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LCQ15: Native-speaking English Teachers for special schools

     Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):


     It has been reported that under the current system, government-aided secondary and primary schools (including schools for the physically handicapped) can apply to the Education Bureau (EDB) for joining the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme, but a special school admitting students with intellectual disabilities (ID) has been denied participation in the Scheme by EDB.  There have been comments that with changes in society and the employment environment, persons with ID might work in the service industry, hence the special education system for students with ID should be reviewed.  Regarding the policy on the curriculum for special schools, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of students with ID studying in government-aided special schools at present; whether it knows among these students, the number of those who take the subject of English language, and the number of those who benefit from NET services in schools for the physically handicapped;   

(b) given that at present, some students with ID studying in special schools and students in mainstream schools study under the same curriculum framework, and the only difference lies in the depth of content and the progress of learning, of the reason and justification for denying schools for students with ID from participating in NET Scheme;  
(c) whether it knows if NETs who teach in special schools at present have received training in special education; whether the authorities will take measures to attract more NETs who have received training in special education to teach in Hong Kong; if they will, of the relevant details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) given that the nature of the curriculum for students with ID is increasingly similar to that of the curriculum adopted by mainstream schools, and that the career prospects for students with ID are different from those in earlier years, whether the authorities will consider conducting a comprehensive review of the policy on the curriculum for students with ID; if they will, of the relevant details; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to Hon Chan's question is as follows:

(a) It is the established practice of the Education Bureau (EDB) to refer students to special schools according to their major disability.  Special schools will provide appropriate education for their students having regard to their major disability, and make necessary adaptation and support in teaching and learning to cater for the students with multiple disabilities.  In the 2011/12 school year (as at September 15, 2011), a total of 5,618 students whose major disability is intellectual disability (ID) attend aided schools for children with intellectual disability (ID schools).  As for other types of special schools which admit students whose major disability is not ID, we do not have statistics on the number of students with ID in these schools.

     English Language is not a formal subject in ID schools.  However, some ID schools provide different types of school-based English learning activities for their students, such as vocational English and practical English activities.  As for schools for children with physical disabilities, schools for children with visual impairment and schools for children with hearing impairment which offer the mainstream curriculum, Native-speaking English Teachers (NETs) may be employed.  These schools may decide on how to optimise the use of NET resources in accordance with the EDB's guidelines for deployment of NETs.  As these schools will adjust the learning contents and flexibly arrange group teaching for their students based on their individualised education programme and learning progress, some students, including those with ID apart from their major disability, may not be taught directly by NETs.  Therefore, we do not have statistics on the number of students in these schools who benefit from the NET Scheme.

(b) Under the principle of "one curriculum framework for all", ID schools will adapt the central curriculum recommended by the Curriculum Development Council to cater for the special learning needs of their students.  Although some ID schools will arrange practical English activities for their students, such activities are conducted as part of their school-based English learning programme or activities.  Under the existing policy, the NET Scheme does not cover ID schools in view of the different learning needs of their students.  Nevertheless, the NET Section of the EDB will provide school-based peripatetic support for ID schools as required on a case by case basis to directly support their English activities. In fact, not every mainstream primary school can employ a full-time NET.  Primary schools with fewer than six classes are also provided with school-based peripatetic support through the NET Section.

(c) Under the NET Scheme, a qualification in special education training is not an appointment requirement.  However, the EDB has always encouraged teachers, including NETs, to pursue continuing professional development according to their own and their schools' development needs.  The EDB organises various training programmes for serving teachers to strengthen their professional competence in supporting students with special educational needs (SEN).  In general, teachers who have received teacher training should have basic knowledge about how to cater for learner diversity.  With in-service training on SEN, they should be able to teach in special schools.  At present, individual NETs teaching in special schools have received training in special education.  The EDB also organises training programmes, workshops, professional support network activities and school-based professional development activities for serving NETs.  Topics on SEN are covered in these activities.

(d) When formulating the policy on the curriculum for students with ID, the EDB has maintained close contact with the school sector, and gave due consideration to the views collected from the sector through extensive consultation.  We have also taken into consideration overseas experience and suggestions from academics.  Therefore, the existing curriculum policy is widely accepted by the sector.  The document entitled "Action for the Future - Career-oriented Studies and the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure for Special Schools" released in August 2006 further affirmed the existing curriculum policy, based on which we have developed the senior secondary curriculum for students with ID.

Ends/Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:54


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