Overall teacher supply
maintaining an adequate supply of teachers has been a major policy concern
during periods of severe shortage. On the surface, it may appear that the
teacher shortage problem is not as acute in Hong Kong as in England.
However, this is because unqualified teachers are still allowed to teach in
Hong Kong as ¡§permitted teachers,¡¨ thus the problem of teacher shortage
has not surfaced to catch enough attention.
the Chief Executive (CE) announced the policy objective of having an all
trained and all graduate requirement for new teachers in the foreseeable
future in 1997, the issue of maintaining an adequacy of supply of qualified
teachers was brought to the forefront. This led to recommendations by a
University Grants Committee review panel (UGC, 1998) to increase the
provision of pre-service teacher education places in higher education
institutions, which have not been heeded by the government. Four years after
the CE¡¦s announcement, the government has hitherto not set a target date
of achieving the policy objective, and Hong Kong has still depended its
supply of teachers on unqualified teachers (Lai, Ko, & Li, 2001, see
also Appendices C & D).
examined closely, there has also been a significant shortage of
subject-trained teachers for a number of school subjects. The ¡§hidden¡¨
shortage in trained English Language teachers has recently surfaced with the
introduction of the language proficiency requirements for teachers, which we
will further discuss in the following section.
teachers for certain subjects
has witnessed teacher shortage in a number of school subjects, including
mathematics, science, technology and modern foreign languages in secondary
schools. As introduced in previous sections, measures adopted to solve this
problem include provision of flexible programmes, such as the two-year PGCE
conversion courses and employment-based programmes (see Section 3.a.i.), and
financial incentives for students being trained in shortage subjects (see
In Hong Kong,
according to the Teacher Statistics (Education
Department, 2001), over 40% of the English teachers in primary schools are
non-subject-trained. In addition, shortage subjects at the secondary level
included computer studies, ethical/ religious studies, Chinese history,
civic education, economics and public affairs, economics, and information
technology (Appendices E & F).
The shortage of
subject-trained teachers in English language has received the most
attention. In spite of significant increases in the past few years, the
percentage of English subject-trained teachers was only 77.3 at the
secondary level and 55.3 at the primary level in the year 2000 (Education
Department, 2001). This may have partly explained the strong resistance by
many teachers to the recently introduced Language Proficiency Assessment for
While the government
asserts that the intention of the LPAT is to raise the standards of English
language teachers, like similar tests in England, it has become a
complicated issue affecting the morale of English teachers in Hong Kong. In
addition, there are worrying signs that the percentage of subject-trained
English teachers may actually decrease as a result of the LPAT. For
instance, a newspaper article (Wan, 2001) reported that more English
teachers, 321 in total, or 7%, left their posts in 2000, which was a
reversal to the falling trend in the wastage rate of English teachers in the
past few years (from 10.5% in 1996 to 5.8% in 1999). The article warned that
the situation will get worse in the coming years and there may be an
increasing shortage of English teachers.
The question of how
many university graduates with English majors will consider teaching as a
career remains uncertain. In addition, there is a foreseeable shortage in
English teachers at least in the coming few years with the removal of the
English subject elective in the CE courses in the HKIEd. It appears that the
new English major graduates in the new BEd programmes will not be sufficient
to meet the demand for qualified English teachers in the future.
Compared with England,
measures taken by the government to remedy the situation have been fairly
conventional and conservative. For example, the government plans to fund
additional PGCE places for English teachers in the coming few years, without
adequate considerations of whether there will be an adequate number of
qualified graduates interested in becoming English teachers.
Institute has proposed to the government that a possible way to increase
trained teachers in subjects of teacher shortage is to recruit university
graduates with degrees not directly related to the shortage subjects. Based
on the model in England, two-year full-time PGCE programmes can be offered
to graduates with good English proficiency, such as those in law,
accounting, and journalism, who wish to take up English teaching in schools.
Taking quality candidates from other disciplines may also add talent,
strength and creativity to the teaching profession.
Based on the English
model, providing financial incentives to attract qualified graduates and
retain serving English language teachers can also be considered. However,
whether such measures would help alleviate the shortage in the long term is
too early to judge at the moment. As the experience in England suggests, the
key issue also appears to be raising the morale among language teachers,
which has not been helped with frequent media criticism of the declining
English standards of teachers, including their allegedly ¡§poor¡¨
performance in the recent LPAT examination.
teachers from overseas
from overseas has been a measure adopted by the UK (see Section 3.a.iv.).
This was not entirely a new concept to Hong Kong. Before the seventies, many
grant schools in Hong Kong did employ a lot of overseas teachers. In
addition, with the recommendation of ECR5 in 1992, a Non-graduate Teacher
Qualifications Assessment Scheme (NGQTA) was launched to enroll
non-commonwealth teachers for local schools. Likewise, native-speaking
English teachers (NET) have been employed to teach English in our schools,
though its purpose is to enable students to be in contact with native
speakers of the language, and less of a solution to teacher shortage.
Apart from recruiting
English language teachers from overseas, mainland China may prove to be a
possible source of teacher supply for local schools in certain shortage
subjects, such as Putonghua.
However, as in any
labour importation scheme, there are political and educational issues the
government and teacher unions have to face.
For example, the General Teaching Council for England has maintained
that there is a need to balance recruitment of teachers from abroad with
adequate numbers of teachers in England.
It is likely that similar concerns will be raised by teacher unions in Hong Kong. In addition,
there is also a moral concern of wealthier countries/regions solving their
teacher shortages through hiring teachers from developing nations which are
already facing an impending crisis in teacher shortages of their own.
In Section 3.a.ii, we
report numerous financial incentives that the English government has adopted
to attract graduates to join the teaching force and to retain serving
teachers. These include those specifically targeted at shortage subjects and
talented teacher trainees, as well as measures to retain key serving staff.
With the demanding
education reforms in Hong Kong, it will be necessary for the government to
provide incentives to attract quality graduates to
join the teaching profession and to increase the retention of quality
serving teachers. A more fundamental strategy, however, is to reform the
existing teacher compensation system to reward teachers based on performance
for subject teachers with severe shortage problems, or providing special
allowances or bonuses to ¡§elite¡¨ teachers may help to attract or retain
quality teachers which are in demand. However, such a policy has its
potential divisiveness. Creating
different pay scales according to these criteria is new to Hong Kong, and
may create concern of fairness or equal treatment among teacher unions.
Apart from financial incentives,
the experience in England has consistently reminded us the need to raise the
status of the teaching profession and improve the morale of the teachers.
Teachers in both places appear to be overwhelmed by too much
paperwork and the struggle to cope with over-hasty changes brought by
education and curriculum reforms.
important aspect to alleviate the teacher shortage problem is to ensure
qualified teachers joining the profession will stay. This includes
establishing effective induction systems to help the novice teachers
integrate into schools. As
pointed out in Section 3.b.i., the experience of the first couple of
years¡¦ teaching experience can be a decisive factor whether the novice
teacher wants to stay in the profession.
Our UK counterpart has proposed a
more systematic CPD and support to novice teachers. The UK experience has
informed us that setting up a system, with monetary or workload reduction
incentive may involve effectively more experienced senior teachers to be
mentors, helping the new teachers to settle in and develop further. For Hong
Kong, despite the ECR5 first addressed teacher induction to be developed in
schools to support new teachers, the system has not yet been well developed.
A possible measure is for teacher education providers to expand their
existing mentoring schemes for student teachers to an established system
supporting novice teachers. However, this will also have resource
On continuous professional
development, there has been hitherto no systematic requirement for Hong Kong
teachers to be engaged in professional development programmes after they
have obtained their QTS. The Education Department is developing a framework
for teacher development in the form of a career ladder. A framework which
supports teacher development and linked to teacher compensation would be
very useful to support teachers and attract more quality teachers to remain
in the profession.