Hong Kong is notorious for its inhumanely long working hours and lack of universal retirement protection. And in this respect, teachers could be one of the worst occupations.
As the representative of teachers in our legislature, I am strongly in favor of implementing an across-the-board standard of 44 working hours per week in all industries in Hong Kong, including the education sector.
A recent study showed that a lot of teachers in Hong Kong are currently doing 60 hours of work per week on average, which is 25 percent longer than the median working hours (48 hours per week) in the city, according to the Statistics Department, and 40 percent longer than the standard working hours adopted by most of the developed countries.
The study also said that it is not uncommon for teachers in Hong Kong to work for up to 70 hours a week.
Unreasonably long working hours are not only taking their toll on our teachers’ health and family life, but also undermining the overall quality of teaching in classrooms.
Simply put, excessive working hours are not only bad for teachers, but for students as well.
The long working hours and ever-increasing workload for teachers have their roots in the radical and volatile education reforms carried out by the Education Bureau over the past decade.
With the education sector plagued by a serious shortage of experienced teachers, the appalling amount of extra administrative work that comes along with the education reform eventually turns out to be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Many teachers have simply been pushed to the breaking point at work, both physically and mentally, and a lot of them are suffering from stress, fatigue, depression and insomnia.
How could we expect our teachers to teach well if they are heavily overworked and constantly tired?
After having looked at the situation overseas, I want to put forward four directions in regulating the working hours of teachers in our city in order to redress the situation and end their ordeals:
1. The 44-hour upper limit should apply to teachers as well.
2. The Education Bureau should set up a benchmark, such as “standard weekly classroom hours”, against which schools can then measure the working hours of their teaching staff and devise measures to meet that standard.
3. The administration should set up a standard proportion of teaching work to administrative work for teachers, and make it mandatory, so that they can concentrate more on teaching rather than on administrative routines.
4. The government should also establish a standard number of school days per year, so that both teachers and students no longer have to worry about having to go to tutorials, drills or supplementary classes during school holidays.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 5.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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