PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 April, 2005, 12:00am

Myopic penny pinching jeopardises vital language service

John Murnane's Education Forum article (Education Post, 2 April) hit the proverbial 'nail on the head'. There is a very real danger that the mismanagement of the Native English-speaking Teachers' (NET) scheme will drive its hardworking and sorely-needed NETs away.

The short-sighted reduction of the monthly special allowance from $13,000 to $10,500 in September 2004 has made it very difficult for many NETs to meet either rental accommodation costs and/or their children's school fees. Rents are rising steadily and I know of many cases where NETs have to leave their flats due to steep increases.

The restoration of the special allowance would be a minimal first step the Education and Manpower Bureau could take to show NETs it understands their current crisis.

The NET scheme has hitherto attracted top English specialist teachers with the promise of good living and working conditions, and the appropriate support to enable them to make their special contribution to Hong Kong's schools. Sadly, these living and working conditions, plus the necessary back-up, have been eroded. In addition to the slashing of the special allowance, NETs have endured three pay cuts and instances of 'isolation, mistreatment' and 'principals who are a law unto themselves'.

Although currency exchange rates lie outside the purview of the EMB, the special allowance and general conditions of employment are within its jurisdiction. The EMB needs to give its NET scheme a metaphorical 'shot in the arm'.

Recent figures show that nigh on 50 per cent of current NETs are choosing not to renew their contracts. It would be a great pity if Hong Kong were to lose its experienced NETs after seven years of progress and tangible achievement.


South Horizons

Even NETs must share burden

I am writing to express my opinion about the Native English Speaking Teachers' (NETs) housing allowance. In last week's Education Post it was mentioned that some NETs were threatening to leave because their housing allowances were cut from $13,000 to $10,000 per month.

Why shouldn't the government adjust the amount it pays when housing costs have fallen?

In my opinion it should. The government is still in the red after all. Stop being so greedy.

I think the government needs to rethink the NET scheme, especially the primary NET scheme in light of continued increases in the amount spent on education by government. At the primary level, perhaps we don't need expensive teachers from other countries.

Instead, teacher assistants that help in English classes that have undergone some sort of basic training should be enough to introduce primary aged children to English culture. I refer to the JET (Japan English Teaching) scheme as an example.

This scheme hires university graduates with basic teaching skills to assist local teachers. It seems to work well in Japan. Maybe that system would work better here and the government would save money.


What about a word of thanks

I couldn't help noticing articles where, once again, a group of teachers, specifically NET teachers, are being forced to take a pay cut.

Please, is it possible to say thank you to the teachers of all schools, who despite pay cuts, have continued to go beyond their contractual obligations and give so much of themselves to our children.


Tai Tam