Following is a question by the Hon Shek Lai-him and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):
It has been reported that in order to fully implement the Native-speaking English Teacher and English Language Teaching Assistant Scheme for primary schools, the Government has recruited 150 additional native-speaking English teachers ("NETs") for primary schools this year. Besides, there have been criticisms that apart from not understanding the weaknesses and difficulties Chinese people have in learning English, NETs provided by the authorities for primary and secondary schools also have such shortcomings as speaking with a strong accent, lack of grammar training, failure to understand the syllabuses of Hong Kong's public examinations and so on, thereby rendering teaching results unsatisfactory. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the annual expenditure on the 150 additional NETs recruited for primary schools;
(b) whether the authorities have reviewed the schemes to provide NETs for primary and secondary schools in the light of the above criticisms; if so, of the review results; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) in view of the Government's budgetary constraints and the reduction in teaching posts, whether the authorities will consider redeploying the funding for employing NETs to providing training for local teachers and increasing teaching posts; if they will, of the relevant details; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) The expense of employing an extra 150 native-speaking English teachers (NETs) in primary schools is about HK$82 million in the 2003/04 school year.
(b) The local English teachers and the NETs have their relative merit. Insofar as the NETs are concerned, we observe that with experience the NETs will also be able to understand and address the needs of our students. Moreover, while NETs are deployed to teach English at different levels - not just those with public examinations, learning English is not just about passing examinations. We expect our students to be able to use English effectively for a variety of purposes, as well as to be exposed to Western culture. For example, a NET is able to introduce the culture from his/her home country to our students and help expand their horizon and experience.
At the same time, Hong Kong is a world city and we should not confine our students to only one kind of accent of good spoken English. They are likely to come across different accents later in life.
The Government has commissioned the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) to evaluate the secondary NET scheme and the results are mainly positive. The primary NET scheme has just been implemented for the second year and we have commissioned a tertiary institution to evaluate the scheme over a 3-year period.
(c) The Net scheme is provided on top of the teacher establishment of schools to serve the specific objectives of creating an authentic English-speaking environment in schools and to bring in additional language resource. Evidence has shown that the scheme has positive impact on students' learning of English. The collaboration between the NET and local teachers also help professional development on both sides. We would continue to monitor the effectiveness of the scheme.
Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2003