SCMP Friday, May 26, 2000

Rethink urged of tests for primary teachers


Teachers of English at primary schools should not be expected to meet the same language benchmark as their counterparts in secondary schools, education concern groups argued yesterday.

They complained that only 80 - less than one per cent - of English teachers in primary schools held a degree in English.

Joseph Wong Wing-ping, Secretary for Education and Manpower, has agreed to consider exemptions for teachers with English degrees and professional teaching training, after the 75,000-strong Professional Teachers' Union called for a boycott of the test. The union will demonstrate tomorrow.

"There are different academic requirements for teachers in primary, junior and senior secondary schools," said Fung Man-wai, chairman of the Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council. "It's a big worry for them to have to pass the test, which is designed for teachers who teach at up to pre-university level."

Mr Fung's group, together with six other education concern groups led by the Federation of Education Workers, want the Government to divide the test into levels to suit primary school teachers. They want the Government to offer exemptions, not only to teachers with an English degree, but also to those who have been trained to teach the subject at the four government-run teacher training colleges, now the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

But Wong Kwan-yu, vice-president of the Federation of Education Workers, said a boycott would set a bad example to students. And the Business Coalition yesterday backed the tests.

"Unless we are able to benchmark teacher capabilities in the English language and ensure that those with limited English language competence receive the training their students need and deserve, then our competitive future as a world city is undoubtedly in danger," said the convenor of the coalition, David Dodwell.

About 14,000 English teachers in both primary and secondary schools must pass the benchmark test or complete a training course to meet the standard by 2005.

More than 4,300 Putonghua teachers also need to pass the test.