Native English teacher scheme supports local language needs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2014, 3:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2014, 6:04am

I refer to Vaughan Rapatahana's article ("Time to retire the native English teacher scheme", June 11).

His arguments for scrapping the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) scheme are weak, as they contain fallacies. Moreover, he wishes to tackle the wider issue of globalisation through the rapid spread of English head-on, which is well beyond the remit of the Education Bureau.

It is false to claim that the NET scheme was established to achieve "mastery of 'standardised' English".

According to the bureau, it was to "enhance the teaching of English language and increase exposure of students to English". English language is compulsory on the curriculum, and must be taken as part of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

Mr Rapatahana then goes on to claim that "we should allow local teachers to teach English bilingually".

Go into any school across Hong Kong, including English medium-of-instruction ones, and you will find teachers using the students' first language to teach English. Moreover, there is no wish from either the bureau or schools to stop this practice.

I do not know how Mr Rapatahana can claim that mainland students have better English than those in Hong Kong.

In my Band 3 secondary school in Tuen Mun, around 30 per cent of the students arrived from the mainland in the past three to five years and have no English.

What can be said of this 30 per cent, and the remaining 70 per cent, is that they are not from affluent backgrounds and therefore "cannot afford the training necessary for proficiency".

My presence at the school does not cost any of these poorer children a penny, so to suggest that the NET scheme in some way reinforces the class divide is absurd. In my case, I would say it does the reverse.

Mr Rapatahana clearly has a chip on his shoulder about the need to learn English in order to survive in the global village of the 21st century.

This state of affairs cannot be affected by anyone here, including the government. In fact, it is this need for English that has kept him in well-paid employment over the past 12 years.

Unless he has a suggestion for how to replace the NET scheme, he has no right to criticise any attempt to provide opportunities for the next generation in Hong Kong in the 21st century.

Michael Shaw, Tuen Mun