Speech at the 10th Anniversary of the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme
1 November 2008 (Saturday)
10th Anniversary of the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme
Speech by Mr Michael M Y Suen, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Professor Tsui, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you this morning to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Enhanced Native-speaking English Teacher or NET Scheme.
Allow me to start with a bit of history.
We started a pilot scheme in 1987 to deploy expatriate teachers to teach English in a number of secondary schools. It was not until September 1998 that we expanded the scheme to a territory-wide basis. Under the Scheme, each secondary school is provided with at least one NET.
It was not all smooth sailing for the scheme in the early years. At that time, we faced difficulties in recruiting an adequate number of NETs. Some NETs had problems settling down in our local school system. The way in which some schools deployed their NETs certainly needed improvement.
Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of everyone involved, we have developed, over the years, a support framework to promote professional exchange and collaboration between NETs and local teachers. Schools have now become more attuned to the strengths of NETs and the roles they play in the teaching and learning of English. We are delighted to see more and more good teaching practices involving close partnership between NETs and local teachers.
I am frequently asked by members of the community how best NETs can play their role in the teaching and learning of English.
Today, I would like to share with you some of our thoughts.
First and foremost, we look upon NETs to create a favorable environment for students to learn English in an enjoyable manner. Coming from different countries all over the world, NETs can serve a dual role as cultural ambassadors as well as linguistic role models. They are able to provide motivation and authentic opportunities for students to use English and to learn about other cultures. With their natural expressiveness and creativity, NETs are ideally suited to the teaching of Language Arts, which has been given revitalised prominence in the new English Language curriculum.
We also encourage NETs to enrich our teaching resources and experiment with innovative practices. The fascinating crop of NETworking publications is no doubt a telling example. They provide a wealth of creative yet practical ideas for effective language teaching. Another praiseworthy case is the self-developed readers and specially designed resource kits of the Primary Literacy Programme in Reading. Those materials have greatly enhanced students’ reading interest and skills. This is evident by the marked improvement in the 2007 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study or PIRLS for short, which is surely a cause for celebration. I am confident that the sturdy foundation laid at primary level will pave way for a greater success at secondary level.
We believe that NETs can do well in developing and disseminating new teaching ideas. Some notable experiences include using blogs as a teaching tool and developing drama curricula for junior secondary school students. In this respect, it is most encouraging to learn that co-teaching, co-planning and collaboration between NETs and local English teachers has become a regular practice in both primary and secondary schools.
What remains to be done is to see how we can effectively promote the good practices among schools.
Later today, a number of tertiary practitioners and serving NETs will convene the workshops which aim to share the good practices in English teaching. I wish you all an interesting, productive and enjoyable exchange.
Before closing, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the NET Section, which has been offering support to English teachers all over Hong Kong and engineering professional development programmes for our English teachers.
My gratitude also goes to all the school heads, local teachers and NETs here today for working assiduously over the years to enhance the English proficiency of our students. I wish you all the best in your professional endeavours.