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Revisiting native speaking teachers of English in Hong Kong: An interpretivist policy study of change over time

Darren A. Bryant (Department of Education Policy and Leadership, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China)

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development

ISSN: 2396-7404

Article publication date: 8 February 2016




In 1997, Joseph Boyle critiqued the Hong Kong Government’s policy of recruiting native-speaking teachers (NSTs) of English into secondary schools. Boyle examined NSTs from a post-colonial and socio-linguistic stance. He concluded that the scheme was “largely ineffective” and that efforts to expand the scheme would likely fail due to the government’s implicit lack of trust in the capacities of non-native-speaking teachers’ (NNSTs) of English. However, almost two decades later the scheme has expanded across the primary and secondary sectors. The purpose of this paper is to explore how changing educational contexts and reform efforts have influenced conceptions of NSTs as articulated in Hong Kong policy.


The research is approached retrospectively through an interpretivist paradigm, analysing policy documents, implementation materials, evaluation reports, and interview transcripts. Over 41 scheme stakeholders participated in the interviews, inclusive of policy makers, government officials, academics, teacher educators, principals and teachers, who were active over different phases of the scheme.


The intended role and perceived competencies of the NSTs have been impacted by imported education reforms leading to new rationales for maintaining and expanding NST deployment. These shifts, however, lead to new tensions among idealised images of NSTs, their capacities, and the aims of policy makers and scheme implementers.


The value of this paper lies in its reconsideration of the role of NSTs in light of educational reform efforts influenced by global change. This perspective varies from conventional critiques that focus on NSTs’ and NNSTs’ differing capacities as English language teachers by considering the impact of historic developments on later policies, and the tendency of policy makers to legitimise reform by importing international innovations. Second, it demonstrates how idealised images of NSTs simultaneously justify policies and pose challenges to effective implementation.



Bryant, D.A. (2016), "Revisiting native speaking teachers of English in Hong Kong: An interpretivist policy study of change over time", International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 53-68.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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