration.

Cancellation of a teacher’s registration implicates headmaster and colleagues: 70% of headmasters consider this unreasonable

A teacher of Alliance Primary School (Kowloon Tong) was accused of spreading, in a planned manner, Hong Kong independence during teaching. EDB cancelled the teacher’s registration on grounds of ‘serious professional misconduct’. The headmaster and deputy headmaster of the school were considered not to have exercised effective supervision and hence have been served with a letter of reprimand. In a survey conducted by HKPTU with headmasters on the cancellation of the teacher’s registration, more than 70% (72.8%) of the respondents considered that the information and justifications provided by EDB were not sufficiently convincing.

As regards reprimanding the headmaster and deputy headmaster of the school for ineffective supervision, nearly 80% (79.2%) of the Headmasters considered the action unreasonable. Besides, more than 70% (73.6%) of the headmasters believed that it was unreasonable for EDB to also serve written warnings on a few other teachers..

This incident will undoubtedly have a long-term adverse impact on Hong Kong’s education. In fact, an atmosphere of political criticism levelled at the education sector has already developed, and the pro-establishment camp has long stated that education is a key target for rectification. With the active cooperation of the authorities, suppression of a more severe nature of the education sector will surely keep coming. As a teachers’ union, HKPTU will continue to fully support teachers in lodging appeals and provide emergency subsistence to teachers. HKPTU calls on colleagues in the education sector and the public to support teachers in their efforts to seek justice.

Oblate Primary School: flu vaccination

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of recession, the flu season has rushed in. Again, accompanying the team of Dr. IP Kai-ming of the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong, I visited Oblate Primary School on 4 November to get a better understanding of the arrangement for influenza vaccination of school children amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to encourage students to strengthen their fight against the diseases.

Sharing his experience, Headmaster WONG Chi-chung of Oblate Primary School said that the herd instinct of ‘fear at the sight of an injection needle’ was not uncommon in the past. Having confirmed the safety of the two types of vaccines, he had hoped that all the students (more than 500 of them) of the school would participate in the vaccination plan and that vaccination of all the students could be completed before school – operating only on a half-day basis – was over on the day of vaccination. After discussing with teachers and parents, a decision had been taken to try ‘painless’ vaccination this year. According to the Headmaster’s records and comparisons, it took less than 3 hours for the Hong Kong University medical team to complete the vaccination process for all the students of the school. He also indicated that nasal spraying was ‘definitely faster than injections’. He even specifically went to five Primary 1 classes and asked the students how they felt about the ‘spraying’. A referendum among them came up with a unanimous support for ‘nose spraying’.

Will continue to pay attention to and fight for teachers’ rights

Continuing to fight for a salary scale for kindergarten teachers

In a written question to the Legislative Council on 18 November, I followed up on this issue, which appeared as a policy in the election platform of the current Chief Executive but has not yet been implemented. I pointed out that EDB had already taken 3 years to collect data but still had not yet published its preliminary consultation results.

In its reply, EDB indicated that consultation work on a salary scale for kindergarten teachers was still ongoing and that the entire review work was expected to be completed in 2021. HKPTU and I will, working together with the kindergarten sector, follow up on the issue to ensure the provision of improvements.

Rationalising the establishment of management staff and their salary structures

The Chief Executive put forward this policy in the 2018 Policy Address to support the implementation of full-time schooling for primary schools and the pegging of all teaching posts at the GM/APSM level. However, this policy has not yet been implemented. Funding for the policy was originally scheduled to be discussed in the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council on July 5 last year, but the meeting was eventually cancelled. The authorities have not yet included it again in a meeting agenda.

To follow up on the issue, I wrote to the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) in March and October respectively. After consulting EDB, FSTB replied to say, ‘EDB has been following up on the issue and maintaining close communication with the industry and relevant departments, with a view to submitting its recommendations to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for consideration and early implementation of relevant measures. When EDB has finalized the timetable, we will follow up with a meeting agenda.’

11 November 2020 Legislative Council
EDB cancels a teacher’s registration: other teachers implicated

6 November 2020 Subcommittee on Medical Laboratory Technologists (Special Exemption) Regulation
Expressing concern over the rationale for classifying teaching staff as a specific group for COVID-19 testing

6 November 2020 Panel on Education
Expressing concern over the development of degrees on vocational and professional education

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen