One Fifth of Teachers plan to leave Hong Kong Education Sector HKPTU Appeals to the Government to Improve Governance and Stop Interference

HKPTU Reporter

In order to understand the changes in future education manpower and do strategic planning, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) investigated teachers’ intention of leaving the Hong Kong education sector and their opinions on Hong Kong’s education and social environments. The result reflected that almost one fifth (19.2%) of the respondents had planned to leave the education sector; among them, the estimated attrition rate of senior teachers in primary and secondary schools was relatively high. As for teachers who intended to leave, 71.1% indicated that the reason behind this was “increased political pressure”. Dr. FUNG Wai-wah, the President of the HKPTU, pointed out that the result revealed the enormous political pressures exerted by the Education Bureau (EDB), which had further pushed our educators away. FUNG urged the EDB to immediately stop its political interference from allowing teachers to focus on teaching and providing students with the education they need.

40% of Teachers Intend to Leave

The survey was conducted from April 29 to May 5. The HKPTU sent out online questionnaires by e-mail to teachers and principals of kindergartens, primary & secondary schools and special schools and received a total of 1,178 replies. The survey showed that 40% of teachers intended to leave the Hong Kong education sector. Among them, 226 (19.2%) teachers had planned to resign or retire early, and 248 (21.1%) teachers said they “tend to leave but do not have a specific plan.” The survey also enquired about the exact departure plan of those intended to leave; 133 (11.3%) teachers said they planned to resign or would resign by the end of the current school year; 85 (7.2%) respondents were expected to quit in 2021/22 or 2022/23, and another 192 (16.3%) respondents had yet to decide.

Primary Reason for Leaving: 70% Teachers say Political Pressure

Regarding the reasons for teachers to leave the sector, of the 474 respondents, 337 (71.1%) picked “increased political pressure” as their top motive; “dissatisfaction with Hong Kong’s social milieu” (262, 55.3%) and “dissatisfaction with Hong Kong’s education policies” (183, 38.6%) came second and third. On the other hand, of the 704 respondents who chose or preferred to stay in the sector, 408 (58.0%) stated that their main reason for staying was “accompanying their family in Hong Kong”. Respectively, another 375 (53.3%) and 309 (43.9%) teachers chose “economic conditions not allowing them to leave” and “already used to the life in Hong Kong” as their core reasons. Some respondents also specified that they decided to stay because of their passion and sense of duty in teaching.

Excerpt on reasons why teachers/principals tend to leave:

  • The quality of education in Hong Kong has gone straight downhill
  • Non-education professional serves as the Secretary of Education, and he does not know the situation in the sector which causes administrative chaos in schools, and he shows no respect to frontline teachers either.
  • Certain groups or people launch their political attack on the education sector and blame everything on teachers at will. Politics override education professions with restriction on every word and deed. In particular, the request of installing CCTV in the classroom is indeed to monitor the teachers.
  • The atmosphere of politics override professionalism

Excerpt on reasons why teachers/principals tend to stay:

  • If all the teacher are gone, what should the students do?
  • The political situation is poor, that’s why it is even more important to stay in the position and teach the next generation to follow the right path
  • I love teaching and getting along with students
  • It’s my interest and life goal to be a teacher
  • I have the responsibility to stick to my position and do my best to let students understand the truth

Teachers Dissatisfy with Social Milieu and Education Policies

The survey also asked respondents for their opinions on four areas: 1. social and political milieu; 2. education system and policies; 3. teaching environment; 4. job satisfaction. To which, as many as 80% (987 teachers) expressed their dissatisfaction with the social and political milieu. Another 923 (78.4%) teachers conveyed that they were not satisfied with the education system and policies. In terms of the teaching environment and job satisfaction, both had higher numbers of satisfaction than dissatisfaction. It reflected that the main disappointment in the sector stemmed from the poor social environment and education policies.

High Attrition Rate of Senior Primary and Secondary School Teachers

An analysis of the rankings of respondents showed that 48.1% of senior primary school teachers intended to leave, and for senior secondary school teachers, the percentage even reached 51.2%, both of which were higher than the average of other ranks. From the perspective of seniority, it could be seen that among the teachers with 21 to 30 years of experience, their intention to leave the local education sector was as high as 47.7%, resulting in a potential succession problem in management-level in the future.

Respondents’ position distribution (primary school)

Position Planned/ Tended to Leave
(Number of respondents
and percentage)
No Intention to Leave/ Tended to Stay (Number of respondents and percentage)
Principal 3 (42.9%) 4 (57.1%)
Vice Principal 6 (35.3%) 11 (64.7%)
Senior Teacher 25 (48.1%) 27 (51.9%)
Teacher holding a Permanent Post 120 (40.5%) 176 (59.5%)
Contract Teacher 14 (51.9%) 13 (48.1%)
Assistant Teacher/
Sub-Teacher/
Teaching Assistant
12 (42.9%) 16 (57.1%)

Respondents’ position distribution (secondary school)

Position Planned/ Tended to Leave
(Number of respondents
and percentage)
No Intention to Leave/
Tended to Stay (Number of
respondents and percentage)
Principal 2 (33.3%) 4 (66.7%)
Vice Principal 4 (28.6%) 10 (71.4%)
Senior Teacher 43 (51.2%) 41 (48.8%)
Teacher holding a Permanent Post 145 (39.7%) 220 (60.3%)
Contract Teacher 19 (35.2%) 35 (64.8%)
Assistant Teacher/
Sub-Teacher/
Teaching Assistant
7 (77.8%) 2 (22.2%)

FUNG Wai-wah: Stop Political Interference in Education Immediately

FUNG Wai-wah addressed whether teachers decided to leave or stay, the survey had shown that they were all dissatisfied with Hong Kong’s social milieu and education policies, which had even become the motives of some teachers’ departure. According to the survey, “increased political pressure” was the most selected reason for teachers to leave the education sector. FUNG cited another survey conducted by the HKPTU in June last year, in which more than 90% of teachers indicated that political pressure in the education sector was mainly caused by the EDB, the Government, the pro-establishment camps, the Mainland official institutions and media. Some frontline teachers have also stated that the continuous attack on Liberal Studies and the requests on installing CCTV in classrooms by some LegCo members have also exacerbated the political pressure on the education sector. FUNG urged the Government and specific LegCo members to stop these suppressing acts instantly so that the education sector could be free from political interference and provide the best education to students based on professionalism.

IP Kin-yuen: Education Policies and Teaching Environment must be Improved

IP Kin-yuen, the Vice President of the HKPTU, said that the EDB must improve the teaching environment as soon as possible to retain our teachers. In addition to immediately stop exerting political pressure, it was also necessary to respond to the long-term demands of the education sector, including: The full implementation of small class teaching in primary and secondary schools; improving the student-teacher ratio; enhancing school management ranking; expanding the staff establishment of special schools, and implementing the salary scales for kindergarten teachers. He also paid particular attention to the impact on the quality of education brought by the surge in departure. IP pointed out: “A stable teaching team is extremely important for maintaining the teaching quality and passing on experience. The estimation on the succession problem in management-level is worrying. The Government must listen to teachers’ opinions and improve its governance and education policies. Otherwise, there will be a continuous loss of teaching talents in schools, which will be a great cost to the education sector and the entire Hong Kong.”

For the full press release, please visit: https://www.hkptu.org/89935 (Chinese version)