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Opinion | The needs of professional training for teachers

Opinion | The needs of professional training for teachers

The EDB does have the responsibility to improve teachers' professional competence, ethics and image. Photo: Orange News

By Mervyn Cheung Man-Ping

To implement the professional ladder for teachers in the local public-sector schools, the Education Bureau (EDB) has recently announced a series of requirements for teachers' professional training, which will be monitored by the Committee on the Professional Development of Teachers and Principals (COTAP). Under this revised training plan which will begin to take effect from the 2020/2021 academic year, new teacher recruits for Government, Aided and Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools are to attend training courses with thirty hours of core contents in (1) teachers' professional identity focusing on the roles, values and ethics; and (2) national and international education development. Serving teachers are required at the same time to complete, within a given time frame, this training programme to qualify themselves for advancement to higher and more responsible positions on the teaching career ladder. The EDB will serve as the provider for these courses or training resources.

As disclosed by one COTAP member during a radio interview by Radio Hond Kong on June 11, these obligatory training measures had been discussed for two years in the related context of curriculum reform, with the objective of raising the levels of teachers' professional image and ethics. The training programme as designed will be run on a comprehensive and interactive manner, exploiting appropriately the benefits of web-based delivery, seminars and field visits.

It is hardly surprising that this stipulated training package has drawn immediate criticism from a major teachers' union, this time against the EDB's assumption of the role of course provider. The union's leaders have pointed out that professional training for teachers has hitherto been done by the local institutions of higher learning, and there are no valid grounds for it to be taken up directly by the EDB as an administrative body. They have construed this training arrangement as harboring the political motive of creating a new channel for pressuring the teachers. For these reasons, the union in question has demanded that the newly promulgated training scheme be scrapped.

Such arguments have, however, been refuted outright by the EDB holding that they are intended to politicize and demonized teachers' professional development. The Secretary for Education has further defended that the training arrangements so determined have been deliberated in detail by the COTAP and are considered capable of meeting teachers' professional needs and public expectations for improved quality of the local school education. In addition, the EDB has maintained that, as the policy formulator, developer, executor, elevator and monitor of the territory's education services, it has the undisputed role of promoting the continuing development of teachers. To the education officials, opinions to the contrary in this regard only demonstrate a patient lack of understanding of the local education system and a deliberate debasing of the proper roles and responsibilities of the EDB.

With due respect to the views presented by both sides on this controversy, it seems that the EDB has gained an upper hand. Being the authentic arm in the SAR Government for education provision, the EDB does have the responsibility and authority to initiate and follow through measures and practices aiming to improve teachers' professional competence, ethics and image. It is, for instance, the licensing authority for teachers, developer for school curriculum and approval agent for courses. Logically, there is no room whatsoever for the EDB to be queried for direct involvement in training provision to teachers. With an extensive range of subject specialists on its staff and many a highly experienced school teacher and principal helping enthusiastically, the ESB is indeed well placed to accomplish the training role. In connection, it is noted to have been giving throughout the year continuing professional development to the teaching force, mostly at the Teachers' Centre.

As concurred by the COTAP, uniform messages can be imparted to trainees if the core training is given by only the EDB. This advantage is not overstated and helps to remove undesired bias and controversy in presentations that can easily happen if the same topics are taught by different institutes appointed to offer the training.

Last but not least, housing the fresh training initiative under the single roof of the EDB will bring in the added merit of clearly identified accountability for the process and outcome of the programme. And if the wisdom and judgement of the teacher trainees is to be trusted, the worry of "brain washing" by the Government through the training plan would not be justified.

The author is a Chairman of Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organisation.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of Orange News.

編輯:WHon

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