teachers in Hong Kong leave in the shadow of security law, schools struggle to fill gaps

HONG KONG, Sept 17 (Reuters) – For his last class in Hong-Kong in In July, Fong, a liberal studies teacher, showed his students calligraphy by the late Democratic activist Szeto Wah: “Choose the right path and stick to it.” He emigrated to Britain days later.

fong is one of many teachers die left Hong Kong for the school year began in September, some said they felt disillusioned and threatened by the authoritarian turn die the city has lasted since Beijing a strict national security law in June 2020.

“The day I quit my job, I said to my school, ‘If… one bye, some students downstairs are chanting slogans, I should call the police to arrest my own students’,” said 45-year-old Fong, who only asked to be identified by one name for fear of attract attention of authorities. ‘I couldn’t. And I couldn’t hold back my tears.’

different clients who spoke met Reuters said teachers would leave this year at about twice the normal one rate, leave something of they clamber for new recruits.

Hong Kong Association of heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) warned the government in july that would cause a “brain drain” die would reduce the quality of education in the city. About 700,000 students attend about 1,000 primary and secondary schools in Hong-Kong.

“Training environment and also the atmosphere has changed quite drastic in the past two years,” Samuel Cheng, principal of United Christian College – Kowloon East, told Reuters up by their friends and colleagues who left so i have to help at least they have calmed down emotionally down. I have to stabilize the school.”

In response to Reuters’ questions, Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said teachers may have quit met the education profession for other jobs of pursue studies, of for other personal reasons, and did not go in on the issue of a brain drain. It said the national security law had no impact on the education sector of the quality of Education.

“The claim of the so-called departing teachers is totally biased and unfounded on proof,” said the EDB: in a statement to Reuters. “It is inherently misleading and statistically biased to view the views of these individual teachers as representative of the education professionals in general.”


It is impossible to determine how a lot of of the nearly 60,000 teachers in the former British colony left this summer, of intend to leave this year. figures on teacher employment for this school year collected by the EDB are not yet available.

The Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU), Hong Kong’s largest union before it was disbanded this month, said: in may that 40% of teachers die it investigated wanted to leave the education sector.

Some have emigrated, although Hong Kong does not publish information on how a lot of people the territory of leave their profession.

UK, Canada and others countries said dozens of thousands of Hongkongers have emigrated in the past year of like this, out of An total population of 7.5 million.

An of that was Grace Kwok, a 33-year-old music lecturer who moved to Great Britain in January. She told Reuters what parents complained to her principal after telling the students that Tian Han, who wrote the lyrics of China’s national national anthem, “March of the volunteers,” died in prison during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in the 60’s.

“I do not do want to teach my students values die I don’t believe in,” said Kwok. “I don’t want to be in danger.”

Training system has become one key target of a broader plan by Chinese leaders to reform Hong Kong’s rebellious youth after often violent pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019.

almost 20% of the more than 10,000 people were arrested during the protests of school age. About 100 school teachers and staff were also arrested, according to the city training secretary.

In February, Hong Kong introduced new curriculum guidelines die to make sure that: children if young if six to learn more over China and get a lesson over the national security law, die made every act die Beijing considers secession, subversion, terrorism of conspiracy with foreign troops punished met up to life in prison.

The EDB has replaced the topic of liberal studies – die it introduced in 2009 to increase social involvement and development critical think – with a smaller module called “citizenship and” social development” die focuses on patriotism.

References to the bloody crackdown in 1989 on protesters in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing and the “Umbrella Movement” Protests of 2014 in Hong Kong has been removed from textbooks seen by Reuters, by with other pro-democracy events.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said: last year die teachers who goods “bad apples” should be removed of the education system. The EDB told Reuters that it had 269 complaints from June 2019 to December 2020. over misconduct from teachers. It did not provide any details of the complaints.

Under pressure from the authorities, the PTU was officially dissolved earlier this month. The Hong Kong government had already break ties with the 95,000 strong union, which is the state of China media had described it as a “toxic tumor.” read more


The EDB told Reuters that 4% to 5% of teachers in primary and secondary schools disappeared out each year for the past four years. It has no data for the school year just started.

Some principals told Reuters that teacher turnover has been high this summer higher than that. Dion Chen, Chairman of Hong Kong Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council, said many schools five of six dismissal of teachers, with some report 15 to 20, more then in previous years. Not all were caused by emigration, he said, but the rooms triggered “a music chair” effect” of teachers change jobs.

Tai Tak Ching, who retired as the head of the Wan Chai District Directors Conference in August, an estimated five to seven layoffs per school, compared met with only two of three in recent years.

Polly Chan, Vice-President of the Hong Kong Aided Primary School Heads Council, said four teachers at her Yaumati Catholic Primary School – Hoi Wang Road emigrated and she had to replace 10 teachers in total over the summer. Chan said the higher turnover was caused by “the pandemic, plus social disturbances, plus political reasons.” She said that emigration had only become a major factor in this year.

Cheng of United Christian College – Kowloon East said he was 14 . had to replace of are 80 teachers this summer: nine emigrated, four changed schools and one met pension. He said he never had to replace before more than three of four.

Most of die who left had taught at the school for more than 15 years, he said, but some of their replacements did not have the postgraduate diploma required to completely qualify as a teacher, which Cheng described as a “compromise.”

Cheng told Reuters that he had brought back a retired teacher to guide one of the new recruits, hired an outside company in to help the new Japanese teacher and internally assigned mentors for the rest of the new staff. He said he expects the “big last” of emigration to last two more of three years.

“Education takes a hit because the people with experience go away in crowds,” former PTU President Fung Wai-wah told Reuters, before the union dissolved.

Reporting by Sara Cheng in Hong Kong Writing by Marius Zaharia Editing by Bill Rigby

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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