Disappointed NETs should join the ESF
The NET scheme is not getting value for money. The scheme itself is a great idea and in some cases is doing well. However, in the vast majority of cases, it is not at its most effective. Why? Because schools and NETs have completely different expectations of their roles.
Schools often see NETs as the same as the rest of their teaching staff and should therefore teach in their style, and abide by all their rules. NETs see themselves as 'agents of change' with freedom and flexibility to develop new ideas, and that the school will have some understanding of the challenges they face.
When these two expectations meet, or should I say collide, the Education and Manpower Bureau is called in to find some middle ground.
The bureau comes in and talks about guidelines, best practice, benefit for the students, etc. But at the end of the day the NET is at the 'mercy' of the school, which is focused on exam results, teaching hours logged (not used) and textbook learning ... sorry teaching NOT learning.
Most often this leaves the NET disappointed and upset that their role is not nearly what they imagined when they left their home country. The NET then has three choices:
Keep your head down, photocopy worksheets and survive your contract, then head home or to an ESF school.
Fight what seems a losing battle, without support, to develop a new approach to education and have a hard time doing so.
Quit and return home or to an ESF school.
How can this be fixed? The EMB must stop wasting money by paying NETs and leaving them high and dry. It must enforce the changes it supposedly desires.
If the job wasn't so terrible at present I doubt these wage dispute would have gone on for so long ... ESF here I come.
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Local teachers should try being a bit kinder
I would like to thank Lita Chau (Education Post, September 17 - 'NET fails to immerse in local culture') for taking time out from what is no doubt a frightfully busy schedule to reply to my letter. You have made an excellent point, Ms Chau: 'It is useless to stereotype local teachers or NETs'.
I also agree that teachers should be free to socialise in designated recreation areas. However, in many Hong Kong schools, 'staff room' refers to the working space allocated to staff. And, in many local schools, the terrific noise, etc, in these areas really makes a mockery of anyone's claim that local teachers work harder than anyone else.
I wouldn't say that a teacher who only came to work three days a week and did not prepare lessons was 'healthy'. One assumes that (as she was probably the only foreigner working in the school) Chinese colleagues approached this NET and asked her, face to face, what was wrong? Or, was she simply greeted by cold, inscrutable 'faces'?
NETs can only integrate as much as their particular school allows them to. It has often been my experience that local teachers (many of whom actually use passports from English-speaking countries) can't even be bothered to return a pleasant greeting.
NETs come from truly multi-cultural countries, where, it should be pointed out, large communities of ethnic Chinese find acceptance and live much more happily than they can in their own country.
The reaction to this latest attack on NETs has shown that cultural tolerance, understanding and communication cannot be achieved without some human empathy.
My advice to all those local teachers who resent sharing their workplace with NETs is to try a little human kindness. The results would benefit everybody.
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