An Interview with Eric Chi Keung Cheng: Accountability in Hong Kong

Jul 20, 2012 by

Eric Chi Keung Cheng is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction of The Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Eric, could you tell us about your present situation, education and experience?

I am currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction of The Hong Kong Institute of Education.

I earned my Doctor of Education in education management from the University of Leicester. I have served as a secondary teacher, subject panel chairperson, career master, school development officer of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, part time lecturer of Institute of Vocational Education, tutor of Open University of Hong Kong, Subject Committee member of Hong Kong Examination Authority and Former Curriculum Development Council member.

My research publications cover the areas of school management, Learning Study and knowledge management including school self-evaluation, management strategies, shared decision making, teacher leadership, teacher collective learning, teacher emotional competency, teacher personal knowledge management, communities of practice, self regulated learning and knowledge strategies.

I have experience in conducting teacher professional development workshops and supporting school improvement projects. I have conducted many projects that have been funded by the Quality Education Fund and the Education Bureau including school self-evaluation, organizational learning, metacognitive teaching and Learning Study.

I also am an experienced instructor in various leadership training and development programmes including preparation for principalship training programme, vice-principal (PGM) training programme, school manager training programme, and mentors training programme.

2) You have an article to appear in the Journal of Education and Sociology. What is the exact title and when will it appear?

A Social Monitoring Perspective on Education Quality Assurance in Hong Kong.

Journal of Education and Sociology, 3(2), 4-7.

3) Why in your mind is accountability important in the schools and how is it implemented?

Schools as organizations require resources for sustainable development. Schools should response to government policy (state accountability), to parent choice (customer accountability), to public (as a professional, professional accountability).

School-based management decentralises power to schools from the central district office for flexibility in decision-making. Schools are then required to be accountable to the public through an institutionalised quality assurance (QA) mechanism for pursuing school effectiveness.

4) What challenges face the schools in Hong Kong currently ?

Schools in Hong Kong have long been faced with a series of new policies generated by education reform. For instance, a quality assurance mechanism in the form of school self-evaluation (SSE) and external school review (ESR) have been imposed on the Hong Kong school system to enhance education quality (Education Commission, 1997).

A new senior secondary curriculum is now being implemented in secondary schools to improve student learning. Schools are struggling with this reform and are tasked with reducing their academic structure from 7 to 6 years. The latter challenge has to contend with the reduced number of students in Hong Kong, which has made schools fiercely competitive with regard to student admission students; this competitive market has indirectly increased the power of parental choice, which schools also have to take into account. The latest challenge is the introduction of Opposition to the introduction of the new national education subject in September 2012 (accountable to Beijing China Government).

5) I actually visited Hong Kong during the transition from British to local rule. What changes have you seen in the interim?

I guess it was before 1997.

Nowadays, Opposition to the introduction of the new national education subject in September is snowballing, with at least 115 schools already saying no. A parents’ concern group also voiced its opposition while a teachers’ union said up to 40 percent of the 528 primary schools in the territory may opt out of teaching the subject for the first year.

6) What was the main focus of your study?

The study reveals the hidden implications of the quality assurance (QA) mechanism for school education in Hong Kong from the perspective of social monitoring described in Foucault’s (1979) book “Discipline and Punish”. The QA mechanism aims to improve school education by introducing an accountability and development framework, represented by the external school review and school self-evaluation respectively.

However, the policy requires that the school self-evaluation process be verified and endorsed by an external review by the Education Bureau, that the areas for self-evaluation be bounded and framed by a set of central performance indicators and that the school evaluation report be uploaded to the school web-based information management system. The result is that the effect of the professional control is greater than the effect on school development. In this paper it is argued that the concepts of social surveillance, discipline and power proposed by Foucault in “Discipline and Punish” prevail in the QA model. It concludes that the power of social control generated by the QA model is established and rooted in the system for monitoring school quality.

7) What would you say are the implications and ramifications of your study?

Actually, I havn’t write any implications in the paper.

I think I would propose that the loose coupling and tight coupling, refer to the balance point of the degree of control, it is the question of control or not to control. Numerous researchers (Willower, 1982; Mickey, et al. 1983; Herriot & Firestone, 1984) have indicated that schools and Education Bureau are better understood as a combination of loose and tight coupling, although referring to different relationships in different situations.

Peters and Waterman (1982) identified simultaneous loose-tight coupling as one of the features of the best-run American corporations. Sergiovanni (1984) found that excellent schools were both tightly coupled and loosely coupled based on an analysis of the literature surrounding school effectiveness.

Actually, loose coupling and tight coupling is similar to the philosophy of the theory of Yi-Yang in the Book of Change.

8) What are you currently working on?

I am currently investigating the Shift to Knowledge Management In School organizations.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

You may feel free to further communicate with us on any issues. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions.

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