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Teacher shortage hits Hong Kong English classes

With an increasing number of Native-speaking English Teachers (NETS) failing to renew their contracts with the Hong Kong schools system, concerns are growing among local educationalists that levels of English in the former British colony are likely to decline, according to the South China Morning Post

Among NETS working in primary schools, the teacher turnover rate rose to 18 per cent this year, up from 11 per cent in 2021-2022. The increase was less dramatic in the secondary sector where 16 per cent failed to renew their contract. Overall, the total number of NETs fell from 852 to 838, an attrition rate Hong Kong authorities claim remains broadly in line with historic trends.

In fact, the retention rate for NETS is higher than that of their local workmates.  At least 3,500 local state school teachers quit last year. Many chose to emigrate, resulting in US$1.5 billion in withdrawals from the pension fund.

Will the loss of NETs really hit language levels? The impact of Native speakers Teachers in school systems is not well-researched, though one small longitudinal study from the UK found that primary-aged children did better with teachers who shared their L1 and had a degree in the target language than they did with similarly qualified native speakers.

In fact, Hong Kongers with high levels of English can already work as NETs, which entitles them to higher salary and more fringe benefits. Improving the language levels, and salary packages, of local teachers may be the best way to replace the foreign teachers.

Image courtesy of Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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