For his last class in Hong Kong in July, liberal studies teacher Fong showed his students calligraphy by the territory’s late democratic activist Szeto Wah: “Choose the right path and stick to it.” He emigrated to Britain days later.
Fong is one of many teachers that let Hong Kong before the school year began in September, some saying they felt disillusioned and threatened by the authoritarian turn the city has taken since Beijing imposed a stringent national security law in June 2020.
“The day I resigned, I told my school: ‘If one day, some students downstairs chant slogans, I would have to call the police to arrest my own students’,” said 45-year-old Fong, who asked to be identified by only one name for fear of drawing the attention of authorities. “I could not do that. And I could not hold my tears.”
Several principals who spoke to Reuters said teachers were departing this year at about twice the normal rate, leaving some of them scrambling for new recruits.
The Hong Kong Association of Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS) warned the government in July that the “brain drain” would reduce the quality of education in the city. About 700,000 pupils attend 1,000 or so primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.
“The education environment and also the atmosphere has changed quite drastically in the past two years,” Samuel Cheng, principal at United Christian College - Kowloon East, told Reuters. “People are stirred up by their friends and colleagues who let so I have to help them at least emotionally settle down. I have to stabilise the school.”
In response to Reuters’ questions, Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said teachers might have quit the profession to pursue other jobs or studies, or for other personal reasons, and did not address the issue of a brain drain. It said the national security law was not affecting the education sector or the quality of teaching.
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