By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
In spite of lawmakers having submitted around 50 questions to the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (DSEJ) concerning the framework of the law pertaining to private school teachers two weeks ago, detailed responses were not provided during yesterday’s meeting, making the bill less likely to be passed before the legislature’s two-month recess starting August 15.
DSEJ director Leong Lai attended the meeting of the Second Standing Committee for the first time since deliberation on the draft law began on July 7.
Committee president Chan Chak Mo told reporters after the three-hour closed door meeting that government representatives did not have answers to all the questions the committee had previously submitted, adding the bureau mostly responded with the government is “open to opinions”.
Chan said the bureau will give more details to the questions, including how many private schools have complied with the current rule that at least 70 percent of their fixed revenue is spent on teaching staff’s wages, in the next meeting on July 25.
Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, a member of the committee, said the DSEJ director only gave “general answers” and touched on “a small part of the questions” yesterday.
According to the lawmaker, Leong told the committee that she had all the answers in hand, but when she was asked to print them out immediately for the committee members to read, she was “reluctant” to do so and eventually said her “actual answers” were not the same as those prepared prior to the meeting.
Hence, Ng is not optimistic that the draft law can be passed before the Legislative Assembly enters the recess in mid-August.
“I hope the [DSEJ] director can persuade the school principals to allow teachers who are facing retirement stay for one more year,” he said.
The bill has proposed increased retirement protection for private school teachers, including the setting up of a provident fund system.
Nevertheless, Chan said government representatives reiterated that the bureau will have the power to monitor the execution of the law in private schools.
Yet, for those that do not receive government funding, Leong said further studies with legal advisors will be needed.
Some lawmakers were also concerned about the calculation of overtime pay for the teachers. Chan said the bureau director had promised that compensation must not violate the Labour Law and will “even be better than that stipulated in the law”.
In addition, some lawmakers doubted why school principals are exempt from work performance assessments proposed for teaching staff in the draft law.
Chan said the bureau acknowledged that some principals are happy to be assessed, and said changes may be made accordingly.