NETs provide schools with valuable experience
I refer to your editorial of August 14, headlined, 'Schools and skills'. The Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme will be in its third year of implementation next month.
On the whole, the scheme has been well received by the secondary schools. It is clear that NETs are making a useful contribution to English language education and teaching in Hong Kong's schools.
NETs are successful in creating an authentic environment for learning English and helping to build the students' confidence in communicating with the language. The survey findings quoted in your editorial reaffirmed this point.
The NET Scheme operates most effectively in schools where there is professional collaboration between the NETs and local teachers. However, we appreciate that there are individual cases where NETs' expertise has not been fully used.
To ensure effective deployment of NETs, the Education Department has provided all secondary schools with guidelines on the implementation of the scheme. This is supplemented by a series of experience-sharing seminars organised over the past two years for school heads and teachers.
There is an abundance of good practices and innovative methods finding expression within the NET Scheme. Some of these were incorporated into the publication 'NET - Working'.
So far the department has organised nine seminars for principals NETs and others, and these were well received.
We have plans to encourage experience-sharing and dissemination of good practices to all schools through the district teacher networks and the department's new Regional Education Offices.
With the valuable experience gained from the Secondary NET Scheme, we are developing a Pilot Primary School English Development Scheme, which has incorporated some of the ideas expressed by our NET colleagues.
The NETs, who come from a mixed background, would be able to enlighten our students in various aspects of life and broaden their global perspective.
We accept that there may have been isolated cases where NETs coming from a very different professional and cultural background have not integrated smoothly into individual schools.
In some schools, the interactive and lively methods adopted by NETs pose a challenge to the more traditional ways of teaching English, and this may not be a bad thing. We welcome any suggestions to further improve the scheme, and we encourage schools to adopt the same open attitude.
We agree entirely with your editorial that if the SAR is to produce students who are innovative, adaptable and creative, a new approach is needed to replace the current exam-centric, rote-learning method of instruction.
The wide-ranging education reforms proposed by the Education Commission seek precisely to achieve this. Education reform is a mammoth task and calls for the concerted efforts of all stakeholders working together: the Government, teachers, principals, students, parents, school sponsoring bodies and the wider community.
MATTHEW CHEUNG KIN-CHUNG
Director of Education