HKPTU News Reporter
In the face of the rapid development of self-financing education, the Post Secondary Colleges Ordinance (Cap. 320) has not been amended for over a decade, and many of its provisions have become outdated. As early as 2018, the HKPTU has already handed in two submissions to the Task Force on Review of Self-financing Post-secondary Education, proposing to reform the Ordinance, and reiterated the urgent need for reform to the Legislative Council Panel on Education in 2019. The Government finally published a consultation document in late December 2020 to launch a consultation on the review of the Post Secondary Colleges Ordinance. President of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) Fung Wai-wah is pleased to see that the legislative amendment exercise has finally made concrete progress and accepted some of HKPTU’s requests to repeal many outdated provisions and enhance the financial transparency of the institutions. Yet, he believes that the consultation proposal still lacks protection for institutional autonomy.
HKPTU Demands Disclosure of Financial Reports
For many years, the HKPTU has been urging the government to reform the law and abolish many outdated provisions, such as the requirement of wards in school dormitories and the requirement of health checks for students before admission and in every six months. The HKPTU also called for greater financial transparency of self-financing institutions, requiring them to make public their annual audit reports. In the consultation paper, the Government proposed to repeal a large number of outdated provisions so that the Ordinance can better meet the operational needs of the institutions nowadays. With regards to enhancing the financial transparency of the institutions, the consultation paper proposed that the institutions should disclose key financial information to the public, such as total income, expenditure and reserves. The HKPTU welcomes these proposals as they respond to some of its demands over the years. However, the HKPTU still hopes that the Government will further clarify the scope of “key financial information”, such as whether it includes the remuneration of senior management and the percentage of management’s remuneration in the overall remuneration expenses of the school, so that the public can monitor the finance more effectively. The consultation paper also suggested that institutions should be required to develop strategic plans every five years and to produce annual reports, but these documents are only to be submitted to the Permanent Secretary for Education. Fung remarks that the strategic plans and annual reports should also be made public for students and faculty so that they can voice their opinions.
Government Should Not Interfere with Personnel Management
Under the current law, institutions are required to submit applications to the Permanent Secretary before hiring teachers. In the consultation paper the Education Bureau proposed such requirement and replace it by a set of “open, transparent and fair employment policies and procedures” established by the institutions themselves. However, the Bureau intends to retain the requirement for Council members, presidents and vice-presidents to register with the Permanent Secretary, and to introduce a sanction mechanism to empower the Permanent Secretary to impose registration conditions on individuals, or even suspend or cancel the registration of Council members, presidents and vice-presidents. Fung Wai-wah said that the HKPTU supported the abolition of the requirement for staff to register with the Bureau, but believed that the Bureau should go further and abolish the registration requirements for Council members, principals and vice-principals as well, in order to achieve true institutional autonomy. He was also worried about the introduction of a wider disciplinary mechanism, especially in the recent case of complaints against primary and secondary school teachers, which has eroded public confidence in the Bureau’s ability to handle complaints and disciplinary actions. He expressed his opposition to the government’s interference in the personnel management of the institutions. Misconduct or poor performance of individual managers can be handled by the councils themselves.
Fung opined that the deregistration of institutions should not be done lightly and the macro-environment’s short-term impacts on institutions should be reasonably tolerated in particular. He believes that unless there are serious violations, such as when the teaching environment endangers the personal safety of teachers and students, misappropriation of school funds, or dissemination of misleading information by schools during enrollment, the Bureau should not lightly cancel the registration of institutions.
The HKPTU will submit its proposals shortly. Should members have any suggestions or opinions, they are welcome to reach out to the Education Research Department at [email protected] by 28th February. All collected feedback will be consolidated and submitted to the Bureau.