Educator warns parents maids not trained to teach their children English

Educator warns parents domestic helpers are not trained to teach their children English

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 3:45am

Most parents believe employing an English-speaking domestic worker will help their children learn the language, according to a poll.

But they have been warned it is no guarantee of success.

Sansan Ching Teh-chi, the director of the teaching organisation that conducted the poll - the Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Education and Services - cautioned against high expectations.

In its survey, 59 per cent of parents said foreign maids with a good academic background - such as a university education - could help their children master English. The survey spoke to 302 families, who have children in 15 primary schools and kindergartens, in June and July.

But Ching, a childhood education expert, cautioned: "Most of the helpers aren't native English speakers and don't have proper teaching training, so parents can't solely rely on them to improve their kids' English."

Maids could play only a supporting role during the critical language-learning age from three to six, she said.

But Dr Hazel Lam Mei-yung, of the Education Institute's department of early childhood education, said foreign maids could help simply by interacting in English. "It's not necessary for them to take up a teaching role; they can help by communicating with the children," she said.

Kevin Wong, general manager of the Technic Employment Service Centre, said most parents looking for Filipino maids wanted them to have a high level of English proficiency. "Some even require a telephone interview conducted in English," he said.

The survey also found that 64 per cent of parents think native English speakers make the best teachers of the language.

But Ching urged caution.

"Parents usually think foreigners must be able to teach English, but they seldom take a closer look at their background," she said. Some foreign teachers had a low level of commitment to the work because they came to the city for travel.

Meanwhile, the University Grants Committee said 85 per cent of final-year university students spoke English at a "competent" or "good" level.

Of the 11,800 students tested under the Common English Proficiency Assessment Scheme, the average score was 6.72 on a nine-point scale.