UGC boost for language training seen to be at the expense of alternatives in curriculum Educators fear there will be a shortage of teachers for non-language subjects in future following a University Grants Committee (UGC) plan to boost training places for English teachers. The UGC says it will reserve all 120 places in the full-time postgraduate diploma (PGDE) in primary education - now offered by four institutions - for English training in the 2005-2008 triennium. The number of full-time PGDE places for secondary education will be decreased from around 500 to 380 in the same period. UGC deputy secretary-general Mary Tsang Fung-yee said the government was expecting an increased demand for English teachers and reduced demand for other key learning areas. Subsidised Primary Schools Council chairman Nelson Lau Chi-keung criticised the UGC plan as short-sighted: 'The government is eager to please the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (Scolar), which requires all language teachers to acquire a degree in the relevant discipline. This will be at the expense of other subjects.' Contrary to the government's projection, he said, there were not enough teachers in other subjects, especially in sport, arts and music. 'Education should not be restricted to English learning. It is no more important than other subjects as we aim to provide all-rounded education for students,' he said. Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) president Paul Morris also urged the government to provide a more balanced allocation of training places. Wong Ping-ho, executive committee member of HKIEd's Academic Staff Association, said the UGC's policy of concentrating on English training might lead to a shortage of trained teachers in other subjects. 'We are worried about changes in our institution's deployment of staff teaching non-language subjects, especially for primary education,' Mr Wong said. Principal Education Officer (Professional Development and Training) at the Education and Manpower Bureau Steve Lee Yuk-fai said the UGC was still discussing the provision of future teacher training places. The UGC's proposal was made in a letter sent to the institutions serving as reference for them to make their academic development plans for the coming triennium. Training places were determined on the basis of school needs. 'Universities will still be able to provide teacher training in other subjects through their bachelor education programmes,' Mr Lee said. Open University of Hong Kong language programme leader Dr Li Kam-cheong said the university would consider expanding its teacher training programmes in non-language subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, to meet demand.