University 'Blue Book' criticises recruitment of foreign teachers

Controversial report under investigation by Baptist University claims native English speakers 'have taken root' and criticises British Council

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 4:13am

A Baptist University-initiated publication already under academic investigation contains another contentious allegation about the British Council's role in recruiting teachers under the native English-speaking (NET) scheme, the South China Morning Post found.

The Chinese-language Blue Book of Hong Kong: Annual Report on Development of Hong Kong (2012) says the NET scheme, in place since 1997, should be abolished because of its social and political bearing on Hong Kong. It describes some of the teachers selected as having "taken root in Hong Kong".

The British Council said it had long stopped playing a role in the selection of these teachers.

Chinese University has already complained about the Blue Book's "defamatory" claim that its liberal studies curriculum was influenced by a US foundation. Baptist University vice-chancellor Professor Albert Chan Sun-chi pledged yesterday to offer a satisfactory apology to Chinese University should its academic investigation panel find material in the book was not accurate.

"If we have been wrong, we should apologise," he said.

The Blue Book, published jointly by Peace Book and the Social Sciences Academic Press - which is under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences - came out in June, professing to be a report on the city's development in the 15 years since the handover.

It is based on research by Baptist University's Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies. The chief editor is institute director Victor Sit Fung-shuen, a former Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress.

The panel of four scholars will report on its findings at the end of the month. Panel member Professor Li Si-ming, of Baptist University, said they had been appointed to look only at the Chinese University complaint.

On the British Council, the Blue Book says: "The government has assigned the scheme to import foreign English teachers to the British Council as the agent. Some of the English teachers it has selected ... have taken root in Hong Kong and become permanent residents. The social and political impact brought about by this particular, exceptional channel is worth extra attention.

"The import system of which the British Council is responsible … should be abolished."

The council said it only took charge of the NET recruitment exercise when it was "in its pilot stages", and administered the teachers' induction programme "for the first few years".

The Education Bureau said that, since 1998, secondary schools and their sponsoring bodies had either entrusted the recruitment of NETs to the authorities or hired their own.

Amanda Chapman, chairwoman of the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association, said: "It is not in our interests to fight for any [political cause] in Hong Kong."

She added that there was no reason to target the relatively small population of foreign English teachers.

Education-sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said the book's statements were politically driven. "It lacks respect for a professional analysis on foreign English teachers … who have benefited local pupils all these years," Ip said.

The Blue Book also says permanent secretaries of all bureaus should be appointed by Beijing.