Free students of needless language obstacle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 1997, 12:00am

I agree wholeheartedly with the views of Chan Wai-man whose letter headlined, 'Should teach in Chinese' appeared in these columns on December 19.

Education is not only about language teaching. It should be about training minds and character.

After the training of mind, students should have the ability to think logically and independently and acquire various kinds of knowledge.

After the training of character, students should be able to distinguish between right and wrong and shape their own individuality.

Besides English, students have a great deal to learn. How can a single subject - English - dominate the whole education system? What we need is a balanced and well-designed curriculum. We should not just focus on English. Those who insist on using English as the teaching medium mean well, but they are wrong.

Their argument is built on the belief that the learning of English is the primary aim of education and all other subjects should serve to achieve this goal. This is wrong.

What we should ask is whether using English as the medium of teaching creates a language barrier and hinders students in their studies. Many students fail to excel academically, mainly because they are weak in English, but they are not idiots. Some of them are good at Chinese, some of them have good mathematical brains and various other kinds of talents. Unfortunately, they are caught in the language barrier trap and cannot get out. They do not understand what their teachers say, they cannot read their notes and textbooks, nor can they express themselves either verbally or in written form. They cannot follow the syllabus and gradually lose interest in studying. As a result, they fall asleep, daydream, make fun with other classmates and get themselves into trouble in class, because it is a waste of time for them to have to listen to an alien language.

It is true that many bright students can learn through English. However, surely it would be easier even for these gifted young people to learn in their mother tongue. They could study more effectively and get a deeper understanding in their subjects. They might eventually arrive at a profound knowledge of a particular subject, via the use of mother-tongue teaching. Why should we put up this language barrier and hinder the academic development of our young people? Using Chinese as the teaching medium cannot solve all the problems, but, at least, we can get rid of a formidable obstacle and it will be much easier for teachers to pass on knowledge and morals to our students.