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[Archive] Poor results of Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers

LEGCO QUESTION NO.4(ORAL REPLY)

 

Date of sitting : 3 July 2002



Asked by : Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung

Replied by : SCS

Question :

It is learnt that the passing rates of various papers of the Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers (English Language), released at the end of May, showed a drastic decline as compared to those of last year. As the authorities concerned had decided not to require the candidates to reveal whether they were serving teachers, teacher trainees or other persons, so as to minimize the psychological burden on them, there is no way for the authorities to distinguish the performance of different groups of candidates. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:

  1. of the justifications in support of the argument that "the psychological burden on the candidates will be alleviated if they are not required to reveal their status"; whether it will alter this practice by requiring candidates to reveal their status, with a view to obtaining accurate information on the performance of different groups of candidates for drawing up effective measures to improve their proficiency in English;

  2. whether it has assessed the reasons for the decline in this year's passing rates, and whether it will form a task force to conduct a comprehensive study of the relevant factors and solutions; and

  3. of the further measures to ensure that all serving English teachers will attain the stipulated benchmark on English standard by the end of the 2005-06 school year?

Reply:

Madam President,

The Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers (LPAT) is but one of the means by which serving English teachers attain the language proficiency requirement. Besides taking the assessment, teachers may apply for exemption, undertake training courses or meet the requirement through a combination of the ways mentioned. The Education Department (ED) has asked each school to set a clear timetable for its English teachers to participate in training, attempt the assessment or apply for exemption as early as possible, thus ensuring that they attain the requirement within the specified time frame.

I would now reply to Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung's questions as follows:

  1. We have consulted the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications (ACTEQ) that comprises frontline principals and teachers on whether candidates should be required to declare their status. The ACTEQ advised that since requiring candidates to declare their status necessitates the verification of their particulars, teachers taking the assessment may have worries that their status would be known to the school and the ED and their career would be affected by unsatisfactory results. Furthermore, as serving teachers may attain the language proficiency requirement by various means and report to the ED, the latter is able to monitor the progress of attainment without bringing too much pressure on teachers. As such, the ACTEQ does not consider it necessary to require candidates to declare their status. It, however, takes the view that the ED should make an annual announcement of the total number of teachers who have attained the language proficiency requirement by various means, and encourage individual schools to reveal the progress of attainment for the information of parents and the public.

    As for assisting candidates in improving their performance in the assessment, we take the initiative to disseminate the Chief Examiners' observations to the candidates, all primary and secondary schools as well as teacher education institutes upon completion of each LPAT. The relevant assessment reports are also uploaded onto ED's website. Such measures allow candidates and those who intend to take the assessment to learn about the common errors identified, thereby helping them perceive their own weaknesses and make improvements accordingly. This year, apart from disseminating the Chief Examiners' observations on candidates' performance, we intend to publish some supplementary notes to the existing syllabuses to enable candidates to have a better understanding of the requirements of each part of the individual papers.

  2. Jointly organized by the Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA) and the ED, the LPAT is a criterion-referenced assessment. It is different from norm-referenced examinations of which the passing rate is relatively stable. Candidates will be considered as having attained the required level only if they reach the stipulated standard for each specified item of the assessment. The English LPAT consists of five papers, namely Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and Classroom Language Assessment. Candidates may choose to attempt one or more papers in each assessment. 

    In the 2002 LPAT, the passing rates for the papers on Speaking and Classroom Language Assessment are slightly higher whereas those on Reading, Writing and Listening were lower as compared with the 2001 LPAT. This reflects the difference in language ability of candidates taking the two assessments. Furthermore, since the total number of candidates sitting for the 2001 and 2002 English LPAT were merely around 400 and 800 respectively, their performance can by no means represent the overall language standard of the teaching profession.

    With regard to the setting up of a task force, since HKEA will conduct an analysis of the assessment results every year for subsequent publication of reports on candidates' performance and suggestions for improvement, setting up a separate task force is considered unnecessary.

  3. The Administration has set a clear target for English teachers to attain the language proficiency requirement by 31 August 2006. We encourage serving English teachers to meet the requirement as soon as possible by various means such as participating in training, attempting the assessment or applying for exemption. Besides, we have earmarked resources for the provision of adequate training places for serving teachers. As at the end of June this year, some 3 700 English teachers attained the requirement or were undertaking training courses, accounting for about one quarter of the total number of English teachers in primary and secondary schools.

    The ED will monitor the progress of individual schools according to the programmes drawn up by them for attaining the requirement and actively assist school sponsoring bodies in organizing appropriate school-based courses for their schools. We believe that principals and teachers will act in the interests of students and, in order to build up parents' confidence in them, schools will make systematic arrangements for their English teachers to participate in training, attempt the assessment or apply for exemption, thus ensuring that their English teachers attain the requirement within the specified time frame.