The education sector has been plagued by the issue of short-term contract teachers suffering unequal pay and unfair working conditions for years.
Unfortunately, the Education Bureau has been turning a blind eye to the problem despite widespread calls for teaching staff employed on a short-term contract basis to be given permanent positions.
As a result, tens of thousands of teachers who have the same professional qualifications and teaching experience as their permanently employed colleagues in primary and secondary schools are deprived of their right to get paid equally and enjoy job security.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), there are around 10,000 teachers and teaching assistants working in schools across the city who are employed on a short-term contract basis, accounting for 20 percent of the total number of teachers employed in public and subsidized schools.
However, almost immediately after the HKPTU announced its figures, the Education Bureau published articles in major local newspapers questioning the accuracy of the survey, insisting that there are only 3,000 short-term contract teachers in Hong Kong, or less than 10 percent of the total number of teachers.
The government was able to come up with a much lower figure because it deliberately left out teaching staffers who are employed as “teaching assistants” or “associate teachers” in an apparent attempt to mislead the public.
Even more humiliating and outrageous is that the Education Bureau, in its article, argued that “teaching assistants” or “associate teachers”, or whatever they are called, should not be regarded as standard and qualified teachers at all.
What it said has deeply hurt the feelings of thousands of front-line teachers who are fulfilling exactly the same role as their permanently employed colleagues, but who are subject to much lower pay, sometimes as low as just half of what permanent teachers are getting, just because there are not enough permanent teaching positions in our schools under the current government budget.
Worse still, the majority of these de facto teachers are often hired on a one-year contract basis, and are therefore constantly haunted by the apprehension of losing their job.
As a result, their morale is low, taking its toll on both the sustainable development of the education sector and the overall quality of education.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 2
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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