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LCQ8: Native-speaking English Teacher Scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Martin Liao and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (December 12):


     According to an international survey on English proficiency conducted between 2009 and 2011 the results of which were published recently, among 54 non-English-speaking countries or territories around the world, Hong Kong people's English proficiency ranks 25th (having dropped 13 places compared with the ranking in the same survey conducted between 2007 and 2009) and 7th in Asia, which is below the rankings of South Korea and Japan.  This indicates that Hong Kong people's English proficiency is only of a moderate level and is declining.  With regard to strengthening the teaching of English at school to address the aforesaid situation, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government has conducted regular studies and surveys on students' English proficiency since the introduction of the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme in public sector primary and secondary schools in 1998, in order to assess the effectiveness of the Scheme and to make adjustments accordingly; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(b) of the average numbers of NETs currently employed by each subsidised and government primary school as well as secondary school with English as the medium of instruction; whether it has assessed if the numbers of NETs are sufficient to cope with the needs for teaching the English Subject in all classes at all levels and to achieve the objective of enhancing students' English proficiency; if the assessment result is in the affirmative, of the details; if the assessment result is in the negative, whether the Government will consider allocating more resources to needy schools in order to employ additional NETs?


     The international survey mentioned by Hon Liao must be the Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index, which was established in 2011.  Since test takers are self-selected and self-recommended, instead of selected through representative sampling methods, we believe that each batch of test results only reflects the English proficiency of that particular group of test takers and may not necessarily provide a true picture of the English standards of the participating countries.  Further, since the tests are administered online and non-Internet users are inevitably excluded, the test results are not necessarily reflecting the English proficiency of the actual population (including students), and the tests results are not representative.

     The Bureau gives due attention to the English standards of local students and attaches great importance to the provision of an array of support measures to enhance the quality of the learning and teaching of the English Language subject.  Apart from providing a suitable curriculum for both primary and secondary schools, we have put in place a stringent mechanism to ensure the quality of learning and teaching in schools.  This includes, among others, requiring newly recruited English teachers to fulfil the relevant language proficiency requirements, using the Territory-wide System Assessment to find out about students' proficiency level in Hong Kong, and requiring schools to conduct self-evaluation, make use of the Territory-wide System Assessment Report to enhance learning and be regularly inspected by staff from the Bureau.  The Bureau also aims for continuous enhancement in the professional standard and teaching efficiency of local English teachers and the effectiveness of learning and teaching by providing a range of support measures and resources.  Among them are professional development programmes for teachers, school-based support services, the English Enhancement Scheme, the Refined English Enhancement Scheme and the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme.  The NET Scheme allows local English teachers to collaborate with the NETs in providing a more conducive environment for English learning and to further enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching. Besides, Standing Committee on Language Education and Research collaborates with different organisations in the community to create an English-rich environment and organise various English activities.

     Our reply to the two questions raised by Hon Liao is as follows:

(a) The Education Bureau implemented the Enhanced NET Scheme in Secondary Schools in public-sector secondary schools in the 1998/99 school year, and from 1998 to 2000 and in 2008, The Hong Kong Institute of Education and The University of Melbourne were commissioned by the Bureau to conduct an evaluation study of the Scheme.  In the first study, data were mainly collected through students' assessment tasks, survey questionnaires and case studies, whereas in the second study, data were collected through survey questionnaires, case studies and focus groups.  The following are the main findings of the two studies:

* According to the first study, the NETs were able to fulfil their role as a resource teacher by, for example, designing and developing learning and teaching materials, introducing a wide range of teaching strategies, promoting English as a second language in schools through different contexts and providing more opportunities for students to use English as a tool for classroom learning and daily communication.

* The second study reveals that the Enhanced NET Scheme in Secondary Schools created more opportunities for students to use English and enabled them to know more about different cultures and broaden their global outlook.  It also indicates that the NETs fared better than local English teachers in encouraging students to use English for communication.  In addition, they were able to help students develop a proactive and positive attitude towards learning English, and played a vital role in enriching the English environment in schools.

* Both studies show that through professional collaboration among teacher communities, enriching the English environment in schools and improving the efficacy of English learning and teaching, the NETs were effective in boosting students' interests and confidence in learning English and enhance their speaking, listening and phonics skills.

     The Education Bureau implemented the NET Scheme in Primary Schools in public-sector primary schools in the 2002/03 school year, and during the period from 2004 to 2006, The University of Melbourne was commissioned by the Bureau to conduct a three-year territory-wide evaluation study of the Scheme.  The data of the evaluation study were collected through student survey questionnaires, interviews and tests, and the data were analysed to evaluate students' academic achievements and learning attitudes, leading to the following conclusions:

* The Scheme helped to facilitate the professional development of English teachers at the primary level.  By having professional discourse and collaboration with the NETs and Advisory Teachers of the Bureau's NET Section as well as adopting the learning and teaching resources and strategies recommended by them, not only could the English teachers help raise their students' language proficiency, but their professional development was also enhanced.

* The introduction of the NETs could help to nurture students' positive attitudes towards learning English, which in turn had a positive impact on students' language proficiency and development.

(b) Under the NET Scheme, every public-sector primary school operating not less than six classes and every public-sector secondary school is normally allocated with one NET post, irrespective of whether the mother tongue or English is used as the main medium of instruction.  NETs are additional manpower for the English Language subject in their schools and serve as resource teachers for the subject.  They mainly support and collaborate with the local English teachers in facilitating the implementation of the curriculum and the development of subject-related tasks, which include, among others, assisting in the design of the school-based English Language curriculum, enriching the English learning environment in schools, enhancing the professional development of English teachers, developing teaching materials and establishing resource banks as well as organising relevant extra-curricular activities.  Classroom teaching is still primarily undertaken by the local English teachers.  Having regard to the special job arrangements for the NETs, the Bureau considers the current manpower deployment of NETs appropriate.

Ends/Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:25


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