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LCQ14: Employment of teachers on contract terms and their retention

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (July 6):


     The Education Bureau (EDB) has pointed out in the blog it posted on May 30 this year that at present there are altogether some 3 000 teachers on contract terms in the public sector primary and secondary schools across the territory. However, according to the information provided by the EDB for the Finance Committee of this Council, in the 2015/16 school year, the number of non-establishment teachers (i.e. teachers on contract terms) in aided primary and secondary schools across the territory alone stands at 4 170, raising doubt over the accuracy of the relevant figures provided by the EDB. Besides, the EDB has, in the blog, referred to teaching assistants, associate teachers and assistant teachers as "non-teaching staff", and even pointed out that they "usually do not take up any teaching posts at schools". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the reasons for the discrepancy between the two aforesaid statistical figures;

(2) given that the EDB has indicated that it has not kept the number of and relevant information on teaching assistants, associate teachers and assistant teachers engaged by aided primary and secondary schools across the territory, of the justifications for the authoritiesˇ¦ assertion that such staff do not take up any teaching posts and are categorised as "non-teaching staff", and whether they have gained an understanding of the current duties of the aforesaid categories of staff;

(3) given that the number of teachers on contract terms engaged by aided primary and secondary schools across the territory did not drop in the past three years, whether the authorities have assessed if the teaching posts vacated by regular teachers through natural wastage alone are sufficient to absorb all the existing teachers on contract terms into the establishment in the near future; if they have assessed, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) whether it has formulated any definite plan to provide, by improving the class-to-teacher ratio for primary and secondary schools, more new regular teaching posts for teachers on contract terms to switch to, and thereby alleviate the heavy workload of teachers; if it has not, how the authorities will address the problem of a lack of career prospect for teachers on contract terms?



(1) The Education Bureau (EDB) categorises and compiles statistical data collected according to their specific application. With regard to our article posted on ˇ§Clear the Airˇ¨ in the EDB website on May 30 this year, it mainly aims at clarifying the arrangements of appointing contract teachers with cash grants provided to public sector primary and secondary schools. The figures quoted therein are based on this. As for the numbers of establishment and non-establishment teachers in primary and secondary schools across the territory in the 2015/16 school year that we provided to the Finance Committee this year, we have specified in our reply that the figures are for aided schools. In addition, the number of non-establishment teachers includes the numbers of both contract teachers employed with cash grants and temporary teachers filling regular posts. The latter figure refers to the number of temporary teachers employed according to the Codes of Aid for administrative purposes in mid-September of the respective school year as reported by the schools concerned. Moreover, as the question also involves comparison of figures of past years, we have provided comprehensive information, generated according to the established data compilation practice mentioned above, for year-on-year comparison. In general, to facilitate effective communication and avoid misunderstanding, we will explain the background and compilation practice adopted when providing figures.

(2) In accordance with the spirit of school-based management, schools may deploy cash grants flexibly for employing contract staff outside the approved establishment or hiring services to meet their overall development and student needs. Schools have been enjoying the autonomy to decide on their own the post titles of their contract staff to meet their operational needs. The EDB has been collating such school data in a pragmatic manner. Specifically, public sector schools are required to report and update in a timely manner, via the e-Services Portal, the details of all monthly-paid teachers, irrespective of whether they are regular or contract teachers, or what their post titles are. Such information includes the subjects taught, the teaching load and the ratio to full-time employment, etc. School principals are also required to verify the data and ensure their completeness and accuracy. To allay concerns about the completeness of such data, the EDB will issue an updated circular to remind schools to observe the requirements on data reporting and updating so that more accurate and comprehensive information about the number of teaching staff in public sector schools and their teaching duties can be collated through the aforesaid e-system for planning purposes.

(3)and(4) The EDB has been providing schools with teaching staff resources in the light of the development of various education policies. Currently, public sector schools are provided with teaching staff resources through three major means: (a) teacher establishment computed according to the number of classes approved and the class-to-teacher ratio; (b) additional teachers provided under various specific programmes; and (c) cash grants with deployment flexibility for meeting specific policy objectives.

     How the cash grants are to be used is a school-based decision. Apart from acquiring educational services, schools may also make use of cash grants for appointing teaching or ancillary staff outside the establishment as necessary. The current arrangement of providing cash grants on top of the regular teacher establishment is to give schools certain flexibility in resource deployment. This is in line with the spirit of school-based management and enables schools to meet their manpower planning requirements according to their circumstances so that the needs and interests of students can be served. Hence this arrangement is well received by schools in general.

     In recent years, teachers on regular establishment account for about 90 per cent of the teaching force, and teachers appointed on contract terms with cash grants account for about 10 per cent. This shows that schools are generally achieving to maintain the stability of their teaching force while enjoying flexibility in resource deployment to meet their manpower planning requirements according to their school-based circumstances. Nonetheless, to provide schools with more stable teacher manpower, we have decided, upon a review of the implementation progress of the relevant policies, that from the 2016/17 school year, schools be allowed to opt for turning the Senior Secondary Curriculum Support Grant as well as the Career and Life Planning Grant into regular teaching posts. This will give schools more choices and flexibility for deciding whether to switch the provision from the two types of grants to regular teaching posts in the light of their own circumstances and operational needs. The EDB will review the implementation of the measure in schools in the next two school years.

     In addition, our records show that on average about 2 000 teachers leave the profession each school year for reasons such as retirement. Teaching posts so vacated help absorb around 1 000 fresh graduates of teacher education institutions, young teachers and teachers on transfer. Generally speaking, the employment situation of the local teaching force is stable. We understand that a number of contract teachers with good teaching performance have been duly recognised by their schools and appointed as regular teachers.

     We have been encouraging schools to fulfil their obligations as good employers by giving full consideration to the relevant terms and conditions of comparable posts when assigning the work, determining the remuneration packages and contract periods of contract teachers to ensure that they are reasonably remunerated. For boost of morale, schools are suggested to offer longer terms of employment to their contract teachers as far as practicable to, for instance, meet the mid and long-term development needs of the schools. We will continue to send a clear message to school sponsoring bodies and schools to solicit their follow-up actions and cooperation.

     We are committed to enhancing the quality of education in Hong Kong. Over the years, we have improved the provision of teaching staff resources on a need basis in the light of the new trends of school administration and management, the implementation of education policies as well as the demand for quality education. Education is the policy area which has always taken up the largest share of recurrent government expenditure, accounting for about 22 per cent of the recurrent government expenditure in the 2015/16 financial year. When considering requests which involve huge recurrent financial implications, such as changing the class-to-teacher ratio, the Government has to prioritise different policy initiatives and different areas within the education portfolio. We will continue to liaise closely with the education sector to review and explore specific and effective policy initiatives that are conducive for the provision of quality education.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:30


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