IELTS Implemented for English Teachers by Hong Kong Education Department

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The Education Bureau in Hong Kong has announced plans to eliminate the government-organised Language Proficiency Assessment (LPA) for English teachers starting from the next school year.

Lawmaker Chu Kwok-keung has expressed concerns about the new requirement of a minimum IELTS score of 7.5 for non-native English educators, fearing it may exacerbate challenges in filling teaching positions.

Currently, English teachers without the requisite degree and training must take the LPA administered by education and examination authorities annually. The Education Bureau revealed that the LPA, implemented in 2001, will be substituted by an academic module within the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The decision came after considerations of feedback from the education sector, evolving educational trends, student learning needs, and the staffing requirements of schools, as stated in a circular issued by the Education Bureau.

Under the IELTS system, candidates are assessed on a 9-band scale, ranging from 1 for a “non-user” to 9 for an “expert user.” The IELTS exam comprises four sections: reading, listening, writing, and speaking, each graded separately.

The Education Bureau stipulated that educators taking the IELTS exam must achieve an overall band score of 7.5 or higher, with no individual band score lower than 7.0. Those aspiring to English panel chair positions should achieve an overall band score of 8, with no individual scores below 7.5.

However, these requirements do not apply to native-speaking English teachers, as well as educators at English Schools Foundation and international campuses.

A study conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority found that scoring Level 5 on the English Language Examination in the 2019 Diploma of Secondary Education equated to an IELTS score of 7.41.

Approximately 9 percent of candidates achieved Level 5 in the city’s university entrance examination that year, according to the study. Additionally, the Education Bureau announced that Mandarin teachers would be required to undergo an assessment by China’s State Language Commission, while the LPA version would be discontinued. As part of these changes, teachers must attain a Grade A, Level 2 on a six-level grading scale.

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