SCMP Tuesday, February 6, 2001

'Incompetent' state teachers forced to retire


Two underperforming government teachers have been forced to retire in a drive to break the jobs-for-life culture in public-sector schools, Director of Education Matthew Cheung Kin-chung announced yesterday.
The pair, one a primary and the other a secondary teacher, were told in the past six months to retire in the public interest. Another six government teachers are under scrutiny for their poor performance, Mr Cheung said.
He said the two were told to go because of their unsatisfactory performance and attitude. "Their cases have been under review for several years and we have given them a grace period to rectify their mistakes," he said. They did not appeal against the decision and were granted pensions after taking compulsory retirement.
Mr Cheung said teachers had to meet the minimum standard in their performance. "In the process of education reform, we shouldn't appease incompetent teachers.
"We should exert a certain amount of pressure on teachers to ensure teaching quality while offering them professional support. It's time to change the 'iron rice bowl' culture in government schools."
He said he hoped a similar "cultural shift" would emerge in subsidised schools. "We have urged sponsoring bodies to be more mindful of the underperforming teachers in subsidised schools," he said.
A government schoolteacher was ordered to take compulsory retirement in 1999 under a Public Service (Administration) Order, an executive order issued by the Chief Executive in 1997. It stipulates that the Chief Executive can require a civil servant to retire if the termination of service is considered desirable in the public interest. It usually takes six months to complete the procedure.
Professional Teachers' Union President Cheung Man-kwong said it was reasonable to sack underperforming teachers if they did not heed advice to improve.
"I have recommended that some principals sack teachers who have committed professional misconduct," he said. "The crux of the problem is that it is done with reasonable grounds and the teachers concerned are given the right of appeal."