Surge in teachers sitting test for English
The number of teachers and trainees sitting the controversial English benchmark test has more than doubled, with 865 taking yesterday's second annual exam.
Some educators said the rise in the number of candidates was a sign of teachers' growing acceptance of the test.
The reading, listening and writing portions of the exam were held yesterday, while spoken tests will start today.
There were only 413 candidates for the first English benchmark test in March last year, of whom 141 were serving teachers and the others were believed to be trainees.
The Education and Manpower Bureau said there was no breakdown on the number of serving teachers who sat yesterday's test, because candidates were not required to declare their employment status. But 267 candidates took the exam on classroom language assessment, which only serving English-language teachers are entitled to attempt.
The 75,000-strong Professional Teachers' Union, which strongly opposed the test when it was introduced to raise English standards among educators, continues to call on members to boycott the test. It calls the test an insult to teachers.
About 14,000 English-language teachers must meet minimum proficiency standards by the 2005/2006 school year, by passing the benchmark test or attending training courses.
Paul Lee Kit-kong, principal of Kei Hin Primary School in Ngau Tau Kok, said more serving teachers were willing to sit the test because they considered it pivotal to improving the standard of English teaching.
Yesterday he made his second attempt at the written exam, which he failed last year. He passed the papers on listening, speaking and reading in last year's test.
'Some serving teachers preferred sitting the test to attending courses, on the ground that it can save time,' Mr Lee said.
Olivia Chi, an English-language teacher at a primary school in Kowloon City, said she approved of the tests as 'a good means of identifying teachers who are proficient in English'.
Patrick Chan, who is the English-language panel chairman at a primary school in Tai Po, said the listening test was easier than he expected.
Some candidates who sat last year's listening test complained there were inconsistencies in the way the audio tape was presented and they were not given adequate time to write down answers.
Mr Chan said the pauses during this year's test were long enough for the candidates to write the answers.