Submitted to Education Bureau
Hong KongMELBOURNE CONSULTING AND CUSTOM PROGRAMS
442 AUBURN ROAD HAWTHORN VICTORIA 3322 AUSTRALIA
Professor Patrick Griffin and Ms Kerry Woods Assessment Research Centre
Melbourne Graduate School of Education The University of Melbourne
13th July 2009
MCCP Ref: 2008-146
Evaluation of the Enhanced Native- speaking English Teacher Scheme
in Hong Kong Secondary Schools 2009
H TEL: 61 3 9810 3298 FAX: 61 3 9810 3149
UMEE LTD ABN 53 081 182 685 ACN 081 182 685
This evaluation study was funded by the Education Bureau (EDB), Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The authors of this report wish to thank the following people from the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Section, EDB, whose contributions and insights were important for the success of this evaluation: Simon Tham, Ralph Barnes, Peter Broe, Patricia Wong, Christina Suen, Lionell Horn, Kevin Chan, Toby Chu and Andy Lam.
We also wish to acknowledge the generous contributions of the members of the Regional NET Coordinating Team, Principals, English Panel Chairs, native-speaking English teachers, local English teachers, parents and students who took part in focus groups, school visits and
Table of Contents
Executive Summary ... 4
1. Introduction and Overview ... 9
1.1 The Setting of the Study ... 9
1.2 The Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme... 10
1.3 Methodological Approach ... 11
1.3.1 Focus Groups... 11
1.3.2 School Visits ... 12
1.3.3 Surveys ... 13
1.4 Summary... 13
2. Implementation of the ENET Scheme ... 15
2.1 Overview ... 15
2.2 Role and Contributions of NETs ... 15
2.2.1 Collaboration between NETs and Local English Teachers ... 18
2.2.2 NETs’ Contributions to Oral Language Development ... 20
2.2.3 Knowledge Transfer and Duration of NET Deployment ... 21
2.2.4 Use of Resources and Strategies ... 21
2.3 Role of the English Panel and the Panel Chair... 23
2.3.1 Panel Chairs... 23
2.3.2 Induction and Inclusion of NETs ... 23
2.3.3 English Panel Meetings ... 25
2.4 Systemic Innovations and Programs ... 29
2.4.1 Expectations of Impact of New Senior Secondary Curriculum ... 29
2.4.2 Impact of Examinations... 30
2.4.3 NET Section Guidelines... 30
2.4.4 Training Programs and the Regional NET Coordinating Team ... 31
2.5 Attitudes of School Leaders, NETs and Local English Teachers ... 38
2.5.1 Beliefs about English Teaching... 38
2.5.2 Perceptions of the NET: School Leaders and Local Teachers ... 38
3. Deployment Strategies in Different School Contexts ... 39
3.1 Human Resources ... 40
3.1.1 Impact on Teachers ... 41
3.1.2 Impact on Students ... 42
3.2 Materials and Facilities ... 43
3.3 Impact on English Program ... 43
3.4 Summary... 44
4. Return on Investment for the ENET Scheme – The NET return ... 45
4.1 NET Section Management and Regional NET Coordinating Team ... 45
4.2 School Principals ... 46
4.3 English Panel Chairs... 46
4.4 NETs... 47
4.5 Heterogeneous Groups ... 47
5. Recommendations for the ENET Scheme ... 49
5.1 Effective Leadership in Schools: English Panel Meetings... 49
5.2 Relationships to System-Level Innovation... 51
5.3 English Panels as Collaborative Teaching Teams... 52
5.4 Curriculum and Assessment: Opportunities for the ENET Scheme... 55
5.5 Proposed Role for the ENET Scheme... 56
References ... 59
Appendix A. Participants in Focus Groups ... 61
Heterogeneous Discussion Group One ... 61
Discussion Group for Native-speaking English Teachers (NETs) ... 62
Discussion Group for English Panel Chairs ... 63
Discussion Group for School Principals... 63
Appendix B. School Visits... 64
Appendix C. Survey Participants... 90
Local English Teachers... 93
The study of the Enhanced Native-speaking English Teacher (ENET) Scheme was conducted in three parts. The first was a series of focus groups; the second was a series of school visits and the third consisted of a number of questionnaires administered to school leaders, native English speaking teachers (NETS), English Panel Chairs and members of the English Panels in schools. The latter were the local English teachers.
A separate report on focus groups has been provided. The current report encapsulates the information gained from focus groups and adds to it the report on school visits and the analysis of the data from the surveys. A total of five focus groups were conducted and nine schools were visited.
Thirty four Principals or Assistant Principals of the 104 schools approached, 74 English Panel Chairs, 79 local English teachers and 64 NETS completed the relevant survey instruments.
While this is less than what could be called a full sample, the data have provided sufficient information to support the intense discussions and conclusions derived from the focus groups and school visits.
The conclusions drawn from this study provide the basis for a series of recommendations that will enable the program to be revitalized after its period of 10 years of operation.
English Panel meetings
It was found that local English teachers would like English Panel meetings to:
• permit more time for teachers to discuss and share successful teaching strategies and resources;
• help teachers to collaborate on setting up teaching programs and sequences;
• support teachers’ efforts to devise teaching programs that were clearly linked to better outcomes for students;
• help teachers to plan strategies to support students of different ability levels;
• allow teachers to discuss their students’ class performance, areas of weakness and areas of improvement;
• be reduced in duration and tightly controlled by an agenda so that the meetings are better focused and more productive; and
• include time to check that decisions taken in earlier meetings have been put into practice and to discuss outcomes of those decisions.
Similarly, the NETs would like English Panel meetings to:
• place emphasis on setting clear objectives for the English program;
• allow all teachers opportunities to add items to the agenda and to contribute to discussions;
• reduce emphasis upon administrative tasks and formal meeting procedures;
• include regular reports from teachers on successful strategies and programs;
• help to identify professional development needs and incorporate professional development opportunities for teachers;
• focus on one or two major discussion points at each meeting, and permit more debate and sharing of ideas and resources; and
• include strategies for dealing with problems, reporting back on outcomes and making sure that initiatives are adopted.
The broad conclusions were as follows:
1. Schools are generally satisfied with the role and function of the NETs in schools. In general the NETs are providing a stimulus to the oral language context in school.
This is complementary to an apparent general text based approach to teaching English among local teachers.
2. NETs have both a curriculum and marketing role within schools in Hong Kong.
Their presence in the school is valued by parents as an indication of the serious nature of the English language curriculum in the school system. As such there is some tendency to exploit the presence of a NET in the school to attract students. This is important in a period when the demographic structure of the population is altering and the school-aged cohort is reducing in size.
3. NETs have generally adopted an educational role more consistent with the anticipated changes to be introduced with the new curriculum. Schools therefore are anticipating changes in teaching, curriculum and assessment with the introduction of the new curriculum, but NETs are anticipating less change in their role.
4. Students are appreciative of the presence of NETs in schools. The opportunity to practise their English and to become accustomed to people from other cultures is valued.
5. The organization of English departments in the secondary schools is thorough, focused on the improvement of examination performances and on the deployment of resources which include staff.
6. The role of the NET within the English Panel in the secondary schools varies according to the Panel Chair's perception and local expectation of the NET. This perception varies from a role that is manifested in oral language practices with students, support and professional development for staff, development of materials and strategies for the classroom, administrative support for the Panel Chair and leadership in English language curriculum – to a NET occupying the role of just an additional English teacher in the school. Both extremes and the roles in between are appreciated in the schools by the Principal, the local teachers and students and parents.
7. Departmental meetings, or Panel meetings as they are described, appear to focus more on administrative matters than on pedagogical or curriculum reform. When attention is focused on improvement of learning, the Panel meeting focuses on test scores and examination results. The purpose of these conversations is generally to improve grades, test scores and both internal and external examination results. The pedagogical and leadership roles of the NET in this milieu are diminished. In some cases, the NET lends support to students and staff in the students' oral language development and practice examinations but this was often regarded as irrelevant to the improvement of test scores. The role of the NET had become a valuable complement to the main business of the English Department, but it was not seen as central to the improvement of examination performance.
8. The introduction of the new curriculum and the changing examination format and focus, accompanied by the projected new form of reporting, will place additional pressures on the Panel Chair, Principal and the local teachers. The perception of the local teachers or members of the Panel could be described as treating the role of the NET as largely irrelevant to the curriculum while it was dominated by the competitive and norm referenced examination system. The peripheral curriculum was the main area of influence for the NET.
9. Substantial changes are envisaged once the new curriculum is introduced. The shift to a standards referenced framework, criterion referenced interpretation of assessment and reporting in terms of proficiency levels has the potential to radically shift the emphasis in the curriculum from the way it is currently taught in schools. A great deal of thought needs to be given to the implications of the changes that are necessary for the successful implementation of the new curriculum, and related assessment and reporting procedures. The main platform will have changed in the school's role for the Panel Chair and the local English Panel members. This may require a substantial change in the way in which Panels operate and the NET may have a critical role in assisting this change to occur.
10. During visits to classrooms, although minimal in number, no targeted or differentiated instruction was observed. Every lesson observed involved whole class instruction, including small-group work but where all members of each small group focused on the same task. Targeted instruction aimed at improving student proficiency appeared to be antithetical to the teaching approach in the Hong Kong English classroom. In a proficiency oriented curriculum, using standards referenced frameworks, criterion referenced interpretation of assessment, and proficiency reporting, this approach to teaching may have to be adjusted. The role of the NET in this process would be of considerable importance, providing that the NET has the necessary set of assessment, interpretation and curriculum skills.
The following steps are recommended for the Panel Chairs and the NET:
a. Panels need to shift their emphasis from administrative to curriculum and pedagogical foci.
b. The English Department needs to be reorganized so that teams of teachers act as collaborative specialists in the implementation of the new English curriculum. This is an extension of the teaching model that currently exists in some schools under the rubric of the NET's duties. Local teachers need to de- privatize the classroom and begin to work in collaborative teams of teachers.
c. The organization of the Panel meeting needs to be altered:
i. At a minimum English Panel meetings in schools where a NET is deployed should be conducted in English. There should be no exceptions to this. The practice of excluding and disenfranchising the NET has to be stopped if the NET is to take more than a token role on
of the pedagogical issues in school especially with the introduction of the new curriculum.
iii. The perceived dominance of the role of the Panel Chair needs to alter to allow more open discussion and sharing of ideas, resources and recommendations.
iv. While it may be culturally difficult, teachers need to develop the confidence to question and challenge the effect of teaching strategies on student performance. For this to occur, considerable professional development is needed to provide teachers with confidence, pedagogical competence and the appropriate discourse to enable these discussions to take place. True collaboration cannot be achieved unless there is the opportunity for the participants to express and discuss dissent and options.
v. Accountability within the English Panels appears to be focused only on examination scores. Accountability needs to include responsibilities for implementing pedagogical practices and improving English language proficiency of the students. In a collaborative environment, peer accountability is of great importance. Opportunities for Panel members and the NET to discuss and challenge each others' ideas is essential.
This is a mandatory professional development process. The challenge, however, must be based on the evidence of student learning outcomes.
This evidence-based approach forms part of the framework on which the new curriculum is founded.
vi. Panel members, all subgroups of Panel members depending upon the size of the Panel, need to establish a collaborative system that enables joint ownership and responsibility for student learning outcomes.
vii. Record-keeping in Panel meetings is at present focused on timetables, workloads, resource allocation and requisitions and the organization and administration of events, classes and school level expectations.
These records are important, and are supplemented by examination scores, test results and times and dates of assessment strategies. They need to be further supplemented, with the help of the NET, to include matters of individual student proficiency progress and development within the standards referenced framework.
viii. Teachers designated by the Panel to be responsible for the learning progress of specific students need to make and keep records of decisions, proposed strategies, resources recommended and used and timeframes for reassessment of the student. Student work samples need to be tabled and discussed as part of the decision-making process for targeted intervention.
ix. The role of the Panel Chair is a firm administrative or organizational role. This should, of course, continue. However, the role of the Panel Chair needs to be enlarged to include more input from the NET on pedagogical and resource matters and on advice for the local Panel members regarding intervention, monitoring and recording progress of individual pupils. Local Panel members should also adopt a culture of challenge so that the NET is accountable for recommendations.
x. While it may be culturally difficult, NETs and local teachers must be privileged with the right and opportunity to seek help and accept a situation where they do not know how to teach or to improve the students' English. Unless this happens, overall improvement in teaching within a proficiency based curriculum will not occur.
xi. Panel Chairs and to some extent the NETs must ensure that every Panel member is participating in the discussion and learning from and with each other.
The members of the Regional NET Coordinating Team (RNCT) will have an important role to play in altering the culture and process of the Panel meetings. Their role needs to be expanded to become more in line with role of the Advisory Teachers in the Primary NET Scheme. However, the role of the RNCT should be broader than just development and provision of teaching materials.
There are cultural changes needed in the operation of the Panel meetings. With the implementation of the new curriculum, there is a need for professional development of both the NETs and the local Panel members which focuses more on a developmental rather than a deficit model of pedagogy.
1. Introduction and Overview
1.1 The Setting of the Study
The prosperity of Hong Kong and its position as a global and regional force are conceptually linked by the Hong Kong community to the English proficiency of its people. This attitude to English is endemic, not only in Hong Kong but throughout the region (Jeon & Lee, 2006;
Jeong, 2004; Lai, 1999; Law, 2004; Xiaoqiong, 2005). Although Cantonese is recognized as the mother tongue of Hong Kong people, English is prized for the access it provides to employment opportunities, higher education, business negotiation, foreign diplomacy, travel and study (APEC, 2009). Further, since the late 1970s, the need to arrest declining standards of English, or to address perceptions that English standards were declining, has been the source of considerable debate and anxiety in the Hong Kong media and community. For example, a review of archives of a prominent English-language newspaper in Hong Kong revealed English language standards and English language education to be widely and hotly debated topics of concern (refer to Media Archives, South China Morning Post, 2008).
Hong Kong’s history can be related to the place that proficiency in English occupies in terms of access to hierarchies of economic and social influence. English was the language of government, administration, trade and law in Hong Kong from the time of its occupation by the British in 1841. In the 1970s, the colonial government began a program of investment in the development of English which was carried on by the post-1997 Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. The impetus of the late 1990s was further accentuated by global and regional developments in the years that followed. This included growth in the prosperity of Mainland China with associated developments in Shanghai and in other South China SARs which are now in direct competition with Hong Kong for lucrative tourism, financial and commercial markets.
The place of English language studies in the Hong Kong education system, and by extension the role and contribution of a scheme such as the deployment of NETs in schools, should ideally be examined in relationship to educational reforms within the broad social context.
The systemic re-evaluation which began with the Holistic review of the Hong Kong school curriculum (Curriculum Development Council, 1999) affirmed the importance of English within the context of a comprehensively restructured curriculum. Further, since the late 1990s the Hong Kong education system has been going through a progressive cycle of revision and renewal, with ramifications for all aspects of the system from kindergarten to tertiary education. In relation to secondary schools, from 2009 onward the system will include senior secondary education in the compulsory provision for the first time and a new curriculum has been developed to coincide with this important initiative. The major system-level events currently influencing secondary education in Hong Kong are thus the introduction of the 3+3+4 structure of secondary and tertiary education and the implementation of the New Senior Secondary (NSS) curriculum.
In practical terms, these reforms are expected to mitigate pressures on Hong Kong schools to concentrate much of the English language teaching allocation on preparing students for examinations. By eliminating one of the exit examinations, it is expected that time will become available for more student-centred and task-based styles of learning and teaching. In addition, the new curriculum is designed to place emphasis upon teaching English through language arts and fostering the use and enjoyment of English, and to shift emphasis away from grammar drills, rote-learning and a narrow conceptualization of English merely as a subject to be studied for examinations. This is a major shift. In its current manifestation, the English examination acts as a gatekeeper to further education and future prosperity for many
Hong Kong students and understandably dominates thinking and planning about English language studies for educators, students and parents.
In addition to the pervasive influence of the examination system, several policy decisions and initiatives have set the scene for the deployment of native-speaking teachers of English in secondary schools. Since 1997, the language policy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has fostered both English and Putonghua through a commitment to tri-lingualism and bi-literacy in the learning goals of the curriculum. Concurrently, the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications instituted new standards for language teachers which helped address the problem of proportions of local English teachers who were under-qualified to teach the language. Similarly, the establishment of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) enabled constructive review of other system-level issues including the medium of instruction policy in secondary schools, the appropriate qualifications of language teachers and, in its Review of Language Education (SCOLAR, 2003), the appropriate achievement standards for school students.
At the time of writing this report, the issue of medium of instruction was a hotly debated topic of concern in the Hong Kong press and education community. The division of schools into three levels dependent on the academic achievement levels (Bands) aligned mostly with the medium of instruction produces a system that could be argued to discriminate on the basis of the language of instruction. There are those that teach predominantly in English (referred to in this report as English Medium of Instruction (EMI) schools. These enrol students of high academic standard and are predominantly Band 1 schools. There are others that primarily use mother tongue or Chinese Medium of Instruction (CMI). They enrol students of middle (Band 2) or lower (Band 3) academic standards. This process effectively creates at least two, and possibly three, distinctive educational contexts in which native-speaking teachers of English are deployed. Thus, examination of the role, responsibilities, contributions and experiences of native-speaking English teachers in secondary schools must acknowledge not only broader social and systemic influences on English language education in Hong Kong, but also take into account the diverse requirements of different types of schools participating in the Native- speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme.
1.2 The Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme
The NET Scheme was introduced in 1997 to Hong Kong secondary schools, coinciding with a return to mother tongue as the principal language of instruction in many schools. Expectations of the Scheme at its inception were that it would improve the professionalism of English language teachers, leading to advances in the quality of English teaching through a system where NETs produced teaching resources, served as models of good practice and effected gains in student language proficiency. At this time, it was hoped that NETs could adopt a leadership role in schools and act as agents of change. After the first few years of implementation, researchers from the Hong Kong Institute of Education evaluated the Scheme and concluded that it had enjoyed some initial success, despite difficulty in identifying clear-cut language gains for students resulting conclusively from interaction with a NET (Storey, Luk, Gray, Wang & Lin, 2000).
The current evaluation marks the ten year anniversary of the deployment of native-speaking teachers of English in Hong Kong secondary schools through the NET Scheme. Given that the Scheme is now a decade old, it has had sufficient time to be inculcated into the secondary
NET Scheme, with its emphasis on innovative learning and teaching strategies, to align with and make a significant contribution to the learning targets and objectives of the new curriculum. Certainly, this is the light in which the Scheme is currently being repositioned as the Enhanced NET (ENET) Scheme in secondary schools. Similarly, as the Scheme has matured it has shifted conceptualization of the optimal role of NETs from external agents of teaching reform to integrated school-based contributors to broader education initiatives. These reforms draw upon systemic and school-level forces to graduate students with the English literacy and linguistic skills to participate in and contribute to the development of Hong Kong.
Building upon this perception of the ENET Scheme, the evaluation described in this report took an approach designed to examine the Scheme from multiple perspectives. A primary aim of the evaluation was to provide a foundation for the invigoration of the ENET Scheme, with particular attention paid to the role of the NET in secondary schools and the development of a model of optimal NET deployment. The evaluation scrutinized the contribution of the ENET Scheme to English language education and its proposed relationship to the new curriculum, and sought future trends and directions for the Scheme.
At the outset of the evaluation, the acknowledged objectives of the ENET Scheme were to:
• enrich the English language learning environment in schools;
• enhance the teaching and learning of English with linguistically and culturally authentic materials and resources; and
• build up teaching expertise through school-based professional development and collaboration between NETs and other English Panel Members (EPMs).
1.3 Methodological Approach
The study drew upon an integrated series of focus groups, school visits and surveys to review the ENET Scheme. Each of these research methodologies incorporated the voices and viewpoints of people who were expected to occupy different roles in, and have different relationships to, the Scheme. Participants in the various research activities included Principals, NETs (experienced and recently deployed), English Panel Chairs (EPCs), local English teachers, graduate students who had been taught by NETs, students who were currently being taught by NETs, parents of students who had been taught by NETs, representatives of the management team of the NET Section, EDB, and members of the NET Section’s Regional NET Coordinating Team (RNCT). The RNCT comprised experienced NETs employed by the NET Section to support the work of NETs and, through the NETs, to make positive contributions to the English Panels in secondary schools.
1.3.1 Focus Groups
The first of the evaluation activities was a sequence of eight focus groups held at the headquarters of the NET Section, Hong Kong Education Bureau, in Tsuen Wan during December 2008 and January 2009. The purpose of the focus groups was to examine how effectively the system and individual schools had addressed and achieved the objectives that had been established for the ENET Scheme.
Three of the focus groups were heterogeneous in composition, and included a Principal, NET, parent, graduate student, local English teachers and Panel Chairs. A fourth group brought together NETs from different types of schools and with a wide range of experience in the Scheme. The fifth group was intended to include only English Panel Chairs but was also attended by one NET who accompanied her Panel Chair. The sixth of the discussion groups allowed Principals from schools of different Band levels to present their views about the
ENET Scheme and their experiences of NET deployment. The background and experience of participants in these six discussion groups are described in Appendix A.
An evidence-based approach was followed in this phase of the evaluation, so that views expressed by different groups consisting of school-based stakeholders in the Scheme were complemented by perceptions of success and attainment suggested by members of two other discussion groups drawn from NET Section management and members of the Regional NET Coordinating Team (RNCT).
The questions posed to participants of the focus groups were:
• What are the main goals of the ENET Scheme as seen from the perspective of the focus group participants?
• What are the main drivers towards attaining these goals?
• What are the main blockers to the attainment of these goals?
• How can the drivers be facilitated?
• How can the effects of the blockers be reduced?
Strengths and Weaknesses
• In its current configuration, what are the main strengths of the ENET Scheme?
• In its current configuration, what are the main weaknesses of the ENET Scheme?
• How can the strengths be maximized?
• How can the weaknesses be eliminated or reduced?
Return on Investment
• What has Hong Kong derived from the ENET Scheme that it would not otherwise have obtained?
The perceptions and insights offered during these focus groups were summarized in an earlier report (Griffin & Woods, 2009), with particular attention paid to participants’ ideas about the goals of the ENET Scheme, forces that drove or blocked attainment of the Scheme’s goals, and the strengths and weaknesses of the Scheme in its current configuration. The main areas of interest covered in the focus groups are reprised in Chapter Two of the current report.
Participants’ views of the returns that Hong Kong has derived from the ENET Scheme are summarized in Chapter Four.
1.3.2 School Visits
Nine school visits were conducted as part of the evaluation. Schools were invited to volunteer interest in being visited by the researchers, and were chosen to represent the different types of school in which NETs were deployed and different styles and durations of NET deployment.
These visits provided narratives of the ways in which the ENET Scheme operated across different school environments. Their purpose was to provide an overview of the activities typically performed by NETs and the interactions between NETs and other teachers in
descriptions of schools, and discussion of the various ways that they deployed their NETs, are included as Appendix B.
As an adjunct to the focus groups and school visits, online surveys were distributed to representatives of 104 Hong Kong secondary schools. In each school, Principals, English Panel Chairs, NETs and local English teachers were invited to respond to surveys, the purpose of which was to ascertain attitudes to the ENET Scheme and NET deployment across diverse school contexts and from multiple perspectives.
Thirty four Principals or Assistant Principals, 74 English Panel Chairs, 79 local English teachers and 64 NETS completed the surveys. Demographic characteristics of survey respondents are included in Appendix C.
Schools were sampled to represent the different types of school context for NET deployment.
It did not provide data on the ENET Scheme that could be generalized to all secondary schools in Hong Kong. Information in this report should not be interpreted in that light.
Rather, the surveys gathered opinions from different stakeholders in the ENET Scheme to expand upon topics of interest raised in the focus groups. In particular, surveys were designed to investigate and elaborate on the expectations that different school-based contributors to the Scheme held about their own role and the roles of others in the English program, impact of the new Senior Secondary curriculum on English teaching, and optimal deployment conditions for NETs.
At the outset of this evaluation, the NET Section management team espoused a view of the ENET Scheme as an initiative embedded in the wider context of systemic reforms in learning and teaching practices and in curriculum. Building on an earlier evaluation of the NET Scheme in Hong Kong primary schools (Griffin, Woods, Storey, Wong & Fung, 2006), collaboration between NETs and other English teachers was suggested as a particularly important indicator of successful implementation for the Scheme, as was the NETs’ ability to create an authentic and positive environment for English language use in schools. Of interest, therefore, were the school-level and systemic conditions that promoted, or formed barriers to, collaboration between teachers or that supported or blocked the NETs’ capacity to engage the school community in English language activities.
A point raised for consideration at the commencement of the evaluation, and repeated during the focus groups, was that NETs were deployed in quite diverse school environments and that this held implications for their optimal deployment. It was argued that NET deployment in schools using English as the primary medium of instruction required different skills and experience of a successful NET than deployment in schools that used mother tongue as the medium of instruction. These differences were further exacerbated if the school enrolled mainly students at the lowest Band level of ability. The impact of different school contexts on optimal NET deployment was explored during the school visits and taken into consideration during analysis of the survey responses.
It was also expected that potential for realizing the goals of the ENET Scheme would be influenced by the teaching experience of the NET, and in particular the length of time a NET had been deployed in Hong Kong. It was argued that NETs need time in schools to gain the
confidence of their English Panel, and are unlikely to be able to affect the English program at their schools until well into their first, or even second, contract.1 Accordingly, length of NET deployment was taken as a point of comparison for analysis of the survey data to monitor its impact on school-based attitudes to the ENET Scheme. Further, it was acknowledged that the success of the ENET Scheme depends on the contributions and collaboration of many people.
NETs cannot meet the goals set for their deployment without the support and leadership of their Principals and English Panel Chairs, guidance of the NET Section and professional cooperation of local English teachers. The operation of the English Panel was expected to be particularly important for successful NET deployment as this was the conduit through which new ideas and teaching strategies could most effectively be shared in schools.
This evaluation report is organized into five chapters. This chapter acknowledges the educational and social context of the ENET Scheme and the Scheme’s changing role within broader educational reforms in Hong Kong, and introduces the scope and range of the current evaluation of the Scheme. The next chapter reprises areas of interest, raised during focus groups, which were presented in detail in the interim report of the current evaluation (refer to Griffin & Woods, 2009 for a full discussion). That chapter draws upon responses to surveys by different school-based participants in the Scheme to elaborate upon topics such as the expected role and contributions of NETs and English Panel Chairs, deployment strategies for NETs, conduct and perception of English Panel meetings, and relationships between NET deployment and system-level programs and innovations. The third chapter draws upon visits to schools and key informant interviews to describe the deployment strategies adopted in different types of school contexts and the different attitudes to the ENET Scheme and English language education evidenced in those contexts. The fourth chapter summarizes the ideas of NET Section management, Principals, English Panel Chairs, local teachers of English, NETs, parents and students about the contribution and return on investment to Hong Kong of the ENET Scheme, and the final chapter sets out recommendations for the future success of the ENET Scheme.
2. Implementation of the ENET Scheme 2.1 Overview
Indicators of success for the ENET Scheme that were raised for discussion in focus groups and elaborated upon in the interim report for this evaluation (Griffin & Woods, 2009) included:
• Attitudes and practices of English Panel Chairs and Principals with regard to NET deployment and duties, and the impact of the Scheme in schools.
• Patterns of NET role, deployment, responsibilities and contribution.
• The evolving role of NETs as collaborative resource persons within schools, in contrast to the earlier change agent model.
• The professional relationship between NETs and other English teachers.
• NETs’ contributions to the learning environment within secondary schools.
• The perceived links between having a NET in the school and students’ learning outcomes.
• The impact of NETs on student motivation to acquire English language proficiency.
• Language opportunities arising out of NET-conducted extra-curricular activities.
• The contribution of the Regional NET Coordinating Team (RNCT).
• Recruitment and retention of NETs, including job description, roles, responsibilities and attitudes.
• Contributions the ENET Scheme was expected to make to the Learning Targets of the New Senior Secondary Curriculum.
• Influence of the examination system on English teaching and the ENET Scheme These topics were summarized into the following broad areas of interest:
• The role of NETs and impact on student attitudes, learning outcomes and learning experiences.
• Reciprocal professional relationships between NETs and local teachers.
• Impact of school context and school leadership on NET deployment, including the role of the English Panel Chair and the conduct of Panel meetings.
• Relationships between system-level innovations and programs and NET deployment.
The insights offered by focus group participants were combined and contrasted with data gathered from survey respondents, and the outcomes of these analyses are discussed in the following sections.
2.2 Role and Contributions of NETs
Most of the Principals who took part in the focus groups believed that it was important to allow schools freedom to deploy NETs in ways that suited the specific needs of the individual schools, and which also capitalized on the skills and experience of individual NETs. Most Principals placed responsibility for the implementation of the ENET Scheme at their school in the hands of their English Panel Chairs. However, several Panel Chairs expressed uncertainty over the optimal way to deploy NETs and reported that, without a method to link deployment strategies for NETs to better language outcomes for students, they felt hampered in their ability to make wise choices for the English programs at their schools.
The surveys explored the ways that NETs were currently being deployed in schools by asking school leaders (Principals and Panel Chairs), NETs and local English teachers to indicate the types of activities they expected the NET at their school to perform. Their responses are summarized in Table 2.1. These have been ordered from those almost all respondents agreed were responsibilities taken up by NETs to those that were less widely regarded as part of the NET role.
Table 2.1. Perceptions of Roles and Responsibilities of NETs
The NET is someone who . . .
School Leaders (% agree)
NETs (% agree)
Local Teachers (% agree) Encourages students’ interest in English 95.6 100 89.9 Helps students improve English proficiency 95.6 100 93.7 Helps student improve confidence to use English 95.6 100 93.7 Organizes extracurricular activities related to English 94.7 98.4 97.5
Encourages students’ cultural awareness 94.7 98.4 91.1
Develops an authentic English language environment 94.7 93.4 93.7 Supports the teaching of other English Panel members 93.9 88.5 92.4 Suggests new ideas / strategies to English Panel members 93.0 90.2 87.3
Recommends new teaching materials/resources 91.2 93.4 92.4
Co-plans English classes with other Panel members 86.8 52.5 67.1 Acts as co-teacher with other Panel members 86.0 50.8 69.6 Discusses curriculum content with the English Panel 85.1 88.5 69.9 Works with the Panel to tailor lessons for more able students 83.3 54.1 63.3 Designs units of work for the English department 74.6 68.9 57.0 Provides professional development for other English teachers 72.8 47.5 57.0 Works with the Panel to tailor lessons for less able students 71.9 45.9 46.8 Discusses educational objectives with the English Panel 71.1 72.1 65.8 Explains use of assessment data to promote student learning 49.1 36.1 45.9 Demonstrates use of assessment data to improve teaching 46.4 27.9 38.0 Almost all survey respondents placed emphasis upon the contributions that NETs made to students’ English language proficiency, interest, confidence and cultural awareness, and their role in organization of extracurricular activities, supporting the teaching of local English teachers and recommending new ideas, strategies, materials and resources to the English Panel.
Across diverse school contexts and from the perceptions of different stakeholders, NETs were valued for their capacity to break down barriers of fear, embarrassment, indifference or resistance that prevented some students from developing positive attitudes to English and willingness to engage with English studies. This was described by several focus group participants as a “vital and unique” role of NETs that could not be filled by local teachers. It was suggested that students could not speak in English to each other, or to local teachers, without discomfort, but that it was acceptable and natural to speak in English with the NET.
This was viewed as part of the NETs’ responsibility to develop an authentic English language environment, a contribution that was highly valued by the focus group participants and by the school leaders, NETs and local teachers who responded to surveys.
0.25 0.35 0.45 0.55 0.65 0.75 0.85 0.95 1.05
Encourage s studen
ts’ interest in Engli sh
Hel ps st
udents improve E ngli
Helps s tuden
t imp rove conf
idenc e to us
cular activities related to En glish
s studen ts’ cul
Dev elops an aut
hen tic En
glish lang uag
e env iron
Support s the t
eachin g of
other English P anel members
Sugg ests new
idea s / strategies t
o Engli sh Panel m
s new teac hing ma
Co- plans Engli
sh class es with other Pane
l member s
Acts as co-teacher
with ot her Pane
l member s
Discusse s cu
rriculum content with the English Pa
Work s with the P
anel to tailor lessons for more a
ble st udent
unit s of work
for t he E
nglish dep artment
Provides prof essional
developm ent for ot
Works with the P anel
to tailor less ons
for less able students
Discusses ed uca
tiona l ob
jectives with the English P anel
ns use of assessment da ta to pr
omote student lear ning
Dem onstrates use of
sment data to impro ve teaching School Leaders
NETs Local Teachers
Figure 2.1. Comparison of NETs’ and others' perceptions of the NET role
In addition, the contribution that NETs could make to shifting the focus of English education to the students’ use and enjoyment of English in daily life, rather than English as a subject to be studied at school and passed in examinations, was discussed with enthusiasm by many of the focus group participants. Thus, the impact of the ENET Scheme on student learning outcomes was viewed through the frame of improvements in student attitudes and interest, and activities based upon enrichment and authenticity of the English program.
Table 2.2 sets out responses by school leaders, NETs and local English teachers to questions about specific deployment strategies for NETs.
Table 2.2. Deployment Strategies for NETs
School Leaders (% agree)
NETs (% agree)
Local Teachers (% agree) The NET contributes to regular classroom teaching 91.8 96.7 93.3 The NET takes regular junior form classes 62.7 73.3 69.3 The NET takes regular senior form classes 48.2 61.0 56.0 The NET negotiates deployment with the school 60.0 45.9 65.8 The NET is deployed across every level of the school 46.4 46.7 61.3 The NET takes a mix of classes and oral language classes 66.4 65.0 57.3
The NET takes only oral classes 18.2 18.3 32.0
The NET contributes to curriculum planning and PD 74.5 59.0 58.7 The NET helps teachers identify student learning needs 53.6 42.6 45.3
In summary, a deployment strategy in which NETs contributed only to oral classes was less prevalent in surveyed schools than strategies in which NETs took regular English classes.
These data were re-examined, to check whether school context (Band level or medium of instruction) or the duration of NET deployment was related to strategies for NET deployment.
In the main, there were no statistically significant relationships between these variables, although rather more of the NETs on their first contract than NETs on subsequent contracts
reported that they took only oral classes and were not engaged in regular classroom teaching of English. This supported observations made by focus group participants that schools did not routinely deploy new NETs for regular classroom teaching until they had assessed the skills and experience of the NET and the NET had gained the confidence of the English Panel Chair.
NETs were surveyed about what changes, if any, they would like to make to the way they were deployed at their current school. Only nineteen of the 56 NETs that responded to the question indicated that they were very satisfied with their current deployment. Among the approximately two thirds of the respondent NETs and who suggested changes, several expressed frustration with the structure and format of meetings at their school, their inability to find time to work in collaboration with local teachers, and perceived lack of interest from school leaders in the ideas and experience they could contribute to the English Panel. Several others commented that their skills and experience as English teachers were being under- utilized or that they were asked to teach students across too many year levels.
2.2.1 Collaboration between NETs and Local English Teachers
In general, the school leaders who responded to the surveys portrayed the NETs’
contributions in a very positive light. Most responded that the NET took a role in co-planning and co-teaching with other English teachers and routinely discussed curriculum content with the English Panel. However, only half of the NETs and approximately 70% of the local teachers reported that co-teaching and co-planning were in regular practice at their school.
Collaboration between teachers had been identified as a strong influence on student language outcomes in an earlier evaluation of the NET Scheme in Hong Kong primary schools (Griffin et al., 2006). Unlike that study, the current evaluation did not track student progress in English proficiency over time and so could not conclusions about relationships between teacher collaboration and student outcomes. Rather, survey respondents were asked about their perceptions and experiences of co-teaching, co-planning and collaboration between NETs and local teachers. Their responses are depicted in Figures 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4, and summarized as follows:
• In more than half of the schools, NETs and local teachers did not co-teach or, if they did, co-teaching took the form of the NET conducting the class while the local teacher assisted or worked on other classroom duties.
• In at least half of the schools, NETs and local teachers had relatively few opportunities to meet for the purpose of co-planning and collaboration.
• Meetings between NETs and local teachers were described as structured and targeted to establishment of learning objectives and teaching responsibilities in less than half of the schools.
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
NETs and local teachers do not co-teach classes
Co-teaching means one teacher takes class w hile the other w orks on
Co-teaching means that NETs takes class w hile local teacher observes
Co-teaching means that local teachers assist the NET during lessons
NETs and local teachers collaborate and support each other during co-
Experience of co-teaching
Local English teacher NET School leader
Figure 2.2. Perceptions of co-teaching between NETs and local English teachers.
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
NETs and local teachers do not meet to co-plan, and/or do not
w ish to do so
Co-planning meetings are irregular, inf requent and/or of ten
Co-planning meetings are regularly timetabled, and/or f ocus
on teaching strategies, materials and resources.
Frequency of co-planning between NETs and local teachers
Local English teacher NET School leader
Figure 2.3. Perceptions of frequency of co-planning between NETs and local English teachers.
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
NETs and local teachers do not meet to co-plan
Co-planning meetings are informal Co-planning meetings are w ell- structured, address specific learning objectives and/or are used to assign responsibilities to
teachers Structure of co-planning meetings between NETs and local teachers
Local English teacher NET School leader
Figure 2.4. Perceptions of structure of co-planning meetings between NETs and local English teachers.
Comparison of patterns of response to these questions in schools of different Band level, medium of instruction or duration of NET deployment suggested that:
• Co-teaching between NETs and local English teachers was less prevalent in Band 1 EMI schools.
• There were no interpretable relationships between length of NET deployment and perceptions of co-teaching for either NETs or local teachers.
• Frequency/structure of co-planning meetings was not related to type of school context or length of time the NET had been deployed at the school.
Many NETs and local teachers reported that they sought informal opportunities to discuss student performance, lesson planning and the curriculum. Local teachers and NETs were quite similar in their assessment of the usefulness of their formal and informal meetings. Less than 20% of the local English teachers reported that they had not spent time discussing the English program with their NET or had found such discussions ineffective in terms of improving English teaching at the school. However, more NETs (26%) than local teachers (14%) indicated that they would welcome additional opportunities to meet and talk about matters related to English teaching at their schools.
2.2.2 NETs’ Contributions to Oral Language Development
both students and teachers. Many (86%) of the local English teachers who responded to the surveys noted that they asked the NET for advice on English language use at least once or twice per school term, and 81% had asked the NET for advice on culture related to English.
This was accorded high value by many of the local English teachers, 39% of whom described it as extremely useful to them while a further 13% described it as indispensable.
In response to survey questions probing the role of NETs as models of English language use, more than half of the school leaders (64%) and local teachers (56%) indicated that the NET at their school fulfilled this function by proofing school documents. Drafting and preparing school documents or hosting visitors were less frequently cited as examples of the NETs’
contributions to language development. Less than 40% of local teachers responded that these activities were regularly undertaken by NETs at their school. The NETs reported that they also modeled the use of English by speaking at school assemblies and meetings, engaging teachers and students in conversation as often as possible, answering questions about pronunciation and grammar, organizing school involvement in drama and debating competitions and contributing to the design and production of bi-lingual materials.
2.2.3 Knowledge Transfer and Duration of NET Deployment
Several of the English Panel Chairs who attended the focus groups argued that potential for realizing the goals of the ENET Scheme was influenced by the experience of the NET and the length of time a NET had been deployed in Hong Kong. It was widely agreed that new NETs required at least six months to settle into the culture of a school and to gain the confidence of the English Panel. Accordingly, expectations about the role and contributions of NETs were re-examined, via analysis of the survey responses, to determine whether duration of NET deployment at a school was related to ideas about NET roles and contributions to knowledge transfer. The main points taken from these analyses are summarized below:
• NETs deployed at their school for two or more years were more likely than less experienced NETs to respond that they supported the teaching of other members of the English Panel, and suggested new ideas and strategies to other English teachers.
• Panel Chairs working with NETs who had been deployed for two or more years were more likely to report that their NET recommended teaching materials and resources to other teachers at the school.
• More local English teachers working with NETs who were relatively new to the school (i.e., first contract) reported that the NET discussed curriculum content and educational objectives with other Panel members. It is possible that NETs on their first contract were more likely than experienced NETs to seek the opinions and advice of other English teachers at their school.
While the NETs’ contributions to knowledge transfer was described as an area of strength for the ENET Scheme, it was conceded by many of the focus group participants that the NET is often one teacher in a school that could have upwards of 80 staff and over 1000 students. It was generally agreed by the focus groups that the NET and the English Panel should ideally co-construct the English program, and that successful deployment of NETs must recognize the reciprocal professional relationships between NETs and local teachers.
2.2.4 Use of Resources and Strategies
NETs and local English teachers were surveyed about the strategies and resources they routinely used when teaching English, and asked to select the five activities that they
incorporated into their teaching practice most frequently. Their responses are shown in Table 2.3, ordered in terms of selection by the NETs. When required to select only resources and strategies that they used with high frequency, both NETs and local teachers displayed a strong tendency to favour those over which they, as individual teachers, exercised most control.
Collaborative planning, co-teaching and advice, and materials or support from the English Panel figured very low on these lists. Many of the NETs and local teachers made frequent use of self-produced teaching materials, textbooks and worksheets. More NETs than local teachers used language arts materials (such as poems, plays and stories), internet resources and activities related to their specialized role in the oral English program. More local teachers than NETs used drills and practice sessions. It can also be seen that local teachers use moiré text based materials couples with drill and practice and the NETs use more oral and participatory approaches. This may well be a defining difference between the two groups of teachers.
Table 2.3. Teaching Strategies and Resources: NETs and Local English Teachers
Teaching Resource/Strategy Frequently Used NETs (% selected)
Local Teachers (% selected)
English materials self-produced 82.0 70.1
Spoken English activities (talks, plays, debates, presentations) 47.5 24.7
Textbooks 45.9 67.5
Language arts materials (stories, poems, plays,) 41.0 15.6
Worksheets 34.4 49.4
Opportunities for students to practice conversational English 34.4 14.3
Internet resources (e.g., YouTube) 27.9 13.0
Practice examination tasks 23.0 31.2
Media materials (newspapers, radio, television) 21.3 39.0 Multimedia materials (e.g., powerpoint presentations) 19.7 29.9
Homework 16.4 24.7
Ongoing assessment of students’ production of English 13.1 10.4
Curriculum guides 13.1 3.9
Process writing (e.g., drafting, editing, polishing) 11.5 14.3 Co-teaching with other English teachers 9.8 ..
Simulation of examinations 9.8 5.2
Phonics packages 6.6 3.9
Grouping based on learners’ abilities 6.6 13.0 Co-planning with other English teachers 4.9 ..
Teaching strategies learned from RNCT-conducted training 4.9 3.9
Drills and practice sessions 3.3 35.1
Teaching materials recommended by NET Section 3.3 ..
Advice or support from English Panel members 3.3 ..
Interactive multimedia materials in English 3.3 2.6
Portfolio assessment and feedback 3.3 1.3
Multimedia Learning Centre 1.6 6.5
Ideas and methods from lessons co-taught with local teachers 1.6 ..
Strategies learned from English Panel meetings 0.0 3.9 Language lab and equipment for recording student proficiency 0.0 0.0 Teaching materials recommended by the NET .. 5.2
Co-teaching with the NET .. 3.9
Co-planning with the NET .. 2.6
Advice or support from the NET .. 1.3
Ideas and methods from lessons co-taught with NET .. 0.0
Note: An entry of double dots (..) denotes that the question was not asked of either NETs or local teachers.
2.3 Role of the English Panel and the Panel Chair 2.3.1 Panel Chairs
School leaders (Principals and Panel Chairs) who responded to the surveys were asked to describe the role of the Panel Chair at their school, and all responded that this role included administrative tasks concerning the English program, monitoring the work of English teachers and supporting the deployment of the NET at the school. More than 90% of the leaders reported that the Panel Chair was also expected to ensure that all teachers followed curriculum guidelines, and to review evidence of teaching and learning success, set goals and objectives, monitor student progress and attitudes, organize extracurricular activities and programs and professional development designed to improve school conditions for English language studies, discuss the effectiveness of resources and strategies with Panel members, and ensure that all teachers knew how to use student assessment data to inform their teaching.
In most survey schools, Panel Chairs took responsibility for the organization of time for NETs and local teachers to co-plan and for ensuring that the NET was integrated into the school community and the English program. Approximately two thirds of the school leaders responded that the Panel Chair encouraged members of the English Panel to challenge current methods for teaching English, and just over half indicated that the Panel Chair liaised with the RNCT or NET Section to support professional development of their English teaching staff.
This was a strong endorsement of the role of the Panel Chair. Regardless of how thoroughly or how well these responsibilities were carried out by individuals, there was little doubt that most of the surveyed schools placed accountability for the success of their English program and NET deployment in the hands of their English Panel Chair.
Similarly, according to many of the focus group participants, the success of the ENET Scheme in schools is contingent upon the support provided to the NETs by their school leaders. It was pointed out that few NETs take leadership roles in their schools’ English program and they cannot influence English teaching and learning practices without the overt support and guidance of their Panel Chair. One conclusion that could be drawn is that the ENET Scheme would benefit from provision of additional resources and professional development targeted to building the leadership capacity of the Panel Chairs.
The NET cluster meetings were praised by many focus group participants as a support structure and avenue for NETs to discuss problems and share examples of expectations and successes. However, it was suggested that there should be a similar set of network meetings for English Panel Chairs so that they too could learn from each other, and perhaps another set of meetings that combined Panel Chairs and NETs. This would acknowledge the leadership role taken by English Panel Chairs in schools, and provide structured opportunities for NETs and Panel Chairs to explore opportunities to improve the implementation of the ENET Scheme. Some of the focus group participants argued that the ENET Scheme was blocked by focusing too narrowly on NETs, rather than on the entire English program and the context in which NETs work. They suggested that NETs and Panel Chairs would benefit from opportunities to learn from each other and seek solutions to shared challenges.
2.3.2 Induction and Inclusion of NETs
In most schools, induction of a new NET and inclusion of the NET in the school community was regarded as the responsibility of the English Panel Chair. The importance of settling a new NET into the school as quickly and well as possible was discussed by several focus group participants, as new or inexperienced NETs were unlikely to be given opportunities to contribute to the English program until they had proven their worth.