Rethink lower qualifications for teaching English in Hong Kong

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Having served as a marker for the English Language Proficiency Assessment (LPA), I believe the Education Bureau’s decision to replace the LPA qualification with the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) deserves a rethink.

LPA, which is designed specifically for aspiring teachers, is a tool that better meets Hong Kong’s demand for educators. IELTS, in essence, focuses on students’ skills relevant to undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

IELTS measures one’s vocabulary knowledge, while LPA question types require candidates to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the text, including its logic and the writer’s motives. The tailored design of LPA question types, for sure, offers a more accurate assessment of a future language teacher’s ability to handle the curriculum in Hong Kong.

More importantly, the reliability of some IELTS results can be questioned. The IELTS authority offers an alternative to the paper exam, IELTS Online. IELTS Online allows examinees to complete the reading, listening and writing questions at home with a speaking assessment conducted via video conferencing. Some overseas institutions do not accept this digital mode of assessment.

However, the Education Bureau’s official announcement does not clarify if teachers should only take the traditional IELTS format. While this matter requires immediate attention, it is imperative for the bureau to accept the paper exam only to avoid further hindrances to recognising local English teachers’ qualifications.

The reduced supply of English teachers is indeed an issue we need to deal with. But whether that means the qualifications required for becoming a language teacher should be lowered should be considered with a great deal of prudence. The declining English ability of Hong Kong students is a perennial problem. Would substituting LPA with IELTS exacerbate Hong Kong’s weakening competitiveness? Officials must cautiously revisit this question.

Alison Ng, assistant lecturer, Centre for Applied English Studies, University of Hong Kong

Telemedicine is great, except when it’s not

I read with great interest the letter, “Hong Kong hospitals could do with a green health check” (April 8), which brings up telemedicine as an effective, accessible and very low-carbon alternative to conventional healthcare, as seen especially in the days of the pandemic.

There are, however, several concerns about telemedicine. Firstly, data privacy must be respected and protected, by installing robust firewalls and other security measures, before telemedicine can be adopted in a clinical setting.

Secondly, there are limits to using telemedicine to make clinical diagnoses. With questionnaires and even portable ultrasound machines, simple clinical diagnoses can be made in selected cases. But the quality of an ultrasound exam is dependent on factors including the operator, and an erroneous clinical diagnosis could even expose the practitioner to litigation.

The effectiveness of telemedicine in treating different illness has also been questioned. Drugs can be prescribed via telemedicine but the cornerstone of treatment is an accurate diagnosis. Also, the human touch can never be recreated by robots.

As artificial intelligence technology advances, telemedicine may become a greater asset, especially for an ageing population, but for this to happen, more research and innovative ideas are needed.

Dr Robert Yuen, Wong Chuk Hang

Saved by Hong Kong police

I am writing to express my gratitude to the police officers who displayed professionalism and devotion in the course of duty.

At about 9.20am on April 7, I was driving my cabriolet along Tuen Mun Road and heading for Tsuen Wan. As I drove round a bend near Chai Wan Kok, I saw a woman officer standing behind the embankment on the left. She was shouting and waving at me with a torch. I applied the brake at once and tried to move to the left. Then I heard her shouting at me to move on. I went around another bend, and suddenly saw a lorry in the middle of the road. The vehicle had spun around and there was another officer standing beside it. He was signalling to me to travel with care. I realised then that the lorry had been involved in a road accident. Afterwards, I stopped my car.

I heaved a sigh of great relief and felt fortunate that the officers had warned me of possible danger ahead. Without them, I might have collided with the lorry or lost control of my car and got injured.

The Hong Kong Police Force should be proud of them.

Lawrence Choi, Tuen Mun

The writing on the study room wall

I often go to public libraries in Kowloon, where I have found myself near walls and surfaces in students’ study rooms that have been scribbled on. Some of the scrawls read “2024 DSER”, “2026 DSER” and “add oil”.

This discovery of mine suggests declining standards and a lack of civic awareness among today’s students. It is also disappointing that no one on the library staff seems to have tackled the problem yet.

Fung Zhan Hong, Ho Man Tin


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