Letters to the Editor, October 05, 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 12:02am

Pupils from all backgrounds can use NETs

I refer to Kelly Yang's article ("Hong Kong should invest in training local teachers for better English, rather than relying on its outdated native speaker scheme", September 22).

As a native-speaking English teacher (NET), I feel personally vulnerable when yet another public call is made for the scheme's discontinuation.

Talk of the money to fund the scheme is misleading and damaging to NETs. HK$710 million a year is a small proportion of the government's education budget and constant mention of these seemingly big numbers only fuels the resentment some local teachers have towards us.

I and several NETs I know have found it rather unnerving to hear colleagues openly talking about NETs' salaries in the workplace.

As I mentioned in my letter last year, NETs are available to schoolchildren across Hong Kong, regardless of their background. They are not simply for those whose parents can afford after-school sessions at a centre like Kelly Yang's.

In many schools, they are the only person who shuns "dictation and rote memo- risation" in favour of "discussion-based and project-based learning", which Ms Yang supports. Added to this, they often provide the only model of authentic English in their schools, which is needed if teachers and students are to reach the levels of language proficiency Ms Yang believes is needed.

I do, however, agree with Ms Yang when she calls for better training for Hong Kong teachers and a rise in their level of English. Unfortunately, what she is unable to suggest is how this should be done.

I propose that it is a change in attitudes rather than funding that will improve this situation. This requires time rather than money. Disbanding the NET scheme now is only likely to stall this process.

Michael Shaw, Tai Po

Scrap primary schools' use of rote learning

I refer to Kelly Yang's article ("Hong Kong should invest in training local teachers for better English, rather than relying on its outdated native speaker scheme", September 22).

As a secondary student, I can still remember the cruel dictation exercises endured in primary school. When I entered elementary school, my standard of English was poor, and it deteriorated further, thanks to dictation using complicated words or phrases. I ended up memorising each word without knowing its meaning.

This practice of cramming must go.

A child is like a piece of blank paper, so we should use the paint brush gently. Children must be given the freedom to develop. More innovative methods of teaching English should be adopted, such as using songs and TV shows. Children will be more interested and therefore more attentive.

Some educators might be critical and think this is a kind of education that is too "cosy" and informal. Parents may argue they entrusted their children with these schools to acquire knowledge and not to have fun. But what is to be gained by having your child learn English the hard way through rote learning?

Learning and fun should not be seen as being detached from each other.

Surely, it is better to try and inspire our children through creativity than force-feed them a subject?

Justin Yeung, Tai Wai

Students can try to help themselves

From the ages of two or three, children in Hong Kong are exposed to different kinds of English-language media ranging from educational DVDs to newspapers.

They are encouraged to join a wide variety of English-related activities like debating societies in schools. Despite all these efforts made by teachers and parents, the English standard of youngsters in the city has not improved much, in fact it has got worse.

We have to ask what has happened to our young people. I think the problem of declining standards can be attributed to a lack of initiative when it comes to youngsters learning English.

Starting from a young age, students are spoon-fed English words and are forced to do countless grammar worksheets. This is not genuine learning.

As a Secondary Six student, I know it all too well that English cannot be taught but must be "felt" and "understood". If they want to improve their English, students must use their own initiative.

Jotting down new words and English expressions that I find beautiful and revising them from time to time has been a regular routine since I was in primary school.

It has helped me to improve my English. Rote memorisation and dictation are not useless, if students do these exercises on their own.

Teachers in local schools must realise that English is a living language, not just a subject for exams. They must try harder to create an "English-friendly" environment in school, so that students feel comfortable when practising their oral English. For example, in my school (a local one), there is an English-speaking day every Friday. On campus, students must communicate with each other in English. No matter how poor their English is, they are not teased.

This can help students become more confident with their use of English.

Charlotte Chan, Kowloon Bay

People face such limited recycle options

I agree with what Doug Wood- ring said in his article ("A frightful waste", September 19).

There is no better example of the inadequate recycling policies of our government than on our public gazetted beaches.

I enjoyed a morning at South Bay Beach recently, along with hundreds of other families.

I could not help noticing the overflowing rubbish bins with a wide range of recyclable materials, such as plastic, tin and paper.

I counted 11 of these bins along the beach, nearest to the bathers, but could not see a single recycling bin.

I commend the bathers for putting their rubbish in the bins and leaving the beaches free of rubbish, but these bins are not an answer to our city's overflowing landfill sites, nor do they allow us residents who want to recycle an option.

Our government is determined to use "supply management" strategies to address our rubbish issues with an overpriced, poorly located and outdated incinerator.

It should instead be considering the "demand management" strategies that have been adopted by our neighbours, Taiwan and mainland China.

It's not rocket science, Environmental Protection Department, it just needs a little planning and consideration as to where best to locate recycle bins, not just at our beaches but throughout our city.

Give people the chance to recycle.

David Brian, North Point

Musicians will feel even more marginalised

I refer to Alex Lo's column ("MTR hits major wrong note in cello case", September 25).

As Hong Kong's largest public transport company, the MTR Corporation has a responsibility to practise corporate social responsibility.

Hong Kong may be an international city, but it is also a cultural desert. Musicians often feel marginalised. This feeling will be reinforced by the MTR ban on those of them with large musical instruments.

If it is going to have luggage size rules, they must be observed in a fair way, but this is not happening. You have musicians banned while parallel traders with bulky luggage act with impunity.

Thomas Tang, Tsing Yi

Do not ignore the dementia time bomb

I refer to the report, "The dementia monster" (September 21).

This problem has been ignored in Hong Kong and as long as we do this, it will only get worse. The "monster" will grow.

Hong Kong has an estimated 80,000 people with dementia, with only 2,000 receiving government support services.

Countries all over the world have this problem, but they are trying to deal with it.

Japan, for one, launched a five-year plan in 2012, shifting the care of dementia patients from hospitals to the community. Macau has invited Hong Kong dementia experts to help formulate a 10-year care plan. In Hong Kong, similar plans are not being drafted.


The government needs to start planning the provision of more social services to help people with dementia.

Preparing for the steep rise in the number of dementia patients is the best way to deal with the problem.

Michael Chow, Tseung Kwan O 

Inflation rate the source of HK's woes

Chief Executive Leung Chun-yings enjoys the trust of the central government, but is unpopular in Hong Kong.

He has stressed the importance of improving people's livelihood.

Regrettably, not enough has been done to curb the high rate of inflation. People face high housing and livelihood costs, which is why Leung's popularity rating is so low.

Whether the dollar peg has been the chief culprit or an erroneous financial policy is unknown.

However, I can see a case for a change of financial secretary and the adoption of more decisive policies.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong