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Why Background Checks in the Education Industry Matter?

Professional misconduct on the rise: Is your school/university doing enough to keep students safe? Don't leave it to chance. Learn how background checks can help.
Hong Kong teachers background checks

Did you know that the education industry is one of the most vulnerable to professional misconduct? According to the report by the Education Bureau, the number of disciplinary actions taken against teachers for professional misconduct increased to 171 in 2023. In comparison, there were 151 and 104 cases in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Additionally, 47 teachers were deregistered due to the severity of their misconduct.

The bureau attributes this rise in cases to the increased implementation of background-checking measures, which have brought instances of misconduct into prominence that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. This clearly shows the importance of background checks in ensuring a safe learning environment for everyone involved—students, teachers, and the entire school or university.

The Role of Background Checks

As young minds are sensitive to their surroundings, a single instance of misconduct by a teacher can have a lasting negative impact on a student’s values and development. While some may view background checks as an intrusion, they are a necessary step to mitigate serious hiring risks. A background check helps reduce instances of misconduct in educational institutes by filtering out teachers with criminal histories, sexual abuse records, forgery, or any other past wrongdoings within their professional capacity. Additionally, it is a multi-layered approach that assesses teachers based on various criteria and checks, thereby making it nearly impossible for one to hide their history.

Ensuring Safety: The Importance of Background Check

The recent surge in unethical behavior by teachers serves as an eye-opener for educational institutions. It underscores the importance of background checking for every recruit, including teachers, administrators, student counselors, and all other personnel who interact with students. Let’s have a look at the most important aspects of background checks in the education industry;

  • Safeguarding students: Background checking helps educational institutions identify potential red flags that could harm their students’ mental and physical well-being. By examining the criminal records and professional conduct history of potential hires, schools, and universities can gauge their overall suitability and conduct. This demonstrates the institute’s commitment to safeguarding its students and their interests.
  • Proactive risk management: The first step to ensure a risk-free learning environment is to identify the possible sources and types of potential risks that may impact your educational goals. This can significantly reduce Incidents like sexual abuse, violence, inappropriate behavior, or conduct. Background checks can significantly reduce such incidents and facilitate proactive risk management in educational institutions.
  • Upholding professional standards:  Background check assists schools in maintaining professional standards by identifying teachers who have previously acted unprofessionally. Additionally, this may involve a record of workplace bullying, breach of professional code of conduct, or previous dismissals for cause. By hiring teachers who demonstrate professionalism, educational institutions can create positive role models for students and foster a learning environment built on mutual respect.
  • Building trust: Educational institutes thrive on trust-building and maintaining their reputation. Background checks for potential hires with any history of child abuse or violence help ensure a safe learning environment for students. Moreover, it helps build trust with parents, who can feel confident sending their children to these institutes without worrying about their safety.
  • Legal compliance: Background checks aid schools in informed hiring, ensuring compliance with education industry regulations, and making sound employment decisions. They must adhere to local laws and regulations, including specific guidelines related to teachers’ qualifications and student safety.

Background Checks Available for Teachers

Checks available for teachers can vary depending on the location, regulations, and policies of the school or institution. However, some of the common checks include;

  • Employment & education verification: In the education industry, a considerable number of cases relating to forgery involve providing fake certificates or license details by the teachers applying for teaching positions. In such cases, this process comes as a blessing as it thoroughly checks the following information provided by applicants;
    • Educational qualifications
    • Academic certificates, degrees, and their date of issuance
    • Teaching experience including the duration and nature of positions held
    • Instances of disciplinary action taken (if any) and their severity.
  • Civil litigation & criminal background check: A civil litigation check verifies any past misconduct that includes causing emotional distress to students, practicing racism/discrimination, etc. Whereas, a criminal background check considers past criminal convictions and penalties, including prison time, probation, or fines. Based on these findings and the severity of any offenses, the hiring committee may reject or progress a candidate’s application.
  • Reference check: Reference checks for teachers are one of the most important types of checks conducted in the education industry. It involves taking feedback from previous supervisors who observed conduct in a professional setting. It helps educational institutions assess the suitability of a teacher for the position they are applying for. Apart from these factors, a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses, and their level of patience and responsibility are also assessed as a part of reference checks whenever applicable.
  • Professional license verification: This is the process of verifying that a teacher has the necessary qualifications and credentials that are required to teach in an educational institution as per the guidelines and standards defined by the local laws. Along with securing a safe environment for the students, professional license verification also ensures the quality of education that an organization vouchs for.

Local Regulations (Hong Kong)

In Hong Kong, the Education Bureau (EDB) takes a proactive stance on teachers’ conduct.  Education Bureau Circular No. 7/2021, implemented in July 2021, exemplifies this commitment. Moreover, the circular mandates several key measures to strengthen the protection of students, including:

  • Mandatory teacher registration checks:  Educational institutions must verify that all teaching staff possess valid teacher registrations issued by the EDB. Furthermore, this ensures teachers meet the necessary qualifications and professional standards.
  • Criminal record checks: The EDB conducts comprehensive criminal record checks on all registered teachers every three years. Consequently, this helps identify any unreported information and potential risks.
  • Investigations into professional misconduct allegations: The EDB has a robust system for investigating allegations of professional misconduct against teachers. In cases of wrongdoing, this ensures appropriate action is taken.

It’s time to prioritize safety and set the bar high for educational institutions!

To conclude, we can hold that conducting background checks is a healthy practice in the education industry. Though it does not guarantee the complete eradication of instances of professional misconduct, it acts as an additional safeguard against such incidents. The teachers must adhere to the local regulations and ensure they meet the expected standards for their profession. An educational institution stands as an embodiment of trust and reputation. Hence they should not compromise with the quality of their hirings and adopt all the necessary precautions with the help of background checking.

Get started with teacher’s background check and ensure a safe learning environment for everyone involved.

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