Editorial : Deregistering a teacher

【明報專訊】A primary school teacher was accused of a planned promotion of Hong Kong independence through teaching materials and has been deregistered by the Education Bureau.

The teaching materials alleged to be involved in the promotion of Hong Kong independence came from a fifth-grade "Life Education" class in a primary school. The incident happened in March last year, i.e. before the anti-amendment storm. According to the Education Bureau, the teaching plan was an organised attempt to use 50 minutes of lesson time to introduce the Hong Kong National Party, now banned, by virtue of the "Societies Ordinance". There was a detailed explanation of the propositions and platform of the party and footage of an interview of Andy Chan, the party's convenor. In the 35 minutes that followed, the Hong Kong National Party remained the topic of discussion, while issues such as Tibetan independence, Xinjiang independence, Taiwan independence and secession from the country were also touched on. In the worksheet prepared by the teacher, students were asked why some people proposed "Hong Kong independence" and so on.

According to the school, the subject of the lesson was "freedom of speech". The current affairs programme involving "Hong Kong independence" was only a point of departure, while the worksheets concerned did not come with sample answers. The school's internal investigation concluded that no teachers promoted Hong Kong independence. However, the Education Bureau believed that the teaching plan and materials were effectively based on "Hong Kong Independence". The teacher responsible for the design of the lesson plan did not act by negligence but "planned" to promote Hong Kong independence. Therefore, the bureau has deregistered the teacher. The headmaster and those teachers who used the lesson plan to the letter were also accused of failing to keep the gate and were reproached and warned respectively. In the past, teachers were deregistered mostly because they were involved in sexual offences. This incident is unprecedented. Some people think it is "political suppression", while others think it is "righting a wrong".

Primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong adhere to the school-based principle. They vary in academic standards and lesson designs. In the primary school involved in the incident, global issues such as Brexit and ISIS are mentioned in its "Life Education" lessons for upper primary students.

If the teaching plan was so designed that most of the discussion was about Hong Kong independence and the Hong Kong National Party, an illegal organisation, the focus was obviously wrong. It was also a departure from the original teaching goal of freedom of speech.

This is the first time the Education Bureau has taken such action. As a precedent was lacking, there is inevitably controversy concerning evidence for judgement, the criteria for penalty and procedures for handling such matters. For example, the Education Bureau states that the teacher involved had sufficient opportunities for self-defence and sought legal assistance. However, some people in the education sector said that the Bureau did not arrange an oral hearing and deregistered the teacher based on the content of the lesson plans. They allege a "black box operation" and excessive punishment.

The Education Bureau has an appeal mechanism. If the teacher concerned argues that the outcome was unjust, he can file for judicial review and request that the court follow up the matter. At the same time, the education sector should adhere to professionalism. Even if society is severely divided, education should not be affected because of one's personal political opinions.

明報社評2020.10.07:港獨「釘牌」開首例 教師專業須恪守



校方表示涉事課堂主題為「言論自由」, 播放涉及「港獨」內容的時事節目只是切入點,相關工作紙亦不設參考答案,學校內部調查結論是沒有教職員宣揚港獨;教育局則認為,有關教案教材實際是以「港獨」為主題,負責教案設計的教師並非「一時疏忽」,而是「有計劃」地宣揚港獨,因而遭局方「釘牌」,校長和沿用同一教案照本宣科的教師,亦被指未有好好把關,分別遭譴責及警告。以往教師被「釘牌」,大多與風化案有關,今次事件前所未有,有人認為是「政治打壓」,亦有人認為是「撥亂反正」。







platform : the aims of a political party and the things that they say they will do if they are elected to power

a point of departure : an idea, a theory or an event that is used to start a discussion, an activity, etc.

reproach : to blame or criticise sb for sth that they have done or not done, because you are disappointed in them

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