Foreign English teachers requested to swear allegiance to Basic Law, ‘part of HK revamp plan’
Published: Jun 13, 2022 09:11 PM
Primary school students visit an exhibition showcasing China's scientific achievements in the past 100 years?at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center on July 7, 2021. Photo: IC

Primary school students visit an exhibition showcasing China's scientific achievements in 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 native-speaking English teachers (NETs) working in Hong Kong government schools to swear allegiance to the city accords with the law and would ensure effective governance, rebutting some foreign media hype of the city's "increasing restrictions" and doubts over Hong Kong's ability to retain educators. 

EDB on Saturday said NETs and advisors working in government-run schools whose contracts begin in the coming school year were recently informed of the declaration requirement and that they were required to return the signed declaration on or before June 21, Hong Kong media reported. 

EDB confirmed the latest requirement to the Global Times through an email on Monday, saying all government staff, including civil servants and staff appointed on non-civil service terms (non-civil service government staff) are required to declare that they will uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR, be dedicated to their duty, and be responsible to the HKSAR government.  

NETs currently employed by the EDB on non-civil service terms should sign the declaration, EDB explained, noting the requirement accords with Article 6 of the national security law for Hong Kong.

The requirement is an open acknowledgement of the acceptance and a genuine manifestation of the responsibilities of and expectations on them, which will further safeguard and promote the core values that should be upheld by all government employees, and ensure the effective governance of the HKSAR Government.  

The authority also noted that "neglect, refusal or failure to sign and return the declaration by the deadline without a reasonable excuse" would lead to a contract termination. 

Since the waning of the social uproar and the enactment of the national security law for the HKSAR in 2020, oath-taking has been applied to the public sector like district councilors, civil servants and government staff.

Hong Kong society wasn't that satisfied with the ethics of some teachers, who exposed the students to hazardous ideas and remarks during the past social unrest, Tang Fei, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, told the Global Times on Monday. Liberal teaching materials in Hong Kong have also been criticized for containing obsolete and biased content that tarnishes the Chinese mainland.

The requirement for NETs to swear allegiance is part of the Hong Kong government's education revamp plan, as it hopes to prompt teachers to reflect on professional ethics, Tang said. "And it is natural for NETs in Hong Kong to abide by local laws and regulations."

Hong Kong started to recruit English teachers from abroad under the NETs scheme in 1997 to better improve children's English language skills. The monthly salary of a foreign educator under NETs program exceeds HK$30,000 ($3,800).

As for foreign media hype that "13% of NETs in secondary schools left in the 2020-21 school year," analysts said this is not a big problem and that the HKSAR can further open up its education links with the Chinese mainland.

Schools in Hong Kong can give priority to hiring foreign teachers from international schools and public schools in the mainland, as they are more familiar with all aspects of China and the oath-taking is unlikely to pose obstacles for them.

NETs' monthly salary is similar to that of local teachers, but the Hong Kong government needs to provide foreigners with additional housing allowance, which is of a high cost, Tang said.

The distribution of NETs in Hong Kong is also uneven and not necessary for some schools, such as those focusing on Chinese language education, Tang said.