The Complete Guide to the NET Scheme in Hong Kong

by: Lara Dondello Lara Donadello | Last Updated June 7, 2020

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If teaching in Hong Kong is on your radar, a program well worth looking into is the Native English Teacher (NET) scheme. Unique to Hong Kong, this scheme helps to get native English speakers into public-sector primary and secondary schools to enhance their English learning environment. 

With high salaries, great benefits, and the opportunity to live and work in Hong Kong, the NET scheme is a very popular, and pretty competitive, option for many English teachers. 

NET Scheme Overview

First implemented back in 1998, the NET scheme aims to increase English language exposure in public-sector schools across Hong Kong by giving students the opportunity to learn from and interact with native English speakers. 

The Education Bureau (EDB) of Hong Kong is in charge of recruiting NETs, and the requirements are strict – the bare minimum to even be considered for a position is a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. Competition is fierce, and applicants with English or education based degrees, recognised teaching qualifications and previous teaching experience are given priority. 

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With salaries starting at approx USD $3,900 and going up to USD $9,000 a month, and awesome benefit packages like housing and flight allowances, it’s no wonder that the NET scheme is the cream of the teaching crop in Hong Kong. 

On top of this, Hong Kong is an attractive destination for teachers and expats alike. Known as the “city that doesn’t sleep in the East”, it’s fast pace and bustling daily life will keep you constantly on your toes. And if you need to escape in the school holidays, it’s the perfect gateway to many other Asian countries.  

NET Scheme Requirements

To be eligible for the NET scheme, you’ll need to meet certain teaching requirements, and the number of these you meet will influence the priority you’re given when schools look for teachers. 

The scheme ‘grades’ you based on your qualifications and places you into categories, with one being the highest. Getting placed in category one will give you the best chance of getting picked by a school out of the pool of applicants. Getting placed in the lowest category (four for primary and seven for secondary) will make it trickier for you to get noticed. 

Let’s break down the qualifications you need for the top and bottom categories of both the primary and secondary positions. For more information on the requirements for the categories in between, check out the recruitment pages for primary NETs and secondary NETs

All applicants must be native speakers of English or possess native speaker level competence. If you have experience teaching English as a foreign language, you’ll be given preference.

Requirements for Primary Positions 

Category 1

  • Bachelor’s degree in English (language, literature, English studies or linguistics)
  • Recognised teacher qualification in primary education
  • TEFL/TESL at certificate level or equivalent – this must be recognised by the EDB

Category 4

  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • TEFL/TESL at certificate level – this must be recognised by the EDB

Requirements for Secondary Positions 

Category 1

  • Bachelor’s degree in English (language, literature, English studies or linguistics) or a bachelor’s degree in education with a major in English or a modern language
  • Post-grad diploma in education with a major in English (or equivalent)
  • TEFL/TESL qualification at diploma level
  • Minimum one year post-grad experience of teaching English – preferably as a foreign language – at secondary level or above

Category 7

  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • A master’s degree in TEFL/TESL or equivalent
  • Minimum one year post-grad experience of teaching English – preferably as a foreign language – at secondary level or above

Salary & Benefits

Salary

The salary of NETs is known for being generous. In fact, you’ll likely find it to be higher than teaching in a school in your own country! It will certainly allow you to live comfortably in Hong Kong and save some money, too. 

  • Primary NETs – salary from HK $30,165 to HK $58,345 (approx USD $3,900 to USD $7,500) per month
  • Secondary NETs – salary from HK $30,165 to HK $70,090 (approx USD $3,900 to USD $9,000) per month

NETs are paid according to the government’s Master Pay Scale (MPS) – where you start on this pay scale will be based on your qualifications and teaching experience. At the end of each year, if your performance and conduct is deemed ‘satisfactory’ by your school, you’ll move up a point on this pay scale. If you stick around beyond the two year contract, the scheme’s retention incentives could also make you some megabucks!

If you want to look into the salary in more detail, the EDB offers a salary assessment guide for both primary and secondary positions. 

Benefits

The NET scheme also offers some top notch benefits, as well:

  • Special allowance of HK $20,989 (approx USD $2,700) per month if your normal place of residence is outside of Hong Kong
  • Flight reimbursement, baggage and medical allowances
  • Two year contract
  • Decent retention incentives – 5% raise for continuing for a third and fourth year, and 10% raise for a fifth year
  • Paid holiday and public holidays – this will vary according to each school, but may include the major holidays of Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, Easter and Summer vacation
  • Full induction session upon arrival in Hong Kong 

Application Process & Timeline

The application deadline for the NET scheme seems to be around February/March, with employment starting in August. Jobs don’t get secured instantaneously as many schools won’t know if they have a vacancy until May and then may not recruit a new teacher until June or July. 

You can either apply directly through the EDB website, or through a recruiter. If you choose to be interviewed in London, Australia or New Zealand, the latest update from the EDB asks that you apply through the following recruiters:

London – ESL Starter

Australia and New Zealand – Teach Anywhere

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NET Scheme Application Process

Step One – Application

If applying directly through the EDB, you’ll need to download an application form from their website and send it along with the supporting documents by post, fax or in person. The EDB strictly states that you should not send your application by email.

If applying through a recruiter, go on their website and fill in their application form. 

Supporting documents will include copies of all your certificates of qualifications, transcripts of studies and your CV.

Step Two – Interview

If your application is successful, you’ll be invited to an interview. This should be around 45 minutes to an hour long and is split into two components – a spoken and a written component. 

The interview is done in person by a panel from the EDB. If you don’t live in Hong Kong, you’ll have to travel to a specific location for the interview within the country of your choice – they are usually in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and North America. 

Spoken Component – approx 30 minutes

You’ll be asked questions on aspects such as your teaching philosophy and knowledge of the local curriculum. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about the local curriculum, you can do your research before the interview. The EDB has all the information on their website – primary curriculum or secondary curriculum. The more you know, the more desirable you’ll be!

Written component – approx 20 minutes 

You’ll be offered three topics and you need to choose one of these to write about. The whole purpose of this component is to check your command of written English, so make sure to showcase your skills well!

Step Three – Candidate Pool

Once through the interview, you’ll get placed in a ‘category’ within the EDB’s central candidate pool of recommended teachers. This doesn’t guarantee you a job, it just means that you’ve made it into a pool of applicants that schools have access to. It can still be a waiting game once you’re here, and some applicants won’t make it out of this pool. 

Schools then go through the pool, screen the recommended teachers and contact those they think will be suitable. If a school decides that your qualifications and experience match their needs, they’ll invite you to an interview. If successful, you’ll sign a contract and be employed by the school itself. 

Other routes onto the NET scheme

It’s possible to skip the EDB stage and apply directly to the schools themselves, which some past NETs claim to be a better route in. You can research primary and secondary schools online that are advertising for NETs and send them your teaching resume – the more schools you email your CV to, the more chance you have of landing a position. If you do go down the road, the consensus seems to be that the EDB won’t send your CV on your behalf. 

There’s also some databases you can use to look for NET teaching jobs:

Locations

Locations are throughout Hong Kong – where you end up will depend on the school that hires you. 

Visa

Type of Visa

To be able to legally teach in Hong Kong, you’ll need a “Z Visa”. Your school will help you secure this. If they don’t, you should reconsider taking a job with them. 

Visa Requirements

The visa requirements will be in line with the teaching requirements, so things like having a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certificate. 

Visa Process

Your school will sponsor the visa and handle most of the initial paperwork. You’ll need to provide evidence of your qualifications, anything that demonstrates relevant teaching experience (like a letter of recommendation) and scans of your passport. 

Your school will then send you an invitation letter and a Foreign Expat Certificate, which you’ll need to apply for the visa at a Chinese consulate or embassy. All being well, it shouldn’t then take longer than a week to get the visa. Once in Hong Kong, you’ll need to convert this into a residency permit – your school will help you do this. 

For more information on the Z Visa, check out our China page

What’s the job like?

Duties

The underlying role of the NET is to enhance the English atmosphere of the school in which you work. This could involve anything from typical full English language lessons, oral lessons and curriculum material development, to taking students on outings, organising lunch activities and running a debate club. You’re basically employed by the school to fulfil any duty they require of you.  

How a school runs and implements the curriculum can vary pretty significantly, so it’s worth looking into a school before applying or signing a contract just to be sure you know what you’re up against. Although NETs tend to have a fair amount of creative freedom, it’s not uncommon for schools to enforce a more rote-style of learning. Balancing the creativity with a bunch of students who are used to this can sometimes pose a challenge.

Your hours will also depend on the school you work in. Typically, expect Monday to Friday, but you may find that you have to teach some Saturday classes too. 

Students

Backgrounds of the students and the school culture will again vary according to the school. In general, youngsters in Hong Kong are taught to be respectful to their teachers and have a good work ethic. 

Class sizes will vary, but expect some to be on the larger end of the spectrum – 40 students in a classroom isn’t unheard of in Hong Kong. Ability will also be pretty varied, with some students unable to speak a word, whereas others may have had it drilled into them from an early age. 

Other NETs

It’s likely you’ll be the token NET in the school, which can make it hard when it comes to things like making friends. However, there is a community of NETs over in Hong Kong who use platforms like Facebook and other online forums to stay in touch. There’s also a group called NESTA (Native English Speaking Teacher Association) who organise social events.

FAQs

Can I apply to the NET scheme without a degree?

No. As of the 2019/2020 school year, a policy was implemented in public sector schools in Hong Kong which specified that all newly appointed teachers should possess a bachelor’s degree. This is in line with teaching English in other capacities within Hong Kong. 

If you don’t hold a degree, remember that there are other countries out there who employ teachers without a degree. Check out your options for teaching English in other countries.

Can I apply to the NET scheme without a TEFL?

No. Having a TEFL certificate is an essential requirement. However, you can still apply for the scheme if you’re going to acquire your TEFL in due course – you just need to meet all the requirements before appointment to a school. 

There are many options out there for completing a TEFL qualification. Check out our TEFL courses page for more information. 

NET Scheme reviews 

This blog on the ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training) page offers a good insight into life on the NET scheme, written by a NET themselves.

Lara Dondello

Lara Donadello

Lara is a CELTA-certified teacher, content creator and host of the English Vocabulary Booster podcast.  As a digital nomad, she’s learned she can make do without most things, except Netflix and good ice cream.

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