SCMP Thursday, June 1, 2000

Education director deplores test row


Outgoing Director of Education Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun yesterday described the row over benchmark tests for English teachers as the "most regrettable incident" of her 19-month term.

"I do hope there is more tolerance [in the education sector] rather than bashing each other publicly to make the matter more complicated, political and sensational," she said on her last day at the department.

Her comments came after the 75,000-strong Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) said the test was an "insult" and called for a boycott. A demonstration is planned for Saturday week.

Mrs Law urged the union to withdraw the boycott plan, saying it would undermine the teachers' reputations.

"For those teachers with high English standards, I'm really sorry they have to sit for the test," she said. "Since the standards among teachers vary a lot, they need to prove that they meet the benchmark through the test."

But Au Pak-kuen, vice-president of the union, said: "The PTU can't cancel any plans since they are not decided by the union but by the teachers collectively."

About 14,000 English teachers and some 4,300 Putonghua teachers in primary and secondary schools are required to pass language tests by 2005 or be assigned other subjects. Seven education groups will meet Mrs Law and Joseph Wong Wing-ping, Secretary for Education and Manpower, today to discuss the test.

Mrs Law takes over Mr Wong's job next month.

Meanwhile, remarks by assistant director for education Anthony Tong Kai-hong that teachers who failed the test could become school librarians have drawn fire. About a dozen librarians protested at the department yesterday.