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LCQ2: Reviewing mechanism for registration of teachers
     Following is a question by the Hon Tommy Cheung and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (November 23):

     According to the Education Ordinance, the registration of teachers is valid on a lifetime basis under the existing mechanism. Once a teacher is registered successfully, his or her registration is valid for life without any requirement to regularly pass examinations or pursue further studies. There are views that being the authority for registration of teachers, the Education Bureau has the responsibility to monitor the quality and conduct of teachers. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it will review the existing mechanism for registration of teachers, and switch to requiring teachers who are registered to regularly pass examinations and pursue further studies, the contents of which should include the understanding of the nation and national affairs, in order to be eligible for renewal of the registration, so as to increase the incentives for teachers to make improvement, ensure the overall quality of education, and lay a solid foundation for the effective implementation of patriotism education; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

     Teachers are the foundation and key of education. They are responsible for fostering positive values and a sense of national identity in students, and should therefore possess professional capabilities and uphold professional conduct. The Education Bureau (EDB) is responsible for statutory registration of teachers and monitoring their professional qualifications and conduct. We have been actively handling matters relating to the quality of teachers by, among other things, playing a gatekeeping role on various fronts including appointment, management and training, so as to safeguard the well-being of students.
     Our reply to the Hon Tommy Cheung's question is as follows:
     Applicants for teacher registration should have the professional qualifications as specified in the Education Ordinance. At the same time, the EDB will critically review applicants' records, including records of criminal conviction and whether the applicants' registration as a school manager or a teacher have been refused or cancelled, so as to assess whether the applicants are fit and proper persons to be teachers and decide to approve or refuse to register them as teachers.
     Registered teachers are required to go through a stringent selection process of schools and meet the requirements of the EDB prior to their appointment. In July 2021, the EDB updated relevant guidelines for appointment of staff in schools, and requiring schools to strengthen the management of staff. Prior to appointment of teachers, schools should enquire the potential appointees' registration status through the EDB. The EDB will inform schools of whether their registration/application has been cancelled or refused, and whether reprimand/warning/advisory letter has been issued in connection with the teacher registration. Besides, starting from the 2022/23 school year, the EDB requires all newly-appointed teachers in public sector schools to pass the Basic Law Test in order to be considered for appointment. Starting from the 2023/24 school year, the test requirement will be extended to cover all Direct Subsidy Scheme schools and kindergartens joining the Kindergarten Education Scheme. The test will cover the Basic Law and the National Security Law. The above measures ensure the quality of teachers appointed so as to safeguard the well-being of students and strengthen their ability to develop students' correct understanding of the Basic Law and the National Security Law.
     In respect of in-service teachers, an effective mechanism is in place to handle cases related to teachers' misconduct and violation of the law. The EDB will consider the gravity of each case and take action against the teacher concerned, including cancellation of teacher registration, issuing a reprimand, warning or advisory letter. Starting from the 2021/22 school year, the EDB conducts comprehensive criminal record check on all registered teachers every three years. If teachers are involved in illegal acts and willful omissions in reporting, we will consider cancelling their registrations to safeguard students' well-being.
     The EDB has been attaching importance to in-service professional training of teachers. All teachers, regardless of rank and position, are required to undertake no less than 150 hours of Continuing Professional Development activities by the end of each three-year cycle. The EDB and teacher education institutions have been providing a variety of professional development programmes and activities for teachers, such as integrated education, support to non-Chinese speaking students to learn Chinese and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education. The programmes were well received by teachers. Besides, the regular professional development activities such as the three staff development days of each school year, functional/subject-based training, Sister School Scheme or sharing activities organised by school sponsoring bodies, also provide teachers with ample opportunities to participate in training and enhance their professionalism.
     Starting from the 2020/21 school year, the EDB has set more specific training requirements. Among others, newly-joined teachers and teachers aspiring for promotion are required to take 30 hours of core training, with particular emphasis on teachers' professional conduct, and including contents pertaining to the Constitution, the Basic Law, and the National Security Law in the core training. Newly-joined and serving teachers are required to enrol in the training programmes within three years, while teachers aspiring for promotion are required to complete the training within five years before promotion. The EDB has also requested teacher education universities to strengthen the contents of teachers' professional conduct and cover the Constitution, the Basic Law, and national security education in the pre-service training for teachers.
     In addition, newly-joined teachers in publicly-funded schools and teachers aspiring for promotion in public sector schools will also be required to participate in the Mainland study tours. Serving teachers will also be offered more Mainland study opportunities to experience the development of our country and strengthen their abilities to help students foster a sense of belonging towards the country. The EDB will monitor teachers' progress in achieving related targets through an electronic system. If individual teachers fail to fulfil the training requirements as set out by the EDB, follow-up measures will be taken to ensure that they meet the relevant requirements. Meanwhile, to further enhance the standard and requirement of pre-service teacher training, we are collaborating with teacher education institutions to prepare a guiding framework of primary and secondary school teacher education programmes, which is targeted to be implemented in the 2023/24 school year.
     Regarding the proposal of requiring teachers to take examinations or training regularly in order to be eligible for renewal of the registration, we keep an open mind on the matter for the time being. Teacher registration mechanism can serve a gatekeeping function for the quality of teachers, but the daily observation, supervision and guidance of schools are equally important. As employers, schools have the responsibility and established mechanisms to monitor the performance of teachers. Should a school find its teachers incompetent, it can deal with the matter in accordance with the Employment Ordinance and the Codes of Aid to safeguard the well-being of students. Should the schools' monitoring mechanisms fail to serve a gatekeeping function, we will review and enhance the existing system in light of the actual circumstances. In determining whether the registration system should be changed, we must carefully consider the feasibility and effectiveness of the proposal, including how to determine the contents and assessment methods of the examinations and training, and whether they are effective in demonstrating the professional conduct of teachers.
     The EDB will continue to review the contents of teacher training and the alignment of the implementation strategies with other education policies, while considering enhancement measures. In addition, the EDB will promulgate the guidelines on teachers' professional conduct within this year to clearly set out the professional conduct and behaviour required of teachers. By making reference to the principles set out in the guidelines, teachers can strive to enhance their professionalism and a high-quality teaching force can be maintained.  
     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:00
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