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LCQ4: Implementation of the Native-speaking English Teacher Scheme in primary schools

     Following is a question by the Hon Michael Tien and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):


     Since the 2002/03 school year, the Education Bureau has implemented the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme to provide each eligible primary school with a NET. One of the objectives of the Scheme is to provide an authentic environment for students to learn English. However, at a meeting of the Panel on Education of this Council held last month, the Secretary for Education advised that the main duty of NETs is to act as resource teachers in order to provide support and exchange opportunities for local English teachers, instead of teaching in classrooms. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the Territory-wide System Assessment Reports have indicated that the Basic Competency attainment rate (attainment rate) of Primary 3 students in English Language increased by just 4.4 percentage points over the past decade, while the attainment rate of Primary 6 students in roughly the same period increased merely by 1.9 percentage points, whether the authorities have assessed the effectiveness of the NET Scheme in improving students' basic competency in English Language, and whether such effectiveness was reflected in the attainment rates concerned; if it was reflected, whether it is evident from the insignificant increases in the attainment rates concerned that the NET Scheme is ineffective; if the NET Scheme is not ineffective, of the justifications for that;

(2) whether it has assessed if the NET Scheme can provide students with an authentic and comprehensive environment to learn English given that each school has only one NET whose main duty is to act as a resource teacher; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the justifications for that; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, whether the authorities have specific plans to increase the number of NETs in each primary school, and to require that all Primary 1 English lessons be taught solely by NETs, so as to provide students with a comprehensive environment for learning English; if they have such plans, of the implementation timetable; and

(3) whether it knows the respective numbers of NETs who completed their agreements and those who departed from service prematurely, in each of the past five years, as well as the reasons for their departure?



     Our reply to the three questions raised by Hon Tien is as follows:

(1) As regards the evaluation of the impact of the NET Scheme in Primary Schools (PNET Scheme), the Education Bureau (EDB) commissioned the University of Melbourne to conduct a three-year territory-wide longitudinal study during the period between 2004 and 2006. The Evaluation Report indicated that NETs were generally more involved in teaching at P1 and P2 and, as reflected in the assessment of students' language proficiency in the study, there was a noticeable improvement achieved over time, especially at P1 and P2.

     In the 2013/14 school year the EDB conducted a territory-wide survey to learn about the views of public sector primary schools on the PNET Scheme. The findings indicated that about 90% of the schools considered that English lessons co-taught by the NET and a local English teacher could enrich students' language exposure and development.

     While expecting our students to be making continuous improvement, we should also show recognition of the good effort made by different stakeholders, including school leaders, teachers, parents and students themselves. The implementation of the NET Scheme is not the only contributing factor to student performance. To keep enhancing students' interest in, and the effectiveness of, their English learning, we commit ourselves to various areas of work, including the improvement of the curriculum design, the betterment of the learning environment, the promotion of effective learning and teaching strategies, the strengthening of our support for low achievers and the development of teachers' professional learning communities.

(2) I need to emphasise that the prime role of NETs is to serve as a resource teacher. As far as classroom teaching is concerned, direct teaching of students makes an important part of NETs' professional exchange with local English teachers. It is our expectation that NETs collaborate with local English teachers to develop and implement the school-based curriculum. Among their major duties, NETs co-teach with local teachers to provide an authentic and interactive language learning environment and to strengthen support for students with diverse needs. They also design and conduct English co-curricular activities, such as drama, story-telling and debating, to provide a language-rich environment, and to arouse and enhance students' interest in English learning. Aligned with the Scheme objectives, NETs' other duties include supporting local English teachers' professional development. Through collaboration, they help develop innovative learning and teaching strategies and design diversified learning materials and activities to implement the school-based English Language curriculum.

     The territory-wide longitudinal study conducted by the University of Melbourne indicates that the above-mentioned professional collaboration was the key to the effectiveness of the PNET Scheme. In the Evaluation Report, it is pointed out that apart from enhancing students' exposure to English inside and outside the classroom, the implementation of the Scheme also contributed to a conducive environment that enabled local English teachers to use English more effectively for daily exchange and collaboration, which in turn supported their professional development.

     At this stage the EDB has no plans to increase the number of NETs for each primary school. A preliminary discussion of the suggestion was recently conducted in the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research, and it was proposed that further attempts be made to explore how to make the best possible use of the existing resources. The EDB has also commissioned experts and academics to conduct another evaluation study of the PNET Scheme in the latter half of the current school year. We will make reference to the evaluation findings and recommendations and set plans for the future development of the Scheme.

     With respect to the assignment of teaching duties, if each school were to deploy their NET only to teach all P1 classes by himself or herself, it would result in much fewer opportunities for the NET to collaborate with local English teachers. According to the territory-wide survey conducted by the NET Section in the 2013/14 school year, only one school indicated that the NET should be deployed to teach only P1 classes. The majority of the school respondents considered that the NET should teach at different year levels, especially in Key Stage 1. Should NETs be deployed to teach at P1 only, such an arrangement would impact negatively on their understanding of the development of the local English Language curriculum and hence affect the quality of the collaborative work and professional development activities they conduct with and for local English teachers.

     Apart from implementing the NET Scheme, the EDB uses a range of support measures and resources, including the provision of curriculum leadership courses and teachers' professional development programmes, school-based support services, learning and teaching resources, and the use of the Language Fund to establish a Task Force of teaching consultants to build regional supporting networks to enhance learning and teaching effectiveness.

(3) In the past 5 school years (i.e. from 2009/10 to 2013/14), there were 200-plus NETs in primary schools who completed their contracts and roughly between 8 and 17 NETs who had an early termination of their contracts annually. I must emphasise that the completion of contract may mean renewing contract or taking up a teaching post in another school, and not necessarily departing from Hong Kong. Our focus is on the renewal of each contract which normally lasts for two years. Details are as follows:

          Number of NETs in Primary Schools
School    Completion of     Early Termination
year      Contract (Note)   of Contract
------    ---------------   -----------------
2009/10   227               10
2010/11   250               12
2011/12   215               10
2012/13   243                8
2013/14   218               17

Note: The period of each contract for a NET is usually of two years.

     The reasons for the NETs to leave their jobs are personal data reported on a voluntary basis. According to the information captured by the EDB, the reasons for them to leave the jobs include such personal considerations as returning to their home countries, taking up a teaching post in another school, health and family issues, etc.

Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:18


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