Hong Kong NET Scheme Explained For ESL Teachers

Started back in 1998, the Native English Teacher (or NET for short) Scheme is a distinctively Hong Kong-based program that aims to attract native English speakers to teach in primary and secondary schools.

The basic idea of this Education Bureau’s brainchild is quite simple: teachers who have been brought up in an English-heavy environment and natively utilize the English language in their daily lives have much value to provide to the local students of Hong Kong, which will increase said students’ exposure to the English language.

If you plan to teach in Hong Kong and meet the requirements, the NET scheme is something you should keep an eye out for. However, keep in mind that the benefits may have made the scheme very attractive to English teachers and thus manufactured a lot of competition.

What are the HK NET scheme benefits?

The NET scheme provides fringe benefits as well, for both primary and secondary NET teachers:

  • Two- year contract
  • Retention incentives, which include a 5% increase for the third and fourth years and a 10% increase for the fifth year
  • Paid holidays, including summer vacation
  • Paid public holidays, such as New Year, Chinese New Year, Easter, and Christmas
  • Medical insurance
  • Flight reimbursement
  • Baggage allowances
  • Special allowance of around HKD 21,000 per month

The special allowance requires that your usual place of residence be outside of Hong Kong. However, there have been opposing claims in this regard. Some teachers claim that they can receive special allowances despite being permanent residents of Hong Kong, while teachers argue that it is not possible.

What is the salary under the NET scheme for an ESL teacher?

In terms of pay, the salaries for native English teachers can range from around HKD 30,000 to HKD 70,000 per month.

The NET scheme has a Master Pay Scale (MPS) according to which the NET teachers are paid. Your position on the Master Pay Scale will be in accordance with your teaching experience, as well as your relevant qualifications. You will advance up a point every year on the Master Pay Scale as long as your performance is considered good enough. You will get a 2-year contract in the beginning and staying in the scheme after that could mean even greater pay for you.

The Education Bureau also provides a useful guide to salary assessment if you wish to get a sense of your income for primary and secondary schools.

  • For primary Native English teachers, the salary ranges from around HKD 30,000 to HKD 60,000 per month.
  • On the other hand, secondary Native English teachers’ salary can range from around HKD 30,000 to HKD 70,000 per month.

Hong Kong NET Scheme Added Benefit

NET teachers also get the added opportunity to live and teach in Hong Kong, one of the world’s top cities and a popular destination for expats and a great gateway to travelling to other counties in Asia. For anyone who is in love with speed and cities that do not sleep, along with an exciting combination of east meets west, they are sure to fall in love with Hong Kong.

How do I qualify for the HK NET scheme?

The Education Bureau of Hong Kong responsible for hiring Native English Teachers. The teaching requirements are relatively simple, albeit strict, and your qualifications are what you will be graded on. The number and quality of these requirements’ fulfilment will affect the order of priority schools will give to you.

You should firstly keep in mind that you have figured out what grade you desire to teach. This is because the requirements are quite different for primary school and secondary school positions.

To be a NET teacher, it is a must to either be a native English speaker or, at the very least, be as competent as a native English speaker. Experience in teaching English will also give you an edge. The actual requirements when it comes to teaching positions as NET teachers are as follows:

Primary School NET Teacher

Category One

  • Bachelor’s degree in English. This can include English studies, language, literature, or linguistics) / Bachelor’s degree in Education (Major in English)
  • TEFL/TESL at certificate level (or EDB- recognized equivalent)
  • Recognized teacher qualification
  • Category One is the highest. Being in Category One will offer you the best chance of getting into the NET Scheme. This will make you extremely attractive in the eyes of schools looking for such teachers.

Category Four

  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • TEFL/TESL at certificate level (or EDB- recognized equivalent)
  • Category Four is the lowest for primary school teachers. Being in Category Four (primary) means that, while schools will consider you, it will be more difficult for you to get noticed.

Secondary School NET Teacher

Category One

  • Bachelor’s degree in English. This can include English studies, language, literature, or linguistics) / Bachelor’s degree in Education (Major in English)
  • TEFL/TESL at certificate level (or EDB- recognized equivalent)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Major in English) or equivalent
  • At least one-year postgraduate experience of teaching English at a secondary level or higher
  • Category One is the highest. Being in Category One will offer you the best chance of getting into the NET Scheme. This will make you extremely attractive in the eyes of schools looking for such teachers.

Category Seven

  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • A master’s degree in TEFL/TESL (or EDB- recognized equivalent)
  • At least one-year postgraduate experience of teaching English at a secondary level or higher
  • Category Four is the lowest for primary school teachers. Being in Category Four (primary) means that, while schools will consider you, it will be more difficult for you to get noticed. Even if you get a job while being in the lowest category, it might affect what band school you will be given an offer from.

Keep in mind that you should take a practical component when taking TEFL/TESL. This is because taking courses with a practical component will give you an edge over courses without a practical component.

If you are not familiar with banding in Hong Kong, a ‘band’ is a term of quality by which schools are measured, mostly in terms of academic achievements:

  • Band 1: If a school is band 1, it is considered an excellent school academically.
  • Band 2: If a school is band 2, it is regarded as an average school academically.
  • Band 3: If a school is band 3, it is considered a poor school academically.

How do I apply for the NET scheme in Hong Kong?

The application deadline is somewhere between February and March. Most schools do not hire any new teachers until June or July because they will have to wait until May to check if they have any vacancies or not. If you are chosen, your job will begin in August.

If you apply directly through the EDB, you will need to download an application form from their website. Then, you will need to send the application form along with your support documents, which includes your qualification certificates, study transcripts, and CV, in person or through the post, but not through email.

You can also find the applications forms for primary and secondary schools here.

After submitting your application form, if you are successful, you will be invited to an interview which can last anywhere from about 45 minutes to an hour. The interview is divided into two components:

Spoken Component

  • This component lasts for around 30 minutes.
  • You will be interrogated on your knowledge of the local curriculum and asked about your teaching philosophy.
  • You can find information about the primary curriculum here.
  • You can find information about the secondary curriculum here.

Written Component

  • This component lasts for around 20 minutes.
  • You will be asked to write about one of three topics.
  • The purpose of this component is to test your English language and writing skills.

Once the interview is over, even if you did great, you do not necessarily get a job, unfortunately. Instead, you are put into a group of applicants, which schools will go through, screen, and contact. If a school selects you, they will interview you for another round, but this time by the school itself. Do well there, and you will have yourself a contract and employment.

Many native English teachers have, however, advised to instead apply at schools directly. You can search for primary and secondary schools online that are looking for teachers and send them your CV. Volume is the key here, so the more schools you apply for, the better your chances. You can look at Indeed, JobsDB, and Glassdoor to begin your search.

Also read: Top interview questions and tips.

Finally, what is the experience teaching under NET scheme?

This might be a disappointing answer, but your experience will vary wildly depending on the school you teach at. This includes the management style, your colleagues, your teachers, and everything in between. It might even change every year or every semester. There is no single answer that can be provided.

However, if you want to have a good idea, an excellent place to start would be the school websites, and your best bet would be to talk with someone who is already teaching or has already taught in said schools.

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This article was originally published on February 23, 2021 and was last updated on August 30, 2021.

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