White won't wash in context of global English
I fully concur with Andy Kirkpatrick ('Multilingual teachers would better meet needs of NETs Scheme', Education Post, June 2) that English is nowadays a global language quite far removed from the ethnocentric maw of its initial progenitors and proponents, white Englishmen and their scion in the many lands they imperiously invaded.
English has in fact become a truly international language with any number of regional mutations. I also agree with the view that the Hong Kong government is still held fast by the ideological grip of its former colonial masters and is still, anachronistically, dominated by a vision cleverly cemented by these selfsame former powers before they relinquished their manifest hold: that only 'native' English speakers can teach the language.
This is itself only part of an erroneous overriding concomitant credo that somehow the West is the best. Yet we are all very much in a post-colonial episteme today and it is perhaps time to move on.
All of which leads to ask why Professor Kirkpatrick only includes schools in his missive.
Universities and other tertiary educational institutes such as the Hong Kong Institute of Education operate under the same myopic miasma and there is very plausibly every reason to replace white 'native' English speakers there as well, including Heads of English Departments.
Finally, Professor Kirkpatrick may also not only be exaggerating the number of extant multi- or even bilingual local speakers, but also oversimplifying. What happens to people like myself if there ever is a seismic shift in educational epistemology here?
I am not white, nor Asian. I am multilingual. Indeed, English is but one language in which I can claim fluency. I am not local, although I have lived and taught for many years in many countries, including several in Asia. I am also a native English-speaking teacher. Other non-white (and white) multilingual, non-local and non-Asian teachers of English are also in abundance in Hong Kong right now, doing a fine job and adding qualitatively to the polyglot mix that is Hong Kong.
Indeed, the exponential augmentation of us is more likely because of a dearth of supposedly monolingual white 'native' speakers who are turned off coming here by other more pragmatic concerns, rather than by any employment farsightedness in the Education and Manpower Bureau. Is there no place for us as well, Andy? Biggles should since have been thrown out of the premises. Should we all go too?
Dr VAUGHAN RAPATAHANA, Tin Shui Wai
NETs double as agents of change
It is disappointing to note how the Head of English at HKIEd, Andy Kirkpatrick, so clearly misunderstands the goals and objectives of the NET scheme.
His assertion that Hong Kong students do not need a 'native' model of the language in light of its global use as an international language between non-native speakers is relevant. But to argue that replacing NETs with well-qualified non-native speakers is a non-starter.
There is no doubt that these kinds of teachers are much needed in our education system. However, NETs are recruited as 'agents of change'. A native model of the language and student exposure to a foreigner with English as their mother tongue, are secondary.
With educational reforms, it is the EMB's wish that NETs with experience in overseas education systems will bring new knowledge and expertise. Through co-planning, co-teaching, workshops, cluster meetings, NET scheme directives and AT support it is hoped that new and improved teaching strategies, programmes and policies will begin to be implemented in our local schools, not only in NET classes but school-wide.
By default, only NETs can bring this different perspective. The NET scheme is a worthy educational cause and when implemented correctly is helping to raise standards. The scheme will always face criticism and that is only right considering the investment but this kind of common misconception does the scheme no favours.
STEVEN SIDLEY, NET, Ap Lei Chau
Picture tells an Indonesian story
The photograph of Indonesian students sitting a university entrance exam (South China Morning Post, May 24) showed up all that is wrong in their administration of public exams.
The educational authorities there could benefit greatly from observing best practice elsewhere, including taking a lesson or two from Hong Kong's system.
It was extraordinary to see hundreds of Indonesian youngsters crammed into chairs in a theatre-like auditorium, rather than sitting separately at desks. The teenagers were literally rubbing shoulders, making cheating all too easy.
Several examinees are seen chatting to each other, doubtless devising group-gathered answers to the more tricky questions. Several more are speaking on their mobile telephones.
One girl is clearly seen photographing the exam paper. Possibly the person at the other end of her telephone could text a model answer to her. Such careless conduct of an important public examination makes a mockery of awarding individual marks.
The resulting exam scores would be as worthless as the negligent actions of those who were paid to administer it.
PAUL SURTEES, Mid-Levels