The native-speaking English teacher (NET) programme has been underway in Hong Kong for upwards of 15 years now and has recently come under fire for not providing HK students with sufficient English language ability. The HK$710 million scheme, originally devised to bring native level English education to the city’s young students, has until recently been considered a successful campaign that brought a large number of native-speaking English teachers to the modern city’s top international schools and language schools. However, many of the NET scheme’s opponents argue that the programme just isn’t living up to its original promise and that the future generations of Hong Kong are suffering under its inadequacies.
Many public schools funded by the HK government are understaffed and teacher to student ratios remain less than ideal for effective learning. Because of the shortage in staff, NET programme teachers are sometimes reduced to teaching short 35-minute lessons once or twice a week, rendering any real learning nearly impossible. This is usually the case in public schools, whereas in the list of international schools, there is plenty of support staff. While this is a result of wider educational and governmental issues, it proves a strong point in how ineffective the NET scheme can be if other criteria are not met within the school environment.
Another growing concern is that the traditional method of teaching students’ material commonly covered in examinations, along with tactics to help them improve their test scores is replacing the actual learning of the subject. While this is more evident within courses like mathematics and science, similar outcomes can be seen in the English language proficiency of students. Verbal and written communication abilitie consistently fall behind vocabulary and grammar rules. While Hong Kong language schools may have a higher emphasis on practical language integration, public or international schools may have a more competitive attitude, leading to a short-sighted focus on examination score results.
Due to these glaring inconsistencies in education, there is not only a desperate need for Hong Kong to hire more NET teachers, but for an overhaul of the NET scheme in general.
Hiring more teachers will not be a difficult task to accomplish. Hong Kong offers its English teachers some of the highest paying wages in the Asia region and a multitude of opportunities within the abundance of international schools and English language centres. Application numbers grow with each passing year with many young and eager teachers vying for posts at the top schools in Hong Kong. In order for these NET teachers to be truly effective and to offer HK students the immersive and all-encompassing English language education they need, further changes must be made.
A focus on cultural learning and verbal ability remains at the forefront of necessary change. Bridging the gap between language theory and real-world language skills is at the core of this issue. NET teachers can have an advantage by bringing in their own personal experiences into the classroom. By educating students using culturally sensitive and current events, English teachers can engage students in more interesting and hands-on ways to help cement language learning in their student’s minds.
Utilising the more Western approach to education, such as an emphasis on verbalisation, creative problem solving, collaborative team projects, and other free form ways of learning, Hong Kong students can tap into the very skills they may not be currently accessing, which relies on ineffective repetition and memorisation method to teach languages.
Yes, Hong Kong is in desperate need for NET teachers, but it’s not merely to round out a school’s roster. It is important to help bring about the educational change that students so critically need in order to improve the Hong Kong people’s future English language abilities.
If you are looking to get into teaching in Hong Kong, especially through the government’s NET scheme, have a look at our articles on the recognized qualifications for English teaching in Hong Kong . Or for a full list of tips on how to get an English teaching job in Hong Kong, visit our comprehensive guide.