SCMP Monday, May 22, 2000

EDUCATION REFORM

Qualified teachers seek test exemption

STELLA LEE


Qualified English teachers should be exempt from taking a new language test and those who achieved high scores should be formally recognised, an education workers' group said yesterday.

The Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers said a mechanism should be put in place to allow teachers with proven English-language qualifications to be exempted from the assessment, which will start in October.

The Language Benchmark Assessment is compulsory for more than 18,000 teachers using English and Putonghua, to prove they can meet minimum standards by 2005.

There are 4,300 Putonghua teachers and those who hold relevant qualifications are exempt from the test. But all 14,400 English-language teachers must take the test.

Federation president Yeung Yiu-chung said many educators regretted the Government's decision to introduce blanket language tests for English teachers. He said teachers who attained outstanding results should be given a certificate or extra pay. "If there is such a recognition, I won't worry that teachers will boycott the test. On the contrary, I think they'll be vying to take the assessment," he said.

Mr Yeung criticised giving primary and secondary English teachers the same exam as he said the two schooling levels required different skills.

Federation vice-president Wong Kwan-yu said it would not encourage a boycott but called on the Government to provide sufficient retraining for teachers who failed the test.