Foreign English teachers urged to swear allegiance to Basic Law, ‘part of Hong Kong’s overhaul plan’

Primary school students visit an exhibition showcasing China’s scientific achievements over the past 100 years at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center on July 7, 2021. Photo: IC

The Education Bureau (EDB) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) told the Global Times on Monday that the requirement for mother tongue English (NET) teachers working in public schools in Hong Kong to swear allegiance to the city is within the law. and would ensure effective governance, disproving overseas hype about the city’s “increasing restrictions” and doubts about Hong Kong’s ability to retain educators.

The EDB said Saturday that NETs and counselors working in public schools whose contracts begin in the upcoming school year were recently notified of the reporting requirement and were required to return the statement. signed no later than June 21, Hong Kong media reported.

The EDB confirmed the latest requirement to the Global Times via email on Monday, stating that all government personnel, including civil servants and personnel appointed for non-civil service related conditions (non-civilian government personnel) are required to declare that they will abide by the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR, be devoted to their duty and be accountable to the Hong Kong SAR government.

NETs currently employed by the EDB in conditions other than public service must sign the declaration, the EDB explained, noting that the requirement is in line with Article 6 of Hong Kong’s national security law.

The requirement is an open acknowledgment of acceptance and a genuine manifestation of the responsibilities and expectations of them, which will further protect and promote the core values ​​that must be upheld by all government employees and ensure effective governance of the Hong Kong SAR government.

The authority also noted that “negligence, refusal or failure to sign and return the declaration on time without a reasonable excuse” would result in termination of the contract.

Since the waning of social uproar and the enactment of the National Security Law for the HKSAR in 2020, the oath-taking has been applied to the public sector such as district councilors, civil servants and government personnel.

Hong Kong society was not so happy with the ethics of some teachers, who exposed students to dangerous ideas and remarks during past social unrest, said Tang Fei, vice president of the Workers’ Federation. Hong Kong Education, Global Times. Monday. Liberal teaching materials in Hong Kong have also been criticized for containing outdated and biased content that tarnishes the Chinese mainland.

The requirement for NETs to swear allegiance is part of the Hong Kong government’s education overhaul plan, as it hopes to inspire teachers to think about professional ethics, Tang said. “And it’s natural for Hong Kong NETs to follow local laws and regulations.”

Hong Kong began recruiting overseas English teachers under the NETs program in 1997 to better improve children’s English language skills. The monthly salary of a foreign educator under the NETs program exceeds HK$30,000 ($3,800).

As for the overseas hype that “13% of NETs in secondary schools left in the 2020-21 school year,” analysts said it was not a big deal and that the Hong Kong SAR could further open its educational ties with the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong schools may prioritize hiring foreign teachers from international schools and mainland public schools, as they are more familiar with all aspects of China and swearing is unlikely. poses obstacles to them.

The monthly salary for NETs is similar to that of local teachers, but the Hong Kong government has to provide foreigners with an additional housing allowance, which is expensive, Tang said.

The distribution of NETs in Hong Kong is also uneven and unnecessary for some schools, such as those that focus on Chinese language teaching, Tang said.