Speech festival teachers lost for words

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2006, 12:00am

Teachers complain of inability to find listed texts for students in local bookstores or public library

Schools are struggling to find the materials they need to prepare students for the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival, with two of the books listed for the competition currently out of print and another unavailable in Hong Kong bookstores, according to teachers.

The festival, which is expected to attract more than 170,000 students when it begins in November, requires students to present readings chosen from a list of selected works.

Anne Quaine, a secondary teacher at a Hong Kong Island school, said when she tried to find the texts for the dramatic duologues and poetry sections at local bookstores, she was told two of the books listed were out of print.

Ms Quaine said she had to tell her students that the texts they had selected, Take Two Duologues for Young Players and Lamda XV Anthology, were not available.

'They elected instead to do solo verse but they would have preferred to do duologues,' she said.

Karen Margetts, a teacher at Cheung Chuk Shan College in North Point, said she could not find one of the books listed, Stories From Asia, at any Hong Kong bookstore or public library. She has ordered a copy from an online bookstore but does not know whether the book will arrive in time for the students to prepare for the competition.

Her school has had to buy almost all the books at a cost of about HK$1,000 and most of them had to be ordered through bookstores.

'It's been a huge inconvenience,' she said. 'The speech festival organisers should have made provision for the availability of the texts. They should have contacted bookstores to warn them that these books would be in demand or have some system of being available to buy them from the organisation.'

In a letter to Education Post, an English language teacher said she had failed to find the books her students needed, despite spending hours searching the internet and looking in the University of Hong Kong library.

Anita Wai Shuk-Yin, secretary of the Speech Festival Association, said it did not give copies of the works to schools due to copyright restrictions.

The association had a 'few' copies of the listed works available for schools to borrow for one day but schools were encouraged to find original copies. 'This is some sort of extra service that our association provides to members just in case they can't get hold of the book. We have to respect the copyright and encourage our members to get the original book,' she said.

A Hong Kong teacher said there was nothing to stop schools borrowing the association's copy of the works and making further copies.

'They can have it for one day ... and make copies so the whole thing is a bit of a farce,' she said.

Responding to teachers' complaints that some of the books listed were out of print, Ms Wai said when the syllabus was written earlier this year, the association contacted publishers to check whether the books were available.

If books were out of print, they were marked on the syllabus with a note saying a copy would be available at the association's office, Ms Wai said.

However, Ms Quaine said the books she had been told were out of print were not marked on the syllabus.

Teachers also criticised the timeframe for submitting entries, with applications closing yesterday, one week after the start of the new school year.

Ms Wai said the competition syllabus was made available to teachers in mid-July and school exams and holidays affected the timing of the festival.

'Our plan is to give a whole summer holiday for teachers to try to get the books,' she said, suggesting that teachers who were struggling to find them now may have started their search too late.

The speech festival runs from November 13 to December 16.