Liberal studies reform pressed to protect students

Top News | Mandy Zheng 26 Nov 2020

The controversial liberal studies subject must be reformed to rectify its deviation from its objectives, Carrie Lam said, as she warned more teachers committing misconduct could be deregistered by education officials.

Lam lamented the "heartbreaking" arrests of 4,000 students who have joined anti-government protests since last year.

Vowing to protect students from political turmoil, she said: "The direction of reform in future should focus on rectifying the previous deviation from the subject's objectives, and reinstating it as the platform to help students establish a sound foundation of knowledge, make connection between the knowledge across different subjects, develop critical thinking skills, analyze contemporary issues in a rational manner and learn about the development of our nation, the constitution, the Basic Law, the rule of law."

Lam said authorities would look at ways to "ensure the ethics, character and conduct of teachers," and teachers and principals would undergo stricter training upon their appointments, during service and before promotion.

"The Education Bureau will take stringent actions against teachers who are incompetent or found to have misconducted, including canceling the registration of those who are found to have seriously misconducted, for the well-being of students," Lam added.

Two primary school teachers were deregistered due to alleged professional misconduct early this year. Education officials said one teacher promoted separatist messages in the teaching materials he designed, and the other made serious mistakes about historical facts, such as telling students that Britain started the Opium War to "destroy opium in China."

The bureau received 247 complaints about teachers' professional misconduct between June 2019 and August this year.

At a press conference Lam said: "I'm not trying to blame liberal studies for all problems, but it has caused huge controversy after all, so some reform is needed."

She said now is the time to deal with "systematical, institutional problems" in the education sector.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen criticized Lam for making teachers the scapegoat for social unrest, saying there was no evidence that teachers had encouraged youngsters to join protests.

"It feels like the government wants to beef up surveillance," Ip said.

Tang Fei, vice chairman of the pro-establishment Federation of Education Workers, welcomed Lam's remarks, but urged authorities to disclose more concrete policy details.

Lam also announced the Education Bureau's HK$2 billion plan to support e-learning amid the challenges of in-person class suspensions due to the pandemic.

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