英文

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

一名小學教師被指透過教案教材,有計劃宣揚港獨信息,遭教育局「釘牌」。

被指涉及宣揚港獨的教案教材,出現於一間小學的小五「生活教育科」。事件發生於去年3月,即反修例風暴之前,根據教育局說法,教案有計劃地以50分鐘的課堂時間,由《社團條例》帶出已被取締的香港民族黨,詳細介紹該黨宗旨及政綱,包括播放召集人陳浩天接受訪問的影片,隨後35分鐘的教學時間,繼續談論香港民族黨,並觸及藏獨、疆獨、台獨及分裂國土的議題,教師準備的工作紙,亦有向學生提問為何有人提出「港獨」等。

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」。

本港中小學奉行校本原則,學校水平有高有低,課堂設計各有不同。這次涉事的小學,會在高小的「生活教育科」,談及國際時事議題,諸如英國脫歐、伊斯蘭國等。

如果教案的設計,大部分時間都是談論港獨,以及香港民族黨這個非法組織,明顯是錯了重點,偏離了講解言論自由的原本教育目的。

今次是教育局首度付諸行動,沒有先例可援,無論是判斷憑據、判罰準則還是程序處理,無可避免有爭議。舉例說,教育局稱涉事教師在調查期間有足夠申述機會,亦有尋求法律顧問的協助,可是亦有教育界人士稱,局方未有經過口頭聆訊,單憑教案內容便取消教師註冊,質疑當局「黑箱作業」及處罰過重。

教育局有上訴機制,若當事人質疑不公道,也可訴諸司法覆核,要求法庭跟進。與此同時,教育界亦應堅持專業,即使社會撕裂對立嚴重,也不能因為個人政見立場,影響教育工作。

■Glossary

生字

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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