Elite demand reflects on local standards
The original idea for international schools in Hong was to cater for expatriates whose children did not speak Cantonese and/or whose children required a similar style of schooling as they would have in their own country to fit in again upon returning.
The Hong Kong government invited me to work here as a NET teacher. Unfortunately it does not provide any education expenses so it is not possible to access many international schools, particularly those requiring debentures. There is one available school on Lantau Island with 22 places. Dozens of local parents will also seek these places. The difference is that if my son is not accepted we must leave Hong Kong.
Building more international schools is not going to be an answer to the needs of expatriates if these schools fill up with locals. If the government wishes to retain NET teachers it needs to provide an education allowance and question why so many locals spurn local schools and enrol their children in international schools. Do local schools fail to make the grade or is it elitism?
The greatest act of faith a government official can make towards the local system of schooling is to enrol their own child in a local school. If they work for years and years in the management of local schools in the Education and Manpower Bureau but don't enrol their own children in the system isn't it a little hypocritical? It would make for an interesting survey.
English standards worth upholding
David Nunan of HKU English Centre argues that English and admission standards are falling at his university. HKU is highly regarded and holds status internationally as an English medium university.
In an article which appeared in Education Post (June 10), Professor Nunan, to support his thesis that standards are falling, is quoted as saying the science faculty is to admit students with a Use of English grade of E, down from D grade last year. Oh dear. While the EMB is fighting hard to maintain English levels with the NET scheme and generous provisions for local teachers to upgrade their English, the fact is that in my several years as a Use of English examiner, I note that students, who some years ago were failed, are now getting an E and sometimes D grade.
This is the result norm referencing and of allowing students with HKCEE syllabus A results, even an E grade, to take Use of English at AS-level.
Why are schools accepting candidates into courses that put Hong Kong's reputation at risk? A university jealous of its reputation should now insist on a C grade.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Motivation is the
Enthusiastic English teachers such as me may sometimes feel disheartened, especially when hearing some unjustified negative comments about local teachers.
What your reader says in 'Teaching English demands competence' (Education Post, June 17) is misleading, causing hostile sentiments towards non-native teachers.
There is no doubt that some local teachers are far from competent to teach English and need retraining. However, it is too harsh to say that 'weak candidates get through [the classroom language assessment] simply because many assessors are unaware of the errors made by the teachers under review'.
His comments not only underestimate the linguistic competence of those who have passed the official proficiency test for English teachers but also insult the education authority that initiates the test.
As far as I know, not all assessors are local people. Some are native speakers. Even if the assessors are local they are by no means 'lenient'. Some native-speakers I know failed the classroom language assessment because they were unable to use proper language to make themselves understood.
Another comment that seems quite offensive is the criticism of teachers' poor pedagogical skills, which the writer claims would put students to sleep. Perhaps he is not in the teaching profession and therefore does not realise the reality of the classroom.
The sad reality is not 'teachers reading aloud from a textbook, on a microphone, to 40 bored children', but that students simply lack the motivation to learn the language. They don't need it in their daily lives and they don't feel part of the English-speaking culture. Students lack motivation.
It is not easy to teach English, especially in Chinese-medium schools where a great deal of effort is put into motivating students. English teachers in Hong Kong deserve respect and better treatment.
Yuen Long Lutheran College
puts baby at risk
I'm concerned for the safety of the baby who was held upside down on Page One of your section (Education Post, June 10).
The child's life was literally in the maid's hands and while I applaud the explanation of your caption, I worry that other parents, or worse, elder brothers and sisters of babies, might emulate this questionable practice for fun.
So, I urge the education and social services departments to prevent this strange behaviour and lecture the mother and her domestic helper on the irresponsibility of their action. (As your motoring page says of motorbike stunts: 'Do not try this at home'.)
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED