Education Mailbag

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 May, 2007, 12:00am

Comments undermine legitimate campaign seeking fair deal for NETs

My wife and I were deeply disappointed to read Angela Jackson's letter to Education Post last week. How could she undermine the efforts of those native English-speaking teachers requesting a review of the package offered by the Education and Manpower Bureau?

Surely NETs are entitled to a package that remains globally competitive so as to keep and attract quality educators. Further, the EMB must realise that circumstances for individual NETs can change. As a threat to NET solidarity, Ms Jackson's letter presents a dreadfully divisive view and a kick in the teeth to those NETs (and especially NETwiks - 'with kids') experiencing financial strain.

Whilst all are bound to have their own perspectives, surely Ms Jackson knows full well what damage her letter could cause. Recalcitrants within the EMB must be rubbing their hands with glee! Ms Jackson, I'm glad you've made a mint but I'm sorry you're only here for the money.

Believe it or not, I've not made much money and I'm here because I love Hong Kong, my students, my colleagues and school. I'm also here because my wife, kids and I have a lot of friends and benefit from a supportive Sai Kung village community. When we arrived, our kids were three years old and 18 months old. School fees weren't an issue. Like many new NETs, we expected to be here for a single contract. But then we fell in love with Hong Kong and its youth. Our kids both enter Form One next year at a base rate of HK$8,000-plus each. We've found it quite difficult to pay their way through primary and we haven't made a mint. Now school fees are a really big issue. We have a very modest mortgage Down Under. When we arrived the Australian dollar was about 1:4 HK$. It's now about 1:6. The reduced exchange rate hurts.

We live in a small house in Sai Kung and the rent keeps rising, believe it or not. As a family of four we have few options. To move to a bigger place (somewhere with a room for each of the kids) is beyond us, financially.

Having taught thousands of Hong Kong youngsters since the inception of the scheme, I can assure readers that the HK$30,000 lost in that one-year reduction of 'special allowance' would go a very long way towards easing our financial difficulties. I do believe this to be a matter of goodwill and equity. An educational allowance would be a very much appreciated form of support for what my family contributes to this great city. It would mean that while I teach Hong Kong's finest, the community returns the favour. We know everyone is not in the same boat, but consider our situation legitimate.


NET teacher, Sha Tin

Malcontents fail to reflect majority

Once again your publication has sought to portray NETs in an unfavourable light to the people of Hong Kong at large. 'NETs sign petition to increase allowance' (Education Post, April 28) is how you chose, writ large, to present the ignominious attempt by two NETs to extract more benefits from the EMB under the guise of staving off an alleged recruitment crisis.

Your article says nothing of the 600 or so NETS who declined to sign this petition, despite constant badgering and veiled 'you're either with us or against us' remarks. Neither did you make it clear that those behind the petition are unelected by, and unrepresentative of, any group of NET teachers in Hong Kong.

It is not surprising that, among 800 overseas teachers in Hong Kong, a small number exist who wish to impose the working practices of their own countries upon their host. Sadly, this desire for change often extends to the point where any educational, administrative or cultural differences here are viewed with contempt and intolerance. We are now subjected to a barrage of shop-floor sneers and a 'united front' is demanded.

Let it be clear that the petition was a ragbag of complaints detailing every conceivable grievance in a bid to garner maximum support. I am delighted that the majority of my NET counterparts saw it for what it was - a shotgun at the head for more cash - and rejected it, but I am growing rather tired of being depicted in your columns as a money-grabbing malcontent. If the NET scheme is under any threat - and that is by no means a given fact - it comes from the studied manufacture of discontent, and the eagerness of your newspaper to seize upon and magnify it.


NET teacher, Tin Shui Wai

Penny-pinching ditherers block smaller classes

When wealthy parents deprive their children of proper schooling, they deserve condemnation. So what are we to think of our wealthy society and education officials who deprive Hong Kong children of normal, accepted classroom resources just to save money for our bloated treasury?

I refer to the article 'Timetable to cut class sizes must be set now' (Education Post, April 21), which clearly describes the dithering and delaying tactics of the EMB regarding small class sizes. Anyone who visits a classroom in our schools realises the urgent need to reduce the number of pupils per classroom.

Countries and cities poorer than us have smaller classes even though their children are more docile and less distracted by media and computers than ours. Many of our children come from single-parent homes or families where both parents work late at night, failing to give guidance, discipline and a sense of purpose to their offspring. Schools cannot be surrogate parents.

The EMB's main concern seems to be to save money, but when we visit Hong Kong's universities, we find extensive campuses, top-notch facilities, good teacher-student ratios and all the desirable items the corporate world wants for its future executives. Hong Kong's education budget is badly skewed to favour tertiary education designed to enrich our corporations.

Our chief executive must move quickly to implement the wishes of teachers and parents for smaller class sizes. He should not allow officials with cash-register brains to undermine primary and secondary education. Since our young population has dwindled, there are ample resources, personnel and facilities to cut crowding.