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Policy brief: Continuing Professional Development Policies for Teachers in Hong Kong

Monaliza Maximo CHIAN and Andrew Pau HOANG


Chian M. M. & Hoang A. P. (2021). Policy brief: Continuing professional development policies for teachers in Hong Kong. Academy for Leadership in Teacher Education.
Policy-in-brief: Continuing Professional Development Policies for Teachers in Hong Kong


The essence of Professional Development (PD) for teachers is enhancing their knowledge and skills in light of the latest educational trends and issues. Professional development comprises "activities that develop an individual's skills, knowledge, expertise and other characteristics as a teacher" (OECD, 2009, p.49). It is recommended that PD policies for teachers align with the profession's national and/or regional standards, including professional conduct and values (e.g., Bautista & Ortega, 2015). The activities should also be responsive and relevant to the learning needs of teachers and those of their students (e.g., Darling-Hammond et al., 2017).

Teacher PD policies aim to promote the values and attitudes for continual self-advancement. From this perspective, teachers will be better equipped to prepare students to meet the challenges and opportunities inherent to a rapidly changing society. Whilst policy objectives may appear straightforward, the policy content and details can be complex. Therefore, this policy brief (summary of the policy) unpacks the current Continuing Professional Development (CPD) policies, namely, the Teacher Competencies Framework (TCF) and the Professional Ladder for Teachers (Professional Ladder). This summary aims to help educators and scholars in Hong Kong and beyond gain a deeper understanding of the current CPD policies for teachers in Hong Kong so that professional development plans can be better informed and designed more effectively. Thus, this first part of the policy brief presents pertinent features of the TCF and the basic CPD requirements. The latter part of the brief explains the establishment, conceptual framework, and implementation of the Professional Ladder. This synthesis was drawn from source materials of the Education Bureau (EDB) website [1], including policy documents (reports), EDB circular on implementing the region's policy on PD, and information from the Committee on Professional Development of Teachers and Principals (COTAP) website [2].

[1] Education Bureau (EDB), The Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR).
[2] Committee On Professional Development of Teachers and Principal (COTAP) was established in 2013, led by Dr Carrie Willis. The primary goals are to improve initial teacher education further, facilitate teachers' CPD and promote school leadership. They also advise the Government on policies and measures relating to teachers and principals. In 2015, they launched the "T-excel@ HK" project targeting eight areas of focus, namely: T-standard+, T-datasetPD, T-trainß, T-surf24/7, T-craft3, T-share, T-applause, and T-bridge.

Teacher Competencies Framework and Continuing Professional Development Framework

In 2003, the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualification (ACTEQ) introduced the Teacher Competencies Framework (TCF) [3] for teachers to use as a reference tool for self-reflection in relation to their self-advancement (See Table 1). The TCF consists of four domains, with each domain consisting of four dimensions that emphasise critical aspects of teachers' work (ACTEQ, 2003, p.9). Each dimension has three competency descriptors to identify increasing stages of competency (threshold, competent, accomplished), respectively.

[3] The TCF was designed as a “map” to guide teachers to create their professional development plans and school leaders to support their teachers in achieving their professional development goals.

Table 1: Overview of the Generic Teacher Competencies Framework (ACTEQ, 2003, p.24)

Teachers also must engage in varied modes of CPD activities to achieve a "soft target" of not less than 150 CPD hours in each three-year cycle (ACTEQ, 2003, p.13). Schools are required to organise three days of school-wide professional development annually.

Whilst these basic requirements are still in place since 2003, the Government also launched the Professional Ladder for Teachers [4] in 2018 to enhance the CPD for teachers in Hong Kong. The goals are to promote the culture of continuing professional development among the teaching profession; enhance the professional standards; recognise and elevate the professional status of teachers; and retain, attract, and nurture dedicated professionals to further enhance the quality of education in Hong Kong (Task Force, 2019).


Establishment of the Professional Ladder for Teachers in Hong Kong

The establishment of the Professional Ladder for Teachers is a response to the Chief Executive's Policy Address in 2017 calling the Task Force on Professional Development of Teachers [5] to conduct an in-depth review on eight critical areas of education, including the professional development of teachers. One key area of focus was determining sensible strategies for establishing a professional ladder for teachers (Task Force, 2019).

[5] The Task Force on Professional Development of Teachers (Task Force) was established in 2017. Chaired by Dr Carrie Willis, it has 18 members from primary, secondary, and special schools, school sponsoring bodies, universities, teacher groups, an expert on human resources, a representative from the EDB. The Task Force was asked to conduct in-depth reviews on issues related to the professional development of teachers and make recommendations for enhancement.

After a year of extensive work, the Task Force presented 18 recommendations on four areas:

  1. Establishment of the Professional Ladder for Teachers (Professional Ladder)

  2. An all-graduate teaching force

  3. Advancing teachers' career prospects, enhancing school management ranking and deployment arrangement

  4. Commendation on outstanding teachers (Report, 2019, p.iii-iv)

The four areas are interrelated in that the establishment of the Professional Ladder for teachers serves as a "cornerstone of the professional growth of teachers" (p.2). The three areas above (i.e., 2, 3, 4) serve to support the continual renewal of the "teachers' professional knowledge and skills, professional capacity and management efficiency" (ibid, p. 74). Implementing an all-graduate force acknowledges that teachers holding a bachelor's degree enhance the teaching force's professional capacity to adapt to societal changes, the latest educational developments, and all students' diverse and changing needs. Improving the ranking arrangement of school management encourages the continual development of the teaching profession; appreciates the contributions of teachers and school leaders; elevates teachers' professional status; and improves the quality of education. Establishing commendation schemes at multiple levels to recognise teachers with outstanding performance promotes the advancement of professional capacity (Task Force, 2019). The Government accepted these recommendations as announced during the Chief Executive Policy Address in 2018.

Conceptual framework and implementation of the Professional Ladder for Teachers in Hong Kong

The goals of the Professional Ladder are to enhance teachers' professional growth and elevate teachers' professional status. Teachers and principals are expected to understand the content of the Professional Ladder and use it as a guide in developing their professional learning needs and career trajectory. The conceptual framework of the Professional Ladder is represented in the diagram below, taken from the EDB website (can also be found in the Task Force Report, 2019, p.20).

Figure 1: Diagram of Conceptual Professional Ladder for Teachers

(from EDB website [4], The Report [5], p.20)

The diagram depicts the horizontal progression of the teachers' career development from pre-service teachers to principals. Similar to the TCF, there are increasing stages of competency for each professional role that describe teachers' beliefs and actions (from threshold, competent, to distinguished), respectively. It also shows the expected competency levels for each stage of career development. For teachers to meet their professional standards, they must engage in programmes/activities to enhance professional teaching competencies. In order to move up to the Professional Ladder, teachers must engage in programmes/activities on improving leadership competencies. The Professional Ladder includes three core elements of teachers' professional growth (See Figure 1) and the three respective professional roles for teachers and principals under the "T-standard+". The "T" refers to members of the teaching profession at various stages, including pre-service and in-service teachers, middle managers, vice principals, and principals.

The "T-standard+": The Professional Standards for Teachers in Hong Kong

The "T-standard+" is a set of unified Professional Standards for Teachers developed by COTAP [2] in 2015 and finalised in 2018. With a "student-centred" approach as one of the guiding principles [6], the three professional standards for teachers include: Caring cultivators of all-round growth; Inspiring co-constructors of knowledge, and Committed role models of professionalism. Each professional standard lists expectations and goals for teachers to achieve, specific to students' desired attributes, as illustrated in Figure 2.

[6] The guiding principles of the “T-Standard+” are adopting a student-centred approach, moving towards a core competency approach, embedding core values, alignment with local and international educational policies and practices, and flexibility for professional autonomy.

Figure 2: "T-standard+" - Professional Standards for Teachers in Hong Kong [6]

Since the Professional Ladder [4] was recently introduced, the Task Force recommended implementing the Professional Ladder at multiple levels, as represented in Table 2 (Task Force, 2019, p.22-25).

Table 2: Recommended implementation of Professional Ladder at multiple levels


This policy brief highlights the current CPD policies in Hong Kong. Together, they serve their objectives in supporting teachers to enhance their professional knowledge and skills as well as to actualise the vision and mission of the profession. The TCF explicitly provides the required professional competencies, skills, knowledge, and attitudes of teachers in various professional stages and in accordance with the various professional duties. The "T-standard+" describes the vision and mission of teachers at different stages of their professional growth. The "soft target" of 150 hours of teachers' engagement in various modes of PD in a three-year cycle enables them to develop a plan to meet the expectations and goals set forth by the TCF and the "T-standard+". As the Professional Ladder is taken up and implemented in alignment with the goals for teacher CPD in Hong Kong, the teaching profession will continue moving towards greater advancement and excellence in education.



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