SCMP Friday, June 16, 2000

Teachers deadlocked over test


Education officials and teachers yesterday failed to break the deadlock over the controversial language benchmark test, but agreement was reached on relieving teachers' workloads.

Professional Teachers' Union president Cheung Man-kwong, who organised a 6,000-strong protest march against benchmark testing last weekend, vowed to continue the fight until the exam was abolished.

Speaking after meeting Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping, Mr Cheung said they had had a "frank exchange", but the union was disappointed with the Government's refusal to abolish the test.

More than 14,000 English and 4,300 Putonghua teachers are required to be benchmarked by 2005, either by sitting a test or taking an accredited training course. Exemptions have been granted to English-subject teachers who majored in English and have had professional training in English teaching.

Mr Wong was optimistic the dispute could be resolved by the time he leaves his current post at the end of this month. "There are lots of areas of consensus between us. I am confident that resolution of the controversy will create momentum for the successful implementation of education reforms," he said.

The authorities had agreed to try to relieve teachers' workload, Mr Cheung said. The Government earmarked $800 million for education reform in the Budget in March. Mr Wong said reducing teachers' workloads would probably be the top priority in future government funding decisions.