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Hong Kong teachers must promote national education under revamped code of conduct – YP

Hong Kong teachers must actively promote national education and report possible illegal activities or “morally deviant information” under the government’s revised code of conduct, and failure to do so could Result in deregistration.

Education Minister Christine Choi Yuk-lin said the revised code, announced Thursday, provides clearer guidance for teachers.

“We have clearly stated what it comes down to so that teachers can understand it, it will not be just empty principles. This should help them,” Choi said.

The former government promised to review the code after lawmakers accused some teachers of participating in or inciting students to participate in illegal activities during the 2019 social unrest.

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The government also in May disbanded a self-regulatory body, the Council for Professional Behavior in Education, which had been investigating complaints for nearly three decades after it was accused of being too slow to handle unrest-related complaints.

The new code spells out eight principles for teachers to follow, including the need to “proactively support and promote national education, cultivate a proper perception of the country among students” and report any potential illegal activity to the school or the police.

Teachers will also have to abide by the rule of law, be a role model and respect the privacy of others. They must also report “information that violates the law or generally accepted moral norms in society” to the school management or the police.

Teachers were also advised to refrain from “choosing teaching materials that were inconsistent with the Education Office and relevant guidelines.”

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Christine Choi, Hong Kong’s Minister of Education. Photo: May Tse

Choi dismissed concerns that it would be difficult for teachers to cover controversial topics, such as the Tiananmen Square crackdown, under the new guidelines.

“Any trained teacher would know what to do,” she said. “The eight to ten lessons a day are like meals for students. If it contains poison, the student will become ill, which will affect his cognitive development.”

Schools are required to prepare an investigative report for the agency on complaints against teachers, who are given 14 days to respond if their case is well founded.

A task force made up of education officials from the directorate would then decide on punishment, ranging from warning letters to a deregistration period of at least three years and up to life in prison.

If a teacher is eligible for deregistration, he or she has an additional 14 days to submit a statement defending their position.

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If the defense is not accepted, the teacher involved has 21 days to appeal to a panel and a final appeal to the principal if the first attempt fails.

The agency said those not deregistered for life could apply to re-register after at least three years to prove they were qualified to teach.

Eleven past cases were also included in the code as examples, including an incident in which a liberal studies teacher was expelled for continuously using large amounts of teaching materials that were deemed “biased, negative, inaccurate, and deviating from the curriculum.”

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A head of the subject panel that teaches citizenship and social development at a secondary school said she had already reminded her colleagues not to use homemade learning materials because it could put them at risk.

The Education Bureau announces the new code of conduct for teachers in Hong Kong. Photo: May Tse

“We now only use the official materials provided by the textbook publishers. Even the vendors encouraged us to use their materials, as teachers could shift the blame to the publishers if they turn out to be inappropriate,” said the teacher, who did not wish to be identified.

Wong Kin-ho, a secondary school deputy principal and president of the Hong Kong Education Workers Union, also said teachers who teach sensitive topics such as citizenship and social development and Chinese history should choose materials that have been vetted by the agency.

Choi dismissed concerns that the new guidelines could limit classroom discussion and use of school materials for fear of accidental missteps.

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“We talk about this because teachers have the space [to design their own teaching materials]. If there wasn’t room, there wouldn’t be a need to discuss this,” Choi said.

Lee Yi-ying, head of the Council for Public Secondary Schools, said teachers who refused to participate in activities to promote national education and the safety law “could get into trouble” under the new code.

But she said she didn’t think the new guideline would lead to higher employee turnover, as the code was generally acceptable.

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Lin Chun-pong, president of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, urged the agency to create a statutory body including principals and teachers to deal with complaints, rather than just allowing officials handle things.

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