PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am

Bureau's new plans for strengthening the NET scheme a timely move

The Education Bureau's plan to evaluate relationships between native-English teachers (NETs) and local colleagues, and to commission the Institute of Education to design a Teaching English as a Foreign Language programme for untrained NETs is timely (Education Post, November 29).

The scheme has drifted from its original aims, overseas recruitment is difficult and a big minority in post are untrained.

Communication between NETs and local staff does not come naturally. It is a difficult necessity for primary school principals who are not fluent in English and who may become defensive or cowed by perceived unco-operative NETs, many of whom may not even know the workplace in their own country.

The major problem is the untrained, not the much smaller group sans TESL/ TEFL. These awards, originally specialties for trained teachers, provide scant training. Course duration is a fraction of that for teacher training. Instruction on professional skills is perfunctory and practicum a rarity.

A purpose-designed course for untrained NETs in service must involve their schools in the practicum. Working together towards a second common purpose would ease communication.

It would be futile for the content to just be ways to increase opportunities for students to hear, read, write and use simple English idioms as used by native users, which is just logistics.

Our difficulties with the language have a local context - mannerisms and habitual weaknesses peculiar to local users rooted in the structure of the local dialect and bad habits in usage.

Should training be gratis for NETs who are supposed to arrive trained? To underline the official aim, training should be required of all untrained NETs, including the locally recruited, many of whom avoid the cost and bother.

They may come to see training as commitment to essential professional development if they contribute to the cost and undertake to work for a period after training.


End hiring of unqualified English teachers in HK

I am writing to voice my concern about the continued hiring of unqualified Primary Native English-speaking Teachers (PNETs).

Notice the noun 'TEACHER' in the title of the scheme, but this is not who they are hiring. According to Education Post, 'nearly 40 per cent of current PNETs recruited last year were not trained teachers'.

So who is being hired? Obviously, they are people with degrees in any subject, such as geography or music. Excuse me, but this absolutely ridiculous in a so-called developed jurisdiction such as Hong Kong. This would be totally unheard of in places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

For example, Canada is facing a shortage of French teachers but the government does not just approach any French speaker and say: 'You are a native speaker, come and teach French.'

If Hong Kong wants to remain competitive it has to begin by putting its children first, and a very big part of this is hiring qualified teachers. So why does the Education Bureau continue to hire people without proper teaching qualifications, such as a bachelor of education?

Now they are thinking of developing a TEFL programme. This is yet another attempt to dumb-down the scheme and justify the continued hiring of unqualified individuals and allowing them to masquerade as teachers.

Finally, has the bureau stopped and thought about who really gets hurt in the end when there are missed learning opportunities and the practices these PNETs are introducing are not pedagogically informed through prior teacher training? Needless to say, it is the children who are getting the short end of the stick.

I hope Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung will address this issue before the next recruitment.

C. CHUI, Yuen Long

Expats have no right to demand own schools

'Globetrotting expatriates should not need to put their children in local schools' (Education Post, December 13) is riddled with unrealistic expectations. The correspondent seems oblivious to internationally accepted standards for civic culture and public education.

Taxation is the economic foundation of civic culture where essential public services are provided to all equally with neither prejudice against non-taxpayers nor favouritism for big taxpayers. Expatriates have no more right to demand separate English-medium schools than to demand separate clinics.

In substance, the main difference between local and international schools is not about their curricula. Students of local primary and secondary schools consistently excel in international scholastic assessments.

The real issue is whether the public should subsidise expatriates who don't want public education for their children. Expatriates who have moved around should know that Hong Kong's separate system of subsidised schools for expatriates is a colonial remnant that is not found elsewhere and cannot be expected to survive the development of a fair civic culture of equality.

The market regulates expatriate compensation, with private education allowances for those whose skills enjoy genuine demand but not for those whose employment is fulsome.

A separate, subsidised education system for expatriates distorts the real economic and social value of Hong Kong's expatriates.

ANNA TSE, Mid-Levels