At least 5,720 teachers have left Hong Kong’s local school system during the current 2021 to 2022 academic year so far, according to a Legislative Council document. That represents a more than 50 per cent rise in “drop-out teachers” from the previous school year.

The provisional figure, provided by the Education Bureau (EDB) on Tuesday, includes teachers at local kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and special needs schools.

A Hong Kong school. Photo: GovHK.

The number of “drop-out teachers” is considerably higher than in previous years – an average of around 3,600 teachers left during the academic years beginning in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“Every year there are teachers leaving the profession for various reasons, such as
retirement, pursuing further studies, taking up employment in other types of schools or outside the teaching profession, emigration and getting married,” the EDB wrote in the document.

Secondary school teachers accounted for the biggest chunk of this academic year’s departures, with 1,780 of them departing. The number of kindergarten, primary school and special needs schools teachers leaving were 1,690, 1,610 and 190 respectively.

Students outside a school. Photo: GovHK.

“According to our observation, schools are operating smoothly in general and there are enough qualified teachers,” the Education Bureau wrote.

It defines “drop-out teachers” as those who were serving at a local school as of mid-September of the preceding school year, but were no longer as of mid-September of the school year concerned.

Native English teachers churn rate

The figures for departing teachers follow the news last Wednesday that the rate of teachers leaving the EDB’s native-speaking English teaching (NET) scheme had reached a five-year high.

The attrition rate – which refers to the percentage of teachers who did not renew their contracts and left the NET scheme for reasons other than retirement – at secondary schools was 13 per cent in the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Diocesan Girls’ School. File photo: Exploringlife, via Wikimedia Commons.

In comparison, the attrition rate for NETs at secondary schools during the four years prior ranged between 8 and 10 per cent.

The attrition rate at primary schools, however, fell from 16 per cent in the academic year starting in 2019 to 11 per cent for the academic year starting in 2020.

Education secretary Kevin Yeung said there were “no substantive grounds” to link the departure of teachers to Hong Kong’s Covid-19 quarantine measures, which remain among the strictest in the world.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.