to see the wood for the trees,
who is going to be accountable for violating
the stability of the teaching profession?
Cheung Man Kwong' reply to the Ombudsman' report on the arrangement
fo surplus teachers
the 21st of May, the Ombudsman published its report on the surplus
teachers of government-aided primary schools, criticizing officials
for adopting the various measures in the arrangement of surplus
teachers; including the identification fo srplus teachers on
the basis of "last in, first out", encouraging schools
to fill vacant positions by hiring surplus teachers first, and
the setting up of the "special supply teachers' category.
In the past few years, the shrinking popultaion of the territory
complicates the process of helping surplus teachers find new
jobs, which has been a joint operation of the Union and the
EMB for nearly thirty years. In response fo the criticism, Mr.
Cheung Man Kwong, President of the Professional Teachers' Union,
claims that the Ombudsman is failing to see the wood for the
trees, and completely ignoring the importance of maintaining
the stability of the teaching profession so as to preserve the
quality of education. In the following interview, Mr. Cheung
is going to clarify the rationale behind the existing arrangement
of surplus teachers.
reporter, C: Cheung Man Kwong
Ombudsman first criticizes that the EMB's practice which requires
schools to follow the "last to join, first to go' principle
in deciding who is to dismiss, instead of on merit, is depriving
young teachers of job opportunity by favouring their experienced
colleagues. Do you think the criticism is justified?
The "last in, first out" principle has been adopted
for years to maintain the identification processs of surplus
teachers in an orderly and systematic manner, so as to prevent
the process from being exploited and teachers labelled. In a
way, it also minimizes the chance of corruption in the process
and disputes among teachers. Furthermore, schools can first
decide who can stay according to their school-based subject
needs, and the remaining ones would then follow the principle
in the arrangement.
Teachers with bad performance should only be handled according
to the procedure stated in the 毧ode of Aids'. Otherwise, all
surplus teachers will be labelled as bad teachers and it is
not fair for those long serving and experienced teachers who
have done nothing wrong, but been made redundant only because
of the falling enrollment.
Moreover, the Union demands EMB to make sure those schools adopting
the school-based principle in the arrangment should be open,
fair and reasonable throughout the screening process. If not,
disputes among teachers upon class-cutting issue will surely
appear and thus, affecting the quality of education.
do you think about the Ombudsman's criticism of the EMB's practice
of asking schools to fill vacant positions by only hiring surplus
teachers for a preferential period is contrary to the school-based
principle? Do you agree that such a practice actually increase
the anxiety and frustration of the fresh graduates of education
as it is difficult for them to get employed?
When schools fills vacant positions with surplus teachers,
they will recruit them according to their own needs and conditions.
It is not in contrary to the school-based principle as the schools
have a wide range of freedom in making their decisions. All
schools are members of the whole education profession; therefore,
the recruitment of teaching staff in a particular school is
not simply a matter concerning only the employer and its employees.
The recruitment process is bound by the Eduction Regulations
and the Code of Aids. In this sense, the arrangement of surplus
teachers should be treated as an internal re-deployment within
the whole profession. Then, the preferential period is set to
help the experienced and dedicated surplus teachers to new positions
so that their experience will not be wasted.
Frankly speaking, I am deeply aware of the despair and pressure
of both the existing teachers and fresh graduates. It is tragic
to see that the Ombudsman is trying to aggravate the conflicts
between the two parties, which will cause damages to the profession.
Meanwhile, the whole profession is facing the reduction in classes
and teaching positions due to the consequence of the shrinking
population, we hope that our teachers can concentrate on their
own teaching rather than being involved in disputes. Therefore,
maintaining the security and stability of teachers' jobs is
important in order to enhance the quality of education and is
to the best interest of students. Both the existing teachers
and fresh graduates of education are members of the same team.
In these circumstances, the implementation of small class learning
is definitely the solution to achieve a win-win situation. It
is a stone killing two birds - not only can it create more job
opportunities, it also helps enhancing the quality of education.
the 2002-2003 school year, a category of "special supply
teachers' was created through the negotiation between the Union
and EMB in the arrangement of surplus teachers. The Ombudsman
then criticizes officials for pyaing $9.7 million more "to
buy the same service', thus wasting taxpayers' money. What is
your reply to this criticism?
At this point, the Ombudsman is failing to see the wood
for the trees. Education is not a commercial commodity which
is valued only in terms of money. The lauching of the "special
supply teachers' category was to maintain stablility in the
teaching profession. The sum of $9 million is certainly not
a small amount; however, it was then relatively "a small
price' in preserve the quality of education and students' interest
in the long run.
It is not fair for the Ombudsman to say that the category is
wasting taxpayers' money. Nearly 80 per cent of the special
supply teachers are only paid 65 per cent of their regular salary.
The EMB has claimed that all of them are full-time teachers,
and so they have other teaching-related duties when they have
no lessons. More importantly, these teachers are already in
the edge of being unemployed as they are only paid 65 per cent
of their salary - plus an allowance only if they work more.
The Ombudsman's report actually ahs worsened their scenario.
My advice is that all factors should be considered in the arrangement
of surplus teachers. Any changes of the present measures might
cause a total collapse of the whole arrangement, which will
violate stability of the whole profession and sacrifice students'
interest. By then, who could be accountable for the consequences.