Teaching in Hong Kong - Background to the NET Scheme
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
I have been working as a Native English Teacher (NET) in Hong Kong for many years. What is the NET Scheme and how did it originate?
Since the United Kingdom’s handover of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, it has been the Hong Kong Government’s intention to return students to the medium of Chinese instruction. However, there has also been a strong public mandate to provide English education to enable Hong Kong to compete commercially on an international level and become ‘Asia’s World City’ (Davis, 2015; Brand Hong Kong, 2015).
As a result, the Native-speaking English Teaching Scheme (‘NET Scheme’) was launched in secondary schools (in 1997/98) and primary schools (in 2002/03) by the Government’s Education Bureau to provide English as a Second Language (‘ESL’) education to students (Education Bureau, 2019). This led to the aim of employing at least one Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) per school across the territory.
Due to the NET Scheme, I have been employed as a NET in a local Chinese-medium primary school since 2007. Within my role as a NET, defining the term ESL can be problematic as most students come into school with, at the very least, English as a second language. However, for most students English is learned as a foreign language or another language. A separate blog post will have to be devoted to explain these terms in more detail, but for now let's continue...
Given this diversity of English acquisition, the curriculum documents have only recently started to reflect a recognition that foreign language learning is not enough for young learners. In the 2017 revised CDC English Language Education KLA Curriculum Guide (‘ELCG’) (Education Bureau, 2017), ‘English Literacy’ is used to replace the previous term of ‘Language Learning’. This has resulted in the advance of more innovative pedagogy and different ways of teaching even though there is a culture of resisting change (Wong, 2016).
One ELCG objective is stated as:
“To enable every learner to prepare for the changing socio-economic demands from advances to information technology; these demands include the interpretation, use and production of materials for pleasure, study and work in the English medium.”
More innovative pedagogy has therefore arisen within the ELCG with guidelines on
- ‘increased literacy development,
- e-Learning and information technology,
- integrated use of generic skills,
- reading across the curriculum,
- assessment as learning and catering for learner diversity. ‘
This is music to my ears! I'll be writing more about these guidelines and how they apply to my day-to-day teaching.
Davis, M M. (2015). Hong Kong Odyssey: An investigation of Australian teachers’ experiences about identity and transformation in a cross-cultural space. (Unpublished paper). Australia.
Education Bureau (2017), CDC English Language Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (Primary 1-Secondary 6)
Education Bureau (2019), Native-speaking English Teaching Scheme Retrieved: https://www.edb.gov.hk/en/curriculum-development/resource-support/net/index.html