NETs are not 'token Caucasians' and do important work

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 September, 2015, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 September, 2015, 4:44pm

I refer to the article by Kelly Yang ("Train local teachers for better English", September 23).

She claims that the native English-speaking teacher (NET) programme is ineffective and should be broken up to provide funds to "raise the teachers' standards of English".

Kelly Yang's goals of moving away from dictation and rote memorisation are admirable ones, but I don't see how disbanding the NET scheme will achieve them.

NETs are deployed in various ways across Hong Kong's secondary and primary schools at all ability levels. Our goal is to assist local English teachers and the school in whatever way best suits them.

We are encouraged to interact with our local counterparts and help provide variety and a different approach to language learning.

We are encouraged to undertake regular professional development and encourage our colleagues to do the same. The Education Bureau NET Section provides regular training courses for NETs and local teachers to develop their classroom skills together and complement each other's styles.

Many NETs and their local colleagues give up their free time for weekend English camps. Many of us also prepare students for drama competitions and debating teams as part of their other learning experiences.

The Native English Speaking Teachers' Association has run a debating competition for 17 years. NETs also run English-speaking weeks and English corners at lunchtime and after school. We are not "token Caucasians", we come from English-speaking countries all over the world.

The whole point of our job is to provide variety in the way Hong Kong students learn English.

I have worked in three different schools on the NET scheme and in each of them have come across very dedicated local teachers, many of whom work tirelessly to help their students. Many don't agree with rote learning and are aware of and trained in more communicative approaches, yet find themselves in a system where time is restricted.

I have been impressed with the language competence of English-language teachers in Hong Kong schools and think they should be praised for their efforts rather than derided by people with native fluency.

All NETs in Hong Kong as well as Hong Kong teachers are required to have attained "qualified teacher status" to teach alone in a classroom. More than pure immersion is required to teach a quality lesson.

Andrew Monks, chairperson,Native English Speaking Teachers' Association