New rule will halve schools using English
The number of secondary schools using English to teach children will drop by half to fewer than 100 under a new rule issued by the Education Department.
Only schools whose students are assessed as good at English, based on records of admission, will be able to use the language. Those breaking the rule will be penalised.
Principals face a maximum fine of $25,000 and two years in jail.
It is understood the department will brief the Board of Education and the Education Commission on the new rule on Monday.
A two-month public consultation will start in April. The department will send circulars, telling schools of the scheme, in September. They will be given a profile of their student intakes' language abilities and told whether they should teach in Chinese or English from November.
The schools have to follow the rule from the 1998-99 academic year, starting in Form One. It will be extended to senior classes year by year.
About 200 of Hong Kong's 460 secondary schools currently use English for teaching.
But surveys have found only one-third of secondary school students are capable of learning in English.
About 60 per cent of students would do better with mother-tongue teaching.
Most schools claim to be English-medium to attract students and parents, even though the students do not understand teachers' instructions in classes.
The department hopes to regulate schools and promote mother-tongue teaching.
It is estimated only 90 to 100 schools will be allowed to teach in English.
Professional Teachers' Union vice-president Pun Tin-chi welcomed the move.
'Mother-tongue is the best teaching language for most Hong Kong students,' he said.
'The language will be getting popular and more important after the handover. The move will benefit students.
'Parents and the public should support this if they care for the children.'