The Hong Kong Prospective Teachers’ Association (HKPTA) found the number of job advertisements for teaching jobs decreased by 30 per cent this year compared to last year, but the number of graduates is unchanged.
Even if the government did cut the number of places for student teachers, this would not help 22-year-old Chan Tsz-chung, a final-year Bachelor of Education (Liberal Studies) student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Chan says liberal studies teachers may find it even more difficult to find a teaching job. “Liberal Studies does not require teachers with professional knowledge to teach, so schools usually find permanent teachers to teach, instead of us,” he says.
As a result, Chan says most of his peers worry about whether they can find a job when they graduate. To increase their chance of being employed, many will minor in another secondary school subject, such as history or geography, so that they can teach two subjects to increase their competitiveness.
However, Chan is keen to teach and is optimistic he will find a job as experience tells him that 70 per cent of his seniors managed to find teaching jobs. But whether they can renew their contracts after the first and subsequent years is not guaranteed. Many have to find a new school after their first year.
The schools’ flexibility in hiring contract teachers means there may be more job opportunities for new teachers but there is no job security. Chan says he would like to find a stable teaching job but, “I cannot foresee when I can get a permanent offer.”
Even when their contracts are renewed, contract teachers often find themselves struggling between a wish to continue serving their students and looking for a stable permanent job with better conditions.
Yam Ka-wing, the economics teacher from a Tai Po subsidised school is not sure if she would accept a permanent offer at another school. She has built up mutual trust with her students and fears that it would take them time to adapt to a new teacher, especially for Form Six students who will soon take public examinations.
“I am conflicted,” she says. “My students want me to stay and I want to help them. But from a contract teacher’s point of view, I do really hope to get a permanent offer.”
Edited by Godric Leung