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LCQ 17: Teachers' ranks and support for English Language education

    Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (November 1):


     A news report revealed that an English language teacher had voluntarily given up his senior teaching post in a secondary school to go to teach in a primary school with much lower salary so that he could, as he said, attend to the language needs of students at an earlier stage of their development. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the reasons for the pay difference between English language teachers in primary schools and those in secondary schools;

(b) whether they plan to recruit more experienced teachers to teach in primary schools without requiring them to sacrifice their income such as the teacher in the above case; and

(c) of the steps that they will take to enhance English language education in primary schools?


Madam President,

(a) Currently, aided primary and secondary schools are provided with teachers of various ranks.  The different ranks have different salary scales which are determined by considering various factors such as entry qualifications, experience, nature of the job, level of responsibilities, etc.  However, for the common ranks (i.e. CM and AM ranks), teachers will have the same salary in both primary and secondary schools.

(b) Teachers are employed directly by schools.  At present, over 95% of the serving English teachers in public sector primary schools are professionally trained, and over 70% are subject trained.  It is estimated that the percentages of professionally trained and subject trained English teachers will continue to increase.  Currently, secondary school teachers holding ranks which are common to primary and secondary schools can teach in primary schools without a reduction in salary.  Regarding the reported case, it is possible that the teacher has taken up a post of a lower rank in the primary school out of his own volition.
(c) In recent years, we have stepped up our efforts in supporting English Language education in primary schools.  The key initiatives include:

* The curriculum reform emphasises using a learner-centred and a task-based approach to cater for learner diversity, and promotes learner independence and assessment for learning.  This approach motivates students' learning by building on their interests and strengths.  A revised curriculum guide highlighting the above for English Language education in primary schools has been implemented starting from the 2005/06 school year.  A school survey conducted by EMB in 2005 indicated that English panel heads and teachers saw the curriculum reform as having a positive impact on student learning in terms of interest and attitude.

* A Task Force on Language Support has been set up under EMB since the 2003/04 school year to support panel heads and language teachers in implementing the curriculum reform.  In the 2005/06 school year, it provided intensive support to 54 primary schools in English Language, focusing on assessment for learning, implementation of the new curricula, and enhancing the culture of lesson observation and reflective teaching.  In the 2006/07 school year, the number of primary schools receiving support in English Language will increase to 72.  The Task Force will also extend its support to enhance the capacity of curriculum leaders in coordinating the various language curricula and assessment measures, and in the effective deployment of resources.  According to schools' self-evaluation and an external review conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, teachers considered the support services very effective in enhancing their knowledge about the English Key Learning Area and the language-related curriculum initiatives.  They also thought that the support services had a significant positive impact on the development of learning and teaching strategies, curriculum, a culture of reflection and collaboration, and curriculum leadership.

* To enable English teachers to be more focused and enhance the effectiveness of student learning, additional resources have been provided for implementing specialised teaching in primary schools with priority given to the English Language since the 2005/06 school year.  With effect from the 2006/07 school year, cash grants have been replaced by additional teaching posts in the permanent staff establishment of ordinary primary schools in the public sector.

* The Native English-speaking Teachers (NET) scheme was extended from secondary to primary schools in the 2002/03 school year and we have been recruiting additional NETs for enhanced provision in primary schools since the 2004/05 school year.  An Evaluation of the Primary NET Scheme by the Assessment Research Centre, the University of Melbourne (Second Annual Report, 2005) has identified improvements in studentsˇ¦ English language results.  A more comprehensive analysis on the effectiveness of the PNET Scheme will be released in the final report during 2007.   We will continue to support schools in recruiting qualified NETs from overseas and in Hong Kong.

* Starting from the 2004/05 school year, all new English (and Chinese) teachers have to hold qualifications that ensure adequate preparation in language proficiency, subject knowledge and pedagogy.  To encourage more serving language teachers to attain similar qualifications through professional development, $525 million has been allocated from the Language Fund to provide study grants to eligible and aspiring language teachers.  As at September 2006, over 1,500 English teachers in primary schools have successfully applied for study grants under the Scheme.

* In the 2006/07 school year, a pilot programme was initiated by the Standing Committee of Language Education and Research to support English teachers from over 100 primary schools to attend overseas immersion programmes on the teaching of English.  Subject to a review of the pilot, we intend to continue the programme, with the possibility of extending it to secondary school teachers in the 2007/08 school year and beyond.

Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Issued at HKT 15:49