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LCQ22: Alleviating the wastage of teachers
     Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (October 26):
     The Secretary for Education indicated in his reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on May 11 this year that the wastage rates of teachers in Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and public sector schools for the 2021-2022 school year were as high as 8.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively, and the overall number of drop-out teachers increased by about 70 per cent year-on-year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has formulated policies and measures to retain teaching talents, so as to prevent the teacher wastage rates from continuing to rise; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) as some members of the education sector have suggested that an advancement ladder be provided to allow in-service teaching assistants to fill vacant teacher posts, thereby ensuring that schools have sufficient teachers, and ensuring teacher qualifications and teaching quality, whether the Government has studied such suggestion; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it has assessed if the current teacher-student ratios of schools are unbalanced; if it has assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, whether it will draw reference from the deployment mechanism adopted by government departments and let the Education Bureau centrally administer the deployment of teachers to schools, so as to improve teacher-student ratios; and
(4) of the ratio of teachers who are non-Hong Kong permanent residents to those who are Hong Kong permanent residents in DSS and public sector schools for the current school year, as well as the overall number of teacher vacancies; whether it has considered recruiting overseas talents to fill such vacancies?
     The Education Bureau (EDB) has all along been committed to maintaining a teaching profession of high quality and closely monitoring the manpower situation of teachers in public sector schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools for timely and appropriate measures to ensure the quality of education and smooth operation of schools. There are various reasons for teacher wastage, which mainly include retirement, pursuing further studies, changing to other types of schools (such as special schools), taking up employment outside the teaching profession, and leaving the post due to other personal reasons. According to our observation, although the wastage rate of teachers in the 2021/22 school year is higher than that of previous years, the operation of schools is smooth in general and schools have sufficient newly employed qualified teachers (including newly joined teachers and those re-joining the teaching profession) to take up the teaching duties. With the declining school-aged population, the demand for teachers would decrease correspondingly.
     Our reply to the Hon Jeffrey Lam's question is as follows:
(1) The EDB has implemented quite a number of measures to support school development and provide teachers with a stable teaching environment and a better career prospect in recent years. These measures include full implementation of all-graduate teaching force policy in the 2019/20 school year; establishment of the Professional Ladder for Teachers and improvement of the manpower of vice-principals in public sector primary and secondary schools, as well as the manpower of senior teachers and ranking arrangements of principals in public sector secondary schools in the 2020/21 school year; and improvement of manpower at the middle management level, rationalisation of the pay structures for school heads and deputy heads in primary schools and enhancement of teachers' promotion prospects starting from the 2022/23 school year. Through diversified professional development programmes, the EDB also strives to strengthen the professional competencies of in-service teachers and principals, and broaden their horizons. The above measures help increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession and at the same time retain talent.
(2) The School Management Committees /Incorporated Management Committees of aided schools are responsible for the management of schools, including the appointment and deployment of staff. Subject to compliance with the Education Ordinance as well as relevant legislations and requirements, schools may, by taking into account their circumstances and needs, select and appoint qualified and suitable persons to take up teaching duties to cater for the development and operational needs of the schools. Schools may also consider appointing qualified non-teaching staff (such as teaching assistants) to fill the teaching posts.
     Besides, in view of the keen demand from primary schools for teachers with expertise in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education related subjects, the EDB provides flexibility for employment of teachers in aided primary schools for three years starting from the 2022/23 school year, allowing schools to employ holders of bachelor's degree in STEAM-related subjects but without teacher training in primary education as STEAM teachers, with a view to facilitating schools in the implementation and promotion of STEAM education. These measures also help attract talents with related expertise to join the teaching profession.
(3) The EDB has been providing additional support and increasing manpower for schools in recent years and the teacher-to-pupil (TP) ratios of schools and kindergartens have continuously improved with no occurrence of imbalance. Over the past five school years (from the 2017/18 to 2021/22 school years), the TP ratios have decreased from 1:11.6 to 1:11.1 in public sector secondary schools; from 1:13.8 to 1:12.4 in public sector primary schools; and from 1:8.6 to 1:8.0 in kindergartens.
     School sponsoring bodies may re-deploy their teaching staff from time to time according to the needs of individual schools under their management.  Being the school sponsoring body of government schools, the EDB would take into account a basket of factors when deploying teachers in government schools, including the overall development of government schools, situations of individual schools, manpower requirements of teachers in different subjects, professional development of staff and arrangements for promotion. Given that the situations of teachers in government schools and other public sector schools are different in terms of employers and employment terms, while the governance frameworks of different schools may also vary, the EDB would not centrally assign teachers to teach in different schools. School sponsoring bodies may re-deploy their teaching staff according to their needs.
(4) The EDB does not collect data on Hong Kong permanent and non-permanent residents for statistical purposes, nor require schools to report their manpower shortage situation. Therefore, we are unable to provide the requested information.
     A non-Hong Kong permanent resident who holds teacher qualifications and relevant proof issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department (such as a valid employment visa) may apply for registration as a teacher. In addition, the Government has implemented the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme in public sector secondary schools and primary schools to enrich students' learning experiences in language learning and strengthen the English learning environment. NETs have also collaborated with local English teachers in enhancing curriculum development, language learning and teaching as well as assessment strategies. Both local and overseas NETs may apply.
Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Issued at HKT 14:30
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