Building on Hong Kong's widely acclaimed culture of continuing professional development (CPD), the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications (ACTEQ) proposed a framework for teachers' CPD and introduced a generic teacher competencies framework (TCF) in November 2003, implementation of which is now bearing fruit.
With teachers' personal growth and core professional values as its basic premise, the TCF comprises descriptors of the professional competencies of a teacher at different stages of development in four core domains ¡Ð teaching and learning, student development, school development, and professional relationships and services. "The TCF serves as a reference for schools and teachers to identify their strengths as well as developmental needs," says Catherine Chan, chief professional development officer, Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB). "By referring to it, schools and teachers will know where they are in the journey to professional maturity and how they should progress."
During the scheme's three-year trial period, which will end this school year for those who started in 2004, teachers are working towards a soft target of taking not less than 150 hours of CPD activities in a three-year cycle. They are engaging in various activities such as seminars, workshops, mentoring, lesson observations, collaborative lesson preparation as well as informal sessions of experience sharing among teachers. These activities have been initiated by their schools or organised by other parties within the education sector, the tertiary institutions and the EMB. In fact, there is increased emphasis on school-based and student-learning related CPD activities parallel to formal academic courses. They all contribute to enhancing teachers' professionalism. "The ultimate aim, of course, is to advance teachers' professionalism for school development which will benefit student learning," Ms Chan adds.
Principal education officer of the EMB's Professional Development and Training Division, Wai Pui-wah agrees. "By taking part in such training, the teacher is making a commitment to the school. Professional development is an ongoing process and an integral part of the individual school's development plans," he stresses.
As Hong Kong society continues to evolve and the quality of education is emphasised, Mr Wai believes that by offering support to educational bodies and formulating continuous professional development policies, both the education sector and educators will be better equipped for future challenges. "To support the continuing professional development of teachers, we now have in place a training calendar system on the EMB webpage to enable online enrolment for the CPD programmes of their choice," he notes.
Like any CEOs in the business sector, school principals must also keep their fingers on the pulse of society's educational needs and expectations. As such, the appointment of school principals has taken on a new requirement since September 2004.
Consultations within the education sector were conducted as early as 1999 to look into the aspect of professional development of principals. In 2002, a CPD framework for principals was developed, laying down different requirements for serving principals, newly appointed principals and aspirants interested to become principals. "What we do is to ensure quality entry to principalship and the ever-improving capacity of principals as professional leaders and administrators through CPD," says Ms Chan.
To cope with the regular trends and changes in the education system while simultaneously addressing the professional development needs of teachers, it takes an educator with insight, professional expertise and, most important of all, practical experience.
Formerly a science teacher and later a science inspector, Mr Wai is now a deputy divisional head responsible mainly for co-ordinating professional and administration matters of the division. "Attending meetings as EMB's representative at the Council on Professional Conduct in Education and the Hong Kong Teachers' Centre, as well as serving as chairman of the school management committees of a handful of government schools is all part of my job," he says.
Mr Wai also monitors work progress, reviews documents, offers advice on proposals, liaises with both internal and external parties, and attends school functions. "We serve thousands of teaching professionals," he adds. "One of our more recent challenges has been the upcoming 3-3-4 reform. With this, we must help teachers to be well-equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge, while balancing their work and professional development."
Likewise, Ms Chan also possesses a thorough understanding of the teaching profession. As a former English teacher, she joined the advisory inspectorate and later became a lecturer of one of the former Colleges of Education (now the Hong Kong Institute of Education). She gained extensive experience during her tenure at the Curriculum Development Institute, being initially involved in training teachers for the target-oriented curriculum. She then focused on the development of schools prior to taking up her present position at the Professional Development and Training Division of EMB. "Interacting with students gave me a sense of achievement when I was a lecturer," says Ms Chan. "However, supporting the implementation of education policies is also rewarding because what you do can really make a difference."