Results of teachers' appeals should be known first, say education groups Education groups yesterday criticised the government for rushing schools into deciding whether to sack or redeploy language teachers who failed to pass the benchmark test two years into their jobs. They said some teachers were still capable of teaching the subject despite failing the English test. They urged the Education and Manpower Bureau not to force schools to decide the teachers' futures until results of their appeals were released next month. Half of the 643 English-language teachers and 252 Putonghua teachers who joined the profession two years ago have failed to meet the benchmark requirements. They are spread among 334 primary and secondary schools, with 17 of these schools having at least three unqualified teachers. According to the bureau's policy, the schools had until yesterday to either lay off the unqualified teachers or assign them to other teaching duties. Ho Hon-kuen, vice-president of Education Convergence, said he had received many complaints from English teachers who were capable of teaching the subject despite failing the test. 'One teacher I know used to represent the English debating team of Chinese University of Hong Kong, taking part in many overseas debating competitions, and another one had studied for two years for a master's degree in a prestigious university in England,' Mr Ho said. 'They passed all but the oral paper in the benchmark exam. We are very worried that the benchmark test might have wielded a knife on some innocent but professional language teachers.' The teachers are required to pass five papers in the benchmark language teaching test, covering listening, writing, reading, oral and teaching practice. Mr Ho urged the bureau to look into why so many teachers failed the test and not to hurry schools into deciding the teachers' fate. 'Redeployment to other teaching duties may sound like a favourable alternative to being sacked, but it rarely works as English teachers' expertise is in teaching English and most of them can teach few other subjects.' Wong Kwan-yu, vice-president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said it was unreasonable for the bureau to force schools to come up with a decision before the release of appeal results by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority next month. 'Sacking teachers is never an easy task for principals,' he said. 'Schools need more time to make the decision as staff will be shocked and disputes may arise.' Fung Ka-ching, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Subsidised Primary Schools Council, said there would be problems concerning contract agreements between schools and unqualified teachers. 'Many schools had never expected such a high failure rate in the benchmark tests, and thus did not specify in their employment contracts for language teachers hired two years ago that they would not be allowed to stay in the job if they failed the test this year.' But Mr Fung said that schools must follow government guidelines and stop unqualified language teachers from teaching to send a clear message to those who wanted to teach languages, but had not yet met the benchmark requirements.