Student teachers protest at proposals

UP to 2,000 student teachers are expected to skip classes and march on Government House tomorrow to protest at Education Department proposals to change teacher-training entry requirements.

Student union representatives from the four teacher colleges yesterday told the department that 1,500 of the colleges' 2,000 students had signed a petition saying the proposal would lower the standard of teachers and education.

The department's proposals include allowing students to enter the colleges if they gain at least 11 points or Grade E in six different Hongkong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) level subjects over an unspecified time, rather than in one sitting.

The students have been supported in principle by the Hongkong Professional Teachers' Union, which says the proposals will rank teachers ''even lower than civil service clerks'' who must get at least five subjects including Chinese and English in one sitting.

Union secretary Mr Chiu Chi-shing said teachers met with department officials last night and had asked the Legislative Council Education Panel to consider the proposal.

''It is really a big step backward which would produce non-qualified teachers, and go against everything recommended in Education Commission Report Five to improve the standard of teachers,'' Mr Chiu said.

'' Senior Education Officer (Further Education) Mr Lee Hing-fan said entry requirements were revised routinely each year and the proposal had nothing to do with the teacher shortages.

It was simply ''broadening the net'' to consider personal qualities suited for teaching rather than just academic results. This was important in areas such as music and physical education.

However, Mr Chiu said the proposal was the department's attempt to reconcile the teacher shortage with Governor Mr Chris Patten's promise to boost teacher numbers.

The Northcote College of Education Students' Union vice-president, Miss Ida Cheung Pui-shan, said the proposal would lower standards when present training already was inadequate.

It covered teaching skills but not syllabus changes and essential content.

''We think the course content is not so suitable because we only learn teaching skills and do not improve our knowledge,'' she said.

''We go into teaching with knowledge still at A-level study. Some students are scared to teach secondary students because they will ask some difficult questions.'' Mr Chiu said temporary options existed to address the shortage without lowering long-term standards.

These included bringing retired teachers back to the classroom, attracting other post-secondary college graduates and graduates who had returned from overseas, and employing non-Commonwealth graduates as ''permitted'' or temporary teachers.

The Government is expected to make a decision on the proposal by March, before the next intake of teaching students.