Mother-tongue teaching good for students

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 February, 1998, 12:00am

There have been heated debates involving parents, schools and Education Department officials, about whether or not Chinese should be used as the teaching medium.

As a Form Seven student of Pui Ching, a renowned Chinese middle school, I am a supporter of 'mother-tongue' teaching.

Some parents insist that using English as the medium of teaching will help students do better at English. They always emphasise the importance of English in Hong Kong today. It seems to me that these parents think that English is the most important subject in education.

They seem to ignore the fact that a student should be well educated in a variety of subjects. Given the importance of a student having as wide an education as possible, it is important that mother tongue should be used as the teaching medium.

There is no doubt that students will perform better in subjects if they fully understand what they are being taught. They don't need to waste time continually checking the dictionary in order to find out the meaning of an English passage, nor do they have to continually check their spelling.

For example, in a subject like geography, the student will not have to memorise the English spelling. The student will then have more time to concentrate on his English lessons.

I am not trying to underplay the importance of English.

On a day-to-day basis, it is important to be able to be proficient in English. It is true that the time spent reading English will inevitably decrease if we choose Chinese as the medium of teaching. However, this does not mean that our English standard will be lower.

I don't believe that being taught in Chinese will detract from a student's ability to learn English.

Some parents force their children to choose an English secondary school without asking how the child feels about it.

Sometimes parents do not realise how difficult it is for a Form One student to understand all the other subjects in English. This can lead to a child's interest in English being diminished.

The major factor that affects our academic performance is whether or not we are interested in a subject, especially a foreign language. If the student is not interested, he or she will not make any headway, no matter how hard the teacher tries.

I hope that those parents who are frightened about the new policy, which will widen the use of mother tongue, will come to understand the benefits of mother-tongue teaching.