Nine out of ten secondary schools received requests from students to boycott classes during last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protest, a survey by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and an association of school principals has shown.
The survey, “Stories untold – What happened in schools during the Occupy Movement 2014?” aims to better understand what happened at secondary schools during the protest. It received responses from 131 principals and 1,411 secondary school teachers from a pool of 168 secondary schools.
Yip Hak-kwong, Director of Policy 21, a subsidiary of HKU which co-organised the survey, said that most of the schools chose to tolerate class boycotts. Twenty percent of principals permitted class boycotts, he said, while 70 percent allowed class boycotts with parental consent, reports Ming Pao.
Around 90 percent of the surveyed principals said that schools should remain politically neutral when dealing with class boycotts and protests, and 80 percent said it was an opportunity to encourage students to think from a different perspective.
Those students who boycotted classes typically assembled inside their school and discussed issues, or studied on their own.
Although just 3.8 percent of the surveyed teachers brought students to observe or join the protest, the survey showed that 63 percent of them felt the protest had a positive impact on students’ acknowledgement of issues of society.
Around half of the surveyed teachers said that the protest had no impact on students’ studies and their relationship with students.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, Lee Suet-ying, said that although the studies of some students may have been affected during the protest, joining social movements can bring new knowledge to students.
She added that schools have recovered from the impact of the protest. Some had banned students from political activities, but schools had since been in touch with students via social media and resolved the conflicts.
Lee also said that teachers have to accept that schools are not immune to politics, and she expects students to be more involved in politics in the future. She said she believed schools can handle it better when the next social movement happens.