Better picture of the cost of services for students with special needs is required
We write in response to the article, 'The long wait for care' (Education Post, March 29).
We recognise and applaud the incentives of groups who support improved government funding and services for children with special needs. We recognise the challenge, both financial and personal, and are frequently inspired by the commitment of families as they seek 'adequate' services for their children. We are delighted that Speech Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy services are valued and viewed as 'good extra care'.
It is of great concern, however, that an incorrect conclusion in regard to the cost of private services could be drawn from this article, as it is implied that all private therapy services in Hong Kong charge exorbitant fees similar to the amount quoted (HK$50,000 per month). This is simply not the case. The majority of qualified, registered, hard-working, professional private therapists offer a diverse range of services to special-needs children in Hong Kong using world-recognised, effective, evidence-based models of practice, charging one-tenth of the stated cost, while, incidentally, using a fee schedule that has not changed markedly for 10 or more years.
The 'one-price-fits-all' method of service delivery, as portrayed in the article, is misleading to families. It does not assist them to differentiate between the value and effectiveness of different services. Presenting private practitioners servicing special needs children as one 'collective' is a simplistic view of a complex system.
Speech and language therapist
Complaints about ESF discrimination off mark
When I hear about some in Hong Kong complaining about the entry criteria to English Schools Foundation schools I get a little annoyed. My wife and I have been in the city for over 18 years. Our children were born here and we are permanent residents. In all we have 63 years invested in the city. Unlike the vast majority of Hongkongers, I have paid tax at the standard rate for my 18 years. The ESF schools are about the only useful, if small, return on my investment.
I have looked at my sons and daughter's class photos over their combined 17 years in ESF schools and I note that the ratio of the so called 'local' is always well over 50 per cent.
When I checked the government website I was pleased to find that English is still an official language. My children only speak English as do many other children. They have no intention of learning Cantonese as Putonghua is of far more importance internationally.
Category one of the ESF entry criteria states: 'Children who speak English as a first or alternative language but do not speak Cantonese and or read and write Chinese characters'. Category two deals with 'Children who can access the local system but who meet ESF's entrance requirements'.
It would seem that the majority of students fall into category two and while being 'Chinese' have managed to bypass all that discrimination and make into the schools. I dislike the way some letters raise the issue of race but I must ask them just where do you expect the non-Chinese to go? If you think you are being discriminated against, you should talk with my Indian wife and find out what real discrimination is.
Standards of English exams deplorable
It was reported on C1 of the Post on April 6 that a teacher was shocked by the poor standards in this year's A-level English. What I found more worrying was in the proofreading section, where students were to correct one mistake per line, yet one of the lines read, 'An adequate amount sleep, and head and foot massage are also good ...'
Obviously, 'of' is missing before 'sleep', but so is 'a' before the word 'head'. How can there be two mistakes in one line? Will the authority strike this question or give credit to students who mark one or both of the correct answers?
As for the listening exam, in the situation where someone had been bitten by a snake, it was reported that the words 'shit' and 'damn' had been uttered. The Exams Authority declared that such words were not considered to be foul language. By which standard has this decision been reached? Why has the authority stooped so low as to use vocabulary which is commonly accepted as rude, especially in an exam? I am horrified by the standard of the English-language exam papers thus far.
Will they turn down the money if it is offered?
I bet that if, after due consideration of the Native English-speaking Teachers' Association's research, the Education Bureau augments the NET special allowance to help assuage the very real decline in the value of the NET package ('NETs hoping for an increase after meeting, but it may take some time', Education Post, April 12), Tom Gundy and P.Reed (Mailbag, March 29) won't say, 'No, keep the money'.
Dr VAUGHAN RAPATAHANA,
Tin Shui Wai