Education Bureau Puts Politics over Examination System  PTU Critises the Government and Pro-Establishment for Launching a Full Attack at the Education Sector

PTU News Reporter

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung called a press conference on 15th May to claim the reference materials provided for a question about the Sino-Japanese relations in this year’s Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) history examination to be inappropriate. He demanded the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) to invalidate the question and said personnel would be sent to the HKEAA to review their setting, vetting, and approval mechanism of the HKDSE questions. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) criticized Yeung’s notion and his attempt at political missions at the expense of Hong Kong’s examination and assessment system. The PTU said recent events reflected the government and pro-establishment’s full attack at the education sector. PTU Vice-President and lawmaker for Education constituency Ip Kin-yuen said a letter would be sent to the Chairman of the Panel on Education of the Legislative Council, demanding an urgent meeting to discuss the event as well as retracting the decision. Ip reiterated the Japanese invasion had caused Chinese people devastating damage and the PTU had always been distraught by this invasion.

Ip Kin-yuen: Education Bureau’s Reckless Decision Must Be Immediately Retracted

Ever since Carrie Lam’s claimed of gatekeeping education, the education sector has been facing a full-blown attack from the government and pro-establishment, including digging out a HKEAA staff member’s social media post from years ago, leftist newspapers’ attacks on the education sector, and the Education Bureau’s blatant interference in and destruction of the HKDSE. All of these point to waves after waves of attacks on the education sector. The PTU questions the Education Bureau for damaging the HKDSE’s fairness and forgoing candidates’ benefits for political missions. The PTU criticized the government for claiming a strict separation of politics and education earlier, but imposes pressure now on education sector from the perspectives of teaching materials, course content, and examination system and invading teachers’ privacy to create white terror.

Regarding the Education Bureau’s dispatch of personnel to review HKEAA’s setting, vetting, and approval mechanism of HKDSE questions, the PTU said it is both an act of imposing pressure on the HKEAA and interference in drafting questions. The PTU stated that the existing mechanism at HKEAA includes and consults frontline teachers, principals, and tertiary education experts. Professional advice from academia is expansively considered and cannot be influenced by individuals. The Education Bureau should not recklessly interfere. As for the Education Bureau’s request of invalidating the question concerned, the PTU said invalidating questions is not a common consensus in academia and such request is yet another attempt to override the profession of education with politics. Ip criticized such decisions compare to the Cultural Revolution and demands the Education Bureau to retract its decision to invalidate the question in concern and dispatch of personnel to the HKEAA, so that the HKEAA and the responsible committee to handle the matter professionally.

History Teacher: Invalidating the Question Is Unfair to Candidates

PTU Executive Committee member and history teacher Cheung Wong said the Education Bureau’s criticism on the question concerned is unreasonable. He said the assessment of History mainly consists of open-end questions. Candidates are assessed by their ability to gain a comprehensive understanding of historical facts instead of answering based on their personal opinion. Reference materials are provided only to assist candidates in forming their arguments. In no way are candidates expected to agree with the materials’ standpoint. Candidates are also expected to refer to historical knowledge beyond the reference materials. Answering the question solely based on provided reference materials is considered partial. Cheung worries the Education Bureau came to a decision without communicating with or consulting academia. Such practice is disrespectful to the education sector, undermines the academic freedom of setting questions for public examinations, and invalidating any questions is extremely unfair to the candidates. Cheung added that candidates exhaust their knowledge and skills in answering the questions, and invalidating the question without gaining an understanding of the situation and before the HKDSE ends, might impose insurmountable pressure on candidates, and affect their performance in the upcoming papers.

On 22nd May, the HKEAA announced invalidation of the concerned question. PTU regrets about HKEAA’s decision, and expresses strong condemnation against the actions of the Education Bureau. According to a survey done by the PTU, 97 per cent of the history teachers object the invalidation of that question, and more than 90 per cents of them believe such invalidation is unfair to candidates.

Ip Kin-yuen Criticised Tang Ping-keung’s Letter to and Putting Pressure on the Education University

Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung sent a letter to the President of the Education University of Hong Kong Professor Stephan Cheung Yan-leung, accusing the university’s lecturer Choi Chun-wai of hate speech against the police and that he expects Professor Cheung to ‘seriously follow up on the incident’ and to ensure the teachers’ ‘conduct is professional’. PTU Vice-President and lawmaker for Education constituency Ip Kin-yuen said such act imposes pressure on the University and compares it to the behaviour of Arthur Li and Fanny Law during the 2007 incident of the university’s (at the time known as the Hong Kong Institute of Education).

Ip reiterated freedom of speech is part of Hong Kong citizens’ basic rights. Tang’s letter to the university as the Commissioner of Police is merely putting pressure on the university and negligent of the university’s academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Ip said it was already made clear in the 2007 incident that Fanny Law’s putting pressure on the university in an official position undermined academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Law also stepped down as a result. Tang has not learnt from the lesson and committed the same mistake 13 years later. The government should restrict heads of governmental bodies from interfering with academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Ip asks the Education University to remain unaffected and independent from external pressure and defend their institutional autonomy. He reiterated freedom of speech is a significant pillar of societal advancement and has to be protected. Ip also criticized the police’s constant criticism of others and lack of self-reflection. There have been many issues in the police force in the past year, but there is no sign of any reflection. He added that an independent inquiry should be established and the police should exercise self control.