ESF - English Schools Foundation


PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 June, 2011, 12:00am

Helpers have no 'special privileges'

In her letter on native English-speaking teachers ('NETs are a drain on resources', June 9), Julia Kwong says Hong Kong must learn to stand on its own as an international city.

I don't think the point of her letter is to either advance our understanding of what makes a 'world' city or improve the standards of English-language teaching. Nor does she offer any real evidence as to why NETs should be replaced by local teachers on solid empirical grounds other than citing a study which is unlikely to be the definitive word on the subject. Her real point is to justify a self-serving nativism which would be much easier to take were it not so hypocritical.

She has apparently forgotten that Hong Kong is no longer a colony, nor does every 'foreign worker' possess 'special privileges' over 'locals'. But if we are talking about special privileges for foreign workers, let's examine the case of domestic helpers imported at bargain (that is, market) rates from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Now, there's a diaspora that knows the value of 'circumspection' as Ms Kwong quaintly puts it. No lording of special privileges over locals for them. But if Hongkongers wish to pay helpers what barely amounts to a living wage in this city, then at the very least they should be consistent in their nativist sentiments and start hiring locals at the current going rates instead. After all, locals are much more receptive to 'the Confucian adage that rote and critical thinking are both needed for effective learning'. I'm also sure they would be more productive after they have been yelled at in their own language.

Not only would this reduce cultural misunderstandings, but it would also help Ms Kwong's aim of having Hong Kong become a truly world-class city ahead of 2047, once the reliance on foreign workers and their 'dubious contribution' have been removed. After all, the battle against neocolonial privilege really does begin at home.

Kevin McQueen, Causeway Bay

Why local teachers can offer more

Julia Kwong argues for a reform in resource allocation regarding the deployment of native English-speaking teachers ('NETs are drain on resources', June 9).

Her queries on the effectiveness of student learning in local secondary schools with NETs are not ungrounded. The NET scheme was introduced in 1998 and aimed to provide local school learners with exposure to authentic English language and offering professional training to local school teachers.

While the NETs, with different education and cultural backgrounds, can provide these students with learning experiences they may not otherwise come across, it is inappropriate to say they are the answer to a wide range of English language learning problems faced by these young people.

On the contrary, local native Cantonese-speaking teachers may even be superior to NETs in that they understand the difficulties faced by local students while capturing the essence of the English language. For instance, with the influence of Cantonese, local students make common pronunciation mistakes in intonation and pronunciation (vowels, consonants, and consonant clusters). They also make common grammatical mistakes in tense and aspect, reported speech, and passive voice.

These kinds of first language (L1) interference may not be well received by NETs. It may be necessary for English Schools Foundation schools to recruit NETs. However, for local schools, local teachers are equally, maybe more, effective in dealing with English-language learning problems faced by local students and offering pertinent advice to solve them.

Andy Seto, North Point

Provision of cycle paths inadequate

Despite the fact that cycling is a healthy sport which has earned Hong Kong medals in international competitions, the government has done little to protect cyclists from the dangers posed by traffic.

It has banned cyclists from riding on footpaths and yet, in most areas of the city, it has failed to provide them with continuous cycling lanes.

Keeping riders off footpaths is reasonable as they could hurt pedestrians. However, without dedicated lanes, especially in urban areas, cyclists are forced to share the road with ill-tempered drivers who think bikes are too slow and have no right to be there. If they avoid the road, cyclists are left with only bike lanes that are not connected or the insignificant number of bike parks.

Now Chong San Road in Sha Tin, which is a popular road-bike training spot, is threatened by the nearby residential project.

The options available to cyclists are shrinking.

The solution to the problem is to extend the existing network of cycling lanes so that riders do not have to put themselves at risk on our roads.

With additional lanes, more people will be encouraged to take up the sport and to even commute. In the long term, this could lead to reduced carbon emissions.

The government should review its policy on cycling and come up with an overall strategy rather than piecemeal measures.

C. Fat, Ho Man Tin

Hopefuls should not be so bashful

Leung Chun-ying and Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai are clearly interested in running in the next election for chief executive.

Although the election process next year will be limited to the small circle of rich and famous, I would like to see more people declaring their intention to run for the post. I hope the pan-democratic camp will work together to come up with a candidate.

US President Barack Obama has already declared that he intends to run for re-election next year and Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has also made it clear that he will seek a second term.

Why is it that in Hong Kong those who want to run seem so reluctant to make their intentions known?

Presumably candidates are awaiting the blessing of Beijing before going any further.

It makes me wonder if we will get true democracy and real elections here in 2017 and 2020.

Alpha Keung, Sai Wan Ho

Tougher measures now needed

Given the greater advances in technology, most of the food we eat contains various additives and some have proved to be harmful to humans.

Hong Kong has banned two sports drinks imported from Taiwan which were tainted with an additive, the cancer-causing chemical DEHP. Now Taiwan is struggling to contain its worst food scare in a decade.

DEHP is used as a cheap substitute for vegetable oil to produce clouding agents that give beverages a more appealing flavour. However, DEHP can affect the hormone balance in young people. The ingestion of large quantities can cause cancer.

Food manufacturers who use harmful additives are unethical. They are showing a lack of corporate social responsibility. Governments must ensure they do not escape punishment and that they are made to pay compensation.

Our government must set up regulations to curb the production of tainted food. There must be comprehensive testing of imported and local produce. The ultimate priority is to protect the health of Hong Kong citizens.

There should also be greater supervision of those firms involved in the food production process. By introducing more effective measures, there will be a higher level of consumer confidence.

Natalie Wong Hoi-yi, To Kwa Wan

Crack down on smoking at mart

Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said: 'I don't see why we can't go entirely smoke-free eventually' ('Lawmakers approve tobacco tax increase', June 16).

I ask him to look inside his own organisation to see how government contractors actively promote smoking on property directly under Dr Chow's control.

The Stanley Waterfront Mart leases for stallholders explicitly states that they cannot put anything outside their stalls.

However, the contractor hired to manage the stalls has removed all the 'Let's Keep Hong Kong Smoke-free' signs and allows the stallholders to put out tables and ashtrays - contrary to their leases - to actively encourage smokers to blow smoke into the faces of families with children who are trying to enjoy the view from this waterfront market.

If Dr Chow really wants a smoke-free Hong Kong, he can start by instructing his own Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to enforce the lease condition and prevent stallholders from putting out tables, chairs and ashtrays, or have their leases terminated.

Annelise Connell, Stanley