ESF - English Schools Foundation


PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am

NET association risking viability of scheme with unreasonable demands

It came as no surprise to read the provocative and highly embarrassing headline 'NETs call for 39pc allowance rise' (Education Post, March 15). Nesta, the group portrayed as representative of the NET community, had previously signalled its intention to use these columns again to publicise its demands.

This fragmented, largely disregarded organisation enjoys the active support of only a handful of NETs. Their 'shopping list' accommodates a minority special interest group of expatriate teachers: its impact, however, will be felt by all of us as we are isolated ever further in the staff rooms where we work and strive to integrate.

Consider exactly what Nesta's Mr Bayer is anticipating: teachers at the top of the scale (HK$45,970), after four contracts (20 per cent retention bonus = HK$9,194), will qualify for HK$18,000 special allowance, an education allowance (say one secondary and one primary child - about HK$6,000), plus insurance of a further HK$1,250 per month - altogether around HK$80,500, excluding other NET benefits (flights, baggage, gratuity).

That figure exceeds what some school principals earn, and certainly most senior graduate masters, many of whom carry onerous responsibilities and are not, unlike NETs, in a position to quit to pursue their careers elsewhere.

Such colleagues privately question what NET teachers do to command such princely sums, especially the 'less well-qualified' - and others who, in the words of a former Nesta chairman, are 'hopeless'.

Cost of living rises are felt across the community - why should NETs alone be favoured with adjustment? And citing ephemeral currency fluctuations as an argument is too absurd to merit comment.

Conditions from 1998 are irrelevant. After each two-year contract NETS accept the terms on offer and sign accordingly. If they now have families, it is their own circumstances that have changed, so the onus is on them, not the Hong Kong government, to ensure they can make adequate provision.

The NET scheme has now completed the 10 years originally envisaged. I trust the education secretary is not moved to reappraise its viability as a means of language provision, and that these disproportionate and divisive claims will not trigger its demise.

P. REED (NET), Tin Shui Wai

Nesta's unjustifiable requests embarrassing

Like many other NETs, I was embarrassed by the greedy demands set out by 'our' association, as reported in last week's Education Post. What must the children's parents and our local colleagues think of these selfish and unjustifiable requests? Nesta is by no means representative of the 900 NETs working in Hong Kong, all of whom were happily aware of the pay scale when they signed their contracts.

'Fluctuating exchange rates' are no excuse for Nesta's bloated, unrealistic 'wish-list', and its publication could widen divisions between local and foreign teachers, as well as harm the level of co-operation and support offered by our colleagues.

It is not surprising that only a fraction of NETs are Nesta members, and only a small handful attend their meetings.

TOM GRUNDY (NET), Ma Tau Chung Government Primary School.

ESF should put house in order before raising fees

I have just opened an e-mail update from the English Schools Foundation advising that the school fees will increase again for the next school year. Once again, the ESF has made a decision without any consultation with parents.

They claim to be 'sensitive to the fact' that these increases represent an added expenditure to parents yet still continue roughshod with their own agenda without even the pretence of consideration for parents' opinion or their financial capabilities.

The pre-payment of a month's fee, introduced last year and payable in June in order to 'secure a place' for students in September who have actually been in their schools for many years, has already created a difficulty for many families as it precludes summer activities for a huge number of students while the ESF holds these fees instead.

I would suggest that the administrative side of the ESF is reviewed for expenditure cuts as an alternative to increasing school fees.

I would also suggest that the ESF please desist from trying to lay the blame for increases at the door of their teachers - the only people in the ESF system who make a valuable contribution to our children's education.

B. PAUL, Lamma Island

Need for tutorials shows lack of teacher attention

The report 'Most students find tutorials best help for exams' (South China Morning Post, March 24) highlighted the perceived need for tutorials for those preparing for public school exams. At the moment, that need is chiefly addressed by tutorial centres and by private tutors. This proves that many pupils do not get enough teacher attention in school.

Bearing in mind the present over-large class sizes, that can be no surprise to anyone.

The same can be said at the university level, where a 'tutorial' often consists of 20 or 30 students.

At schools, much smaller regular classes, plus pre-exam tutorials in groups of 10, would do much to help pupils better prepare for those important exams.