May 06, 2019

Hong Kong Mediator Urges Ombuds for Public Schools

In a recent post to the Mediate blog, Jody Sin urges the HK Education Bureau ("EDB") to consider an Organizational Ombuds for school administrators, staff, and teachers. She illustrates the potential role for Ombuds through a discussion of a recent incident that resulted in the death of teacher. Sin argues that the current EDB complaints system raises concerns of fairness and conflict of interest. She ways that the interventions by Ombuds following IOA standards would provide an important remedy.

Establishing an ombuds programme into the existing mechanism (“Program”) and its key features
1.       It is advocated that the EDB should establish an ombuds program for managing and dealing with workplace conflicts and concerns of all the public schools in Hong Kong.  EDB could establish a panel of ombuds who can be deployed to different locations.   The ombuds services can be called for when they are required by the schools.  The Program shall exist in parallel with the current complaints system and aims at providing this complimentary option to members of staff in the public schools when they encounter challenges in the workplace.
2.       Under this mechanism, the ombuds are not engaged or attached to a specific school.  There is more flexibility in the deployment, and it will not add to the financial burden to individual schools.  At the same time, the members of staff, teaching or non-teaching, will be able to resort to an independent source of personnel who are conflict resolution specialist to deal with workplace problems or issues.  It is a caring human resources policy, and the rights and interests of the staff in the Aided Schools are better supported. 
3.       The ombuds engaged will report to a senior executive in the EDB, who shall oversee the operation of the Program.      
4.       Regarding the qualification of the ombuds, the standards required by IOA can be adopted as an appropriate reference.  To be qualified as an ombuds certified by the IOA, one needs to complete a five days foundation course which will be followed by satisfactory completion of an assessment.  Such prospective ombuds will then need to accumulate work experience as an ombuds for at least one year (full time) or 2000 hours in practice as an organizational ombuds before he can be eventually qualified as an IOA Certified Ombuds.
In addition to being a solicitor, Sin is a accredited mediator and the Chair of Hong Kong Mediation Council. (Mediate.)

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