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Language proficiency of English Teachers


Date of sitting: 4.7.2001

Asked by : Hon Emily LAU

Replied by : SEM

Question :

The results of the first Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers (English Language) announced on 8 June showed that the respective passing rates for the papers on Writing and Speaking were 33% and 50% only. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council?

  1. of their assessment of the results of these papers;

  2. of the percentage of candidates who are unrelated to the teaching profession;

  3. of the measures that will be taken to upgrade the standard of English of those teachers not meeting the language proficiency requirements;

  4. of the number of teachers who have enrolled in authorized Language Proficiency Training Courses, and the number of such courses cancelled due to under subscription; and

  5. whether they will urgently explore additional ways to attract people with a good command of English to join the teaching profession?


Madam President,

a. The English and Putonghua Language Proficiency Assessments are conducted in March every year. The Assessments are open to serving teachers as well as any person who has at least five HKCEE passes (including English or Chinese).

The English Language Proficiency Assessment consists of a total of five papers, namely, Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and Classroom Language Assessment. Candidates may choose to attempt one or more of the five papers in one sitting, but only serving teachers may attempt the Classroom Language Assessment, which involves lesson observation of a teacher in a real class.

For the English Language Proficiency Assessment conducted in March 2001, there were a total of 413 candidates. However, not all of them attempted all papers. About 90% of the 93 candidates who attempted the Classroom Language Assessment have passed that Assessment. This signifies that serving English teachers are proficient in the use of classroom language in teaching English. On the whole, there is room for improvement in writing and speaking. For instance, while candidates are able to correct students' common mistakes, they are less capable of explaining the mistakes. Grammatical accuracy is also an area which requires improvement.

b. The Administration has no ready information on the background of the candidates as they were not required to declare whether they were serving teachers, teacher trainees or other members of the public, when applying to sit the 2001 English Language Proficiency Assessment. The decision not to require candidates to reveal their status was to minimize the psychological burden on the candidates.
c. The language benchmarks provide an objective reference against which to gauge a teacher's proficiency in the various language skills. The assessment helps candidates to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Such diagnostic information is valuable for teachers to pursue continuous improvement.

Furthermore, to assist potential candidates who would like to attempt future assessments, the Hong Kong Examinations Authority is compiling the Chief Examiners' reports on the 2001 Assessment. The reports will be issued to all the candidates of the 2001 Assessment and to all schools and will be put onto the Education Department website.

In addition, to help serving teachers to upgrade their English proficiency and to strive for excellence, the Administration will continue to organize training courses and provide training subsidy for all English teachers. We will also discuss the Chief Examiners' reports with teacher training institutes on how best to further improve their training programmes.

d. The English proficiency training courses came on stream from February 2001 onwards. Up to June 2001, 450 teachers have enrolled in these courses. During this period, no English proficiency training course has been cancelled due to undersubscription, but one course provider has withdrawn from offering English training courses after reconsideration of the institute's commitments and available resources. The number of places affected is insignificant in terms of total training capacity.
e. (e) The Administration will continue to explore ways to attract more people with a good command of English to become English teachers. Both the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications (ACTEQ) and the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) will be consulted.

The Administration is also taking measures to increase the output and improve the quality of English teacher training programmes. For the 2001/02 academic year, there will be 60 additional full-time places for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme majoring in English. An overseas immersion programme will be offered to all PDGE (English major) students (about 230 in total, including the 60 additional places) to sharpen their language skills in an authentic language environment. The Administration is also exploring the feasibility of further increasing the number of PGDE (English major) places after the 2001/02 academic year.

From the 2001/02 school year, the Administration has made provision for upgrading one Certificate Master/Assistant Primary School Master post to Assistant Master/Primary School Master post in all public sector primary schools to strengthen curriculum leadership in the teaching of English. Teachers who have attained a level of English proficiency which is higher than the minimum are eligible to be considered for promotion.

Last revision date: 04 July 2001
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