Schools desperate to recruit just a week before the start of term with biggest shortfall in languages A shortage of qualified teachers is leaving schools unable to fill vacant positions on the eve of the new school year, principals and academics have warned. Demand for teachers has outstripped supply, they say, due in part to the government's creation of 1,500 extra positions and the number of teachers taking early retirement or going on sabbatical. The shortfall is believed to be greatest in teachers of Chinese and English, following the requirement to pass the government's language proficiency benchmark test. The new teaching positions created this year were part of a package of nine measures aimed at relieving teacher stress unveiled by Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung in February. Tso Kai-lok, vice-chairman of Education Convergence and principal of Elegantia College in Sheung Shui, said schools were desperate to fill vacant positions ahead of the start of term next week. 'Just look at the recruitment section of Ming Pao Daily,' he said. 'They have three pages of job adverts [for teachers] every day.' There were close to 700 teaching positions advertised on Ming Pao's jobseekers' website this week. A search for education jobs on classifiedpost.com brought up 230 posts. Mr Tso said it was a 'simple case of supply and demand', particularly as not enough teachers of English and Chinese had passed the language proficiency benchmark. 'Schools can't just get anybody to fill these posts now,' he said. 'They have to find someone who is properly qualified. 'Schools that are further out or which are not so attractive are finding it very difficult.' So Kwok-sang, registrar of Hong Kong Institute of Education, and supervisor of C and M Alliance Chui Chak Lam Memorial School in Yuen Long, said teachers were able to pick and choose between job offers. 'It is very difficult to hire this year, as they [job applicants] have more choices than we do,' he said. 'They already have one job offer before they go to the next interview.' Poon Sun-ming, principal of Hong Kong Juvenile Care Centre Chan Nam Cheong Memorial School in Aberdeen, said his school was still looking for an English and Chinese teacher, despite having advertised over the summer. 'We did offer a job to one teacher, but he pulled out after he received an offer at another school,' he said. Mr Poon attributed the hiring difficulties to a rise in demand due to 'a number of reasons'. Those included the number of teachers taking early retirement and the creation of 1,500 new posts. Large numbers of teachers were on sabbatical to train for the new senior secondary curriculum in 2009. Lai Kwok-chan, HKIEd head of Strategic and Academic Planning, said job prospects for teachers were 'relatively ideal' this year, with only 1.7 per cent of this year's graduates still looking for jobs. But he said that meant schools were still having difficulty filling positions at this late stage. 'The days of schools getting thousands of application letters for one position are long gone,' Dr Lai said.