Canadian International School Hong Kong in Turmoil

The school day had ended. Teachers and students were saying their good-byes for the summer months.  Unbeknownst to 9 teachers and 2 support staff, their goodbyes were going to be permanent.  While still in their classrooms signing students’ yearbooks and wishing the kids and parents a great vacation, a school secretary entered and handed “walking notices” to the 9 unsuspecting teachers. It is reported that some burst into tears. Security guards then locked the dismissed teachers out of their email accounts.

As a result, Canadian School Hong Kong now finds itself suspended by Search Associates and has become the focus of organized protests by both parents and students.

Reports indicate the school has sought legal advice as to whether it can also remove certain students as a means to break relations with parents who, like the fired teachers, oppose current school governance procedures. Gregg Maloberti, current Head of school, replaced a well-liked and respected previous Head who was booted after disagreements with school governors. The Globe and Mail web site reports that a group of students expressed disapproval of the firings by taking down Mr. Maloberti’s official school portrait.

The letters of termination are said to contain verbiage reminding teachers that their contracts contain a confidentiality clause. By all accounts, this clause is in essence a gag order, and may account for why ISR has not received School Reviews exposing the situation.

ISR certainly would not advocate any teacher break the terms of their contract, but parents and other interested parties may wish to have a centralized location through which to discuss developments at this school. Notably, the school reports they will be “fully staffed with qualified teachers when classes resume in August.”

Here are some news links of interest related to this situation

1. Even Hong Kong’s sought-after private schools cannot ignore customer needs:

2. Canadian School in Hong Kong fires group of teachers after year of tumult:

3. CDNIS suspended from International Education Network:

And it seems many are so frustrated, a spoof Twitter account mimicking the Head of School was created:

4. Read a detailed School Review  posted to the ISR Member Area (7/3/2015) that describes events at the school in detail. Please scroll to Review #10 when page opens

(ISR Note: In a previous Newsletter, we did say we were taking the summer months off to focus on technical matters related to the ISR Web Site, but the current situation at the Canadian School Hong Kong warrants immediate attention.)

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17 Responses to Canadian International School Hong Kong in Turmoil

  1. Anonymous says:

    Shanghai Community International School had a similar situation this year. At least 10 teachers (possibly more, I don’t know the exact number) were let go during the last week of school. According to the administration this was due to a lack of expected enrollment and that all international schools in Shanghai are facing the same problem. However, talking with teachers at the other schools in Shanghai, their administration knew this was coming and chose to hire less new staff for next year, rather than letting current staff go with no warning the last week of school.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, ISR for sharing this story.

    Even though this happened several times before, it is still very shocking and disturbing to hear that these teachers were fired without notice. I can only imagine what they’re going through with having to find jobs for the new school year. I cannot believe this is the ‘Canadian International School’ in Hong Kong! Teachers are afraid to go public because they fear they will be blacklisted and not get jobs with other schools – unfortunately it’s not that easy to secure foreign teaching positions. There is the China Foreign Teachers Union but I am not sure if the website is helpful. In addition, I am not sure how we as the international teaching community can help since we have no global organization to represent us and which can address issues such as these. Ultimately all of us are affected Cases such as this one will be repeated many more times in the future unless we have something in place that can actively address and stop this injustice, unfairness and abuse towards foreign professionals.


    • Nichtlustig says:

      I would like to say that I agree with the above. Luckily in some countries you do have rights when employed, however, sadly, this is not the case for many that are teaching abroad!
      Perhaps it is time for one of the school recruiting bodies to also offer more security to the teachers ie a type of union.
      No teachers, no school!


      • Anonymous says:

        Dear Nichtlustig,

        Thank you so much for your reply. I am from South Africa and teachers here do have rights. We have one such union called the South African Democratic Teachers Union. But over the last 16 years I worked outside South Africa, in Asia and Central Asia and in these places, teachers unions are strictly prohibited I do agree that the recruiting bodies should offer some kind of union support to protect teachers. Yes, I agree – no foreign teachers, no school – no school, no business!!


        • Anonymous says:

          Hing Kong has a teachers union. Join it if you teach in Hong Kong. An expat teacher at another ahong Kong school has been given a very good severence package as the school knew thw union was in her corner and management eas wrong.


  3. Anonymous says:

    What’s the story with the corruption of the ib?


  4. A.G. says:

    Re: patrickmurtha – you’re not being cynical, you’re simply reflecting reality. In the case of China, the reality is that an increasing number of Canadian provincial and American state educational regulatory bodies are apparently rushing to certify or accredit any Chinese school that includes the word “international” in it’s name, or is accredited by the IB (also hopelessly corrupt, but that’s another discussion).

    What is amusing is the hypocrisy; the very standards (many of them rigid, onerous and problematic) that schools in Canada or the United States are compelled to follow (at least in the public sector, but then again it’s the government that regulates those) somehow are conveniently forgotten when Chinese schools are asking to be certified, and many of these schools would never be certified if they were located in Canada or the United States. But hey, that’s okay; as long as there is money to be made, why bother with pesky standards?

    It seems odd to me, but how can a regulatory body based in a free-market, multi-party democratic state certify a school located in a single-party totalitarian state?


    • I completely agree with you about the IB!


    • Anonymous says:

      We have all seen this story before, only last year in Indonesia, where an external review body recommended a board of an IS school be ‘more open, transparent’, ‘listens to teachers’, allow them to have ‘genuine input in decision making’, with a tantrum of arrogant, knee-jerk responses and defiance.
      Personally, I am disappointed with comments suggesting the IB is corrupt (but then, I wasn’t there to witness what the bloggers know). These organisations (CIS, IB etc) endeavour to bring recognised, research-based best practice to all their certified schools; their literature espouses collaborative, consultative processes, ‘professional learning communities’ and corroborates with what is required for a dynamic, productive educational environment. Actioning their philosophy, organisations like the IB use teachers representing the diversity of their communities as part of their evaluation teams. Could that be a problem?
      ‘Authorisation’, also does not mean the school is fully there yet, but that it appeared to have the foundation to develop these practices. I consider it is a brave endeavour to bring this philosophy to communities like totalitarian China that still has a Confucian tradition, and to expect IB schools (for example) to be the oases of change. Meanwhile, visiting evaluation teams are presented with a fiction worthy of a Man Booker, invented verbatim accounts by teachers no are longer present at the school (if they ever existed), and teaching teams (fresh, inexperienced, keen to support the school, desperate to keep their jobs) coached in what to say. Could this be a problem?
      Four years down the track, the school board expects to pass its review process still pretending, but this time maintaining the facade has become more difficult, as the school now needs to demonstrate an active process of reflection of its journey. But perhaps there hasn’t been a journey: the teaching team is again a new, the resources weren’t purchased and what was there four years ago, the bare minimum, has gone mouldy. There will be matters to be addressed. Someone needs to be blamed. Could this be a problem?
      Accreditation certificates are keenly sought after by schools to legitimise their standing with their communities, and the accrediting organisations are all working in a landscape of rival, international educational accrediting bodies. For-profit organisations naturally want the best, but best is truly difficult to implement, so they will eventually settle for expedience. We will be living in ‘interesting times’ in the next few years. Let’s watch this space circumspectly, and keep our escape plans ready.


      • Anonymous says:

        You misread my comment; I was not talking about the IB at this school specifically, but rather using the IB to make a general statement on what I feel are suspect certification practices by Western educational authorities.

        However, since you have taken issue with my characterization of the IB, let”s discuss that. Unlike you, my opinion of the IB does not come from their promotional literature (hardly an unbiased place to start) but rather having spent two and a half years working at an IB school. So, with that;

        1. “These organizations endeavor to bring recognized, research-based best practice to all of their certified schools.”

        Well, they need to endeavor harder. When the IB certifies a school, they essentially leave the school to their own devices, and only thoroughly check to see how implementation is going five years after initial certification (which you touch upon). In addition, of the IB staff at the IB school I was at, 5 out of the 10 instructors were not what I would consider to be properly trained as they had no certification from their home countries and no BEds.

        2. “Organizations like the IB use teachers representing the diversity of their communities.”

        Wrong. In a country where a single ethnicity represents in excess of 90% of the population, there is no diversity. Not only that, since the IB requires English as the language of instruction for all core subjects (and hence it”s wild popularity in Asia), the school I was at was literally scouring all of Southeast Asia trying to find anyone qualified in terms of subject knowledge (ie; someone with a Biology degree to teach Biology), and as English is a second language throughout pretty much all of SE Asia, nevermind trying to find women or minorities.The school I was at did not care who they found; if it was a woman or a person of color that was a bonus, but it was not a prerequisite for the job. They had problems enough (and still do) just finding people who could teach the subject. Which is why of the 10 teachers in the program, only one was a woman. The rest were men, and of those 8 of 9 were white.

        3. “I consider it brave… to expect IB schools to oases of change.”

        I consider it naive and foolhardy to think that IB schools in China are potentially going to be the catalyst for some sort of profound sociopolitical change. If so, you need to Google “Chinese dissidents” and do some reading. Let me tell you what will happen if and when the Chinese government ever perceives the IB as representing some sort of challenge to their authority. The schools will be closed wholesale, foreign teachers will be deported and God only knows what will happen to the indigenous Chinese staff. Twenty years of unbridled capitalism has not loosened the CCP’s grip on power. It’s not about to be any time soon. Such a statement like this makes me wonder why you are on here shilling for the IB when you clearly know so little about how that organization really works.

        One question I have for you-if the IB has such a vaunted certification process, how many of the total applicant schools are rejected in a given year? Because the internet says not many.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Sounds just like American Pacific International School, Chiang Mai, minus the organized protest.


  6. Umut Karzai says:

    Most International schools are run by people who have very little idea what education is. Most schools are either for profit or you have non profits that are run like medieval fiefdoms where you must say yes sir no sir. Where do you want me to kiss your backside sir? This happens everywhere, but especially when a new regime is brought in. I wouldn’t stay in a school where people are fired without an explanation. I have left such schools and I will not be part of a system where teachers are not prized and appreciated. I will be leaving a school this summer, because of a situation similar to The Canadian School of Hong Kong. My advice be very careful when you sign a contract.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that sounds just like Cedar international School in the British Virgin Islands … Except it is too small to make the papers.


  8. Anonymous says:

    The name of the school is Canadian International School.


  9. It goes on everywhere. International schools are worse than most supposedly hardcore for-profit businesses when it comes to making sure that everyone has “drunk the Kool-Aid.” If you have ever so much as gently raised an uncomfortable issue, you might be tagged for dismissal. Since there are no protections, to put it mildly, I agree with Jon Cristofer Miller that “one always needs an escape plan in reserve.” Of course, that raises the bitter question of why one would go to work for most of these schools in the first place. It’s not like you’ll find much commitment to educational values; it’s all money and politics. Sorry to be so cynical, but that is what my five years abroad have taught me. The students are even worse victims than the teachers, and their parents are often foolish for paying as much as they do. The beat goes on…


  10. Jon Cristofer Miller says:

    Obviously, I know none of the details, but the pattern cited is not uncommon in academia or in business.

    There will always be concerns whenever someone replaces a popular manager. Unfortunately, some new managers seek to make their marks immediately by denigrating all that came before. When the truth is not enough, then lies become the norm… and tricks are used to pre-empt benefits. For example, teachers receive year-to-year “extensions” instead of traditional two-year contracts with signing bonuses.

    The simple truth is that one works for the organization, not t
    he immediate manager. Consequently, prudence demands that one always keeps an escape plan in reserve. ###


    • A.G. says:

      What amazes me is the reaction of the educators at the place-shock, disbelief, bursting into tears, etc. All of them need to give their heads a collective shake. They should know FULL WELL that international educators pretty much anywhere in Asia have little or no protection from this sort of action. Unions, collective bargaining and representation, enforcement of labor laws and standards are often non-existent. If you are a public-sector educator in North America at least you have these to shield you from the capriciousness of the “market”. If they didn’t know this, then that’s a level of ignorance that beggars belief.

      People getting into teaching overseas simply cannot be this naive; I mean, you are going to work in a totalitarian state where you are a non-citizen, and you are shocked and surprised when something like this happens? I mean, really???


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