Education Mailbag

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2007, 12:00am

Cast a real NET and harvest some reality

Re 'If the NET scheme is going to survive, it needs a total overhaul' (Education Post, April 21), I have always been more than satisfied with my NET salary. I am not at the top of the scale but I do have the 10 per cent retention incentive. I was delighted to receive it and saw it as a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Education and Manpower Bureau after much hard work on the part of certain Native English-speaking Teachers' Association individuals.

I doubt that any NETs have left solely because of the 'lost' HK$30,000. While I wouldn't refuse the money, I acknowledge the government would be setting an unwise precedent if it paid it. I forgot about it a long time ago. There is a time to stop flogging a dead horse, so to speak.

Unpleasant conditions which occur in some schools from time to time must be dealt with on an individual basis. In my nine years here, I have had mostly wonderful experiences. The few less than 'wonderful' situations, I have dealt with myself. I can't stand injustice or unfairness and won't take it. I just persist until wrongs are righted. I don't think one can legislate about that sort of thing.

Different NETs have different experiences. That's life.

The end-of-NEThood baggage allowance is rather ridiculous, just a token amount. I would like to see that raised but I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

With regard to the medical allowance, I agree with a recent writer who pointed out one can get excellent medical treatment at government hospitals. Fortunately, I have no chronic health problems so just have minimal insurance.

NETs with children know before they come here that international school fees aren't part of the package. In addition, they have lower income taxes than those of us with grown-up or no children.

It is not the government's fault if the exchange rate is detrimental to NETs. I read Craig Boswell's submission to Education Post, which mentioned, among other things, that 'rents had increased' since 1998. I've found the opposite to be the case. I was paying $10,500 for a 610-square-foot flat in Tsuen Wan in 1998. I now pay less than that for a bigger one in Central. Rents went down from 1998 and Sars resulted in a further, more drastic, reduction. Yes, they have started to increase but not yet to the 1998 level.

I detect just plain greed on the part of some NETs. I also sense that there are some who are not averse to 'bullying' to get people on board. We are not clones and each of us has the right to agree or disagree with any point made by anyone else. That's the beauty of free speech.

All teachers in Hong Kong make a mint. And let's not stretch the truth, most of us are indeed here for the money, not for the 'adventure'. As one NET friend regularly pointed out to me, the term 'Hong Kong education' is an oxymoron. Yes, it's interesting to experience another place and culture but one doesn't need to be here for six, seven or eight years to do that. None of us intended to stay here forever. So why is the fact that NETs leave each year used to support the argument that they're all miserable? Could it not be - and here's a stretch - that most NETs go home because they simply wish to return to their homes or perhaps have new experiences?



Time ripe for an English accounting

With reference to 'If the NET scheme is going to survive, it needs a total overhaul', I have been a school English teacher (SET - acting as bridge between NETs and school management) for five years and served in one secondary school, two primary schools and worked with four NETs.

As a teacher of English, I think the NET scheme is very useful, opening opportunities for communication and exchange in English in the school. In my experience, both the local English teachers (LET) and NETs have found the experience of working together both beneficial for our teaching and professional development.

I agree with Craig Boswell and Lee Weston that the government must take a serious look at what is causing this exodus of our NETs because the NET is certainly one of the invaluable assets of English language teaching in Hong Kong. A regular review of the remuneration package against the current cost of living is certainly necessary, yet I would suggest that the difference in pay between the NETs and LETs can be quite sensitive as both do about the same job.

Apart from financial problems, we must also mention the working conditions of individual NETs within schools. Due to the tide of education reforms and the downsizing pressure on schools due to the continuous drop in the birthrate, the workload on teachers in Hong Kong is constantly increasing. A NET has certainly experienced the same work pressure as all the other local teachers do. English language is a curriculum core in Hong Kong education.

After devoting so much time and human resources, we are asking for results. It is widely accepted that the NET scheme was a good thing for our students. Yet, how can it work to its best?


Primary school English teacher

Council just an attempt to maintain standards

I have no doubt Hong Kong universities strive to be the very best ('New quality council seen as interference', Education Post, April 21). That said, an outside body such as the Quality Assurance Council could help maintain educational quality.

A review body can 'think outside the box'. After all, the so-called 'collected feedback from students on the performance of teachers' - something universities rely on - is not always reliable, as students often tie their feedback to the grades they receive. That in turn promotes grade inflation, which in turn undermines education quality.

College accountability is the buzz word right now in other countries - so why not follow the trend? As long as universities receive government funding, taxpayers like me want to know if they have used public funds effectively. But universities should have a free hand to manage self-funded programmes.