Schools allowed to be flexible
Your reader, Alex Woo, in his letter headlined, 'Mixed-code teaching should not be banned' (South China Morning Post, March 27), has some misunderstandings about the Government's medium of instruction policy in secondary schools. Let me explain.
The Medium of Instruction of Guidance already gives schools flexibility, where necessary, to teach cultural and technical subjects in a language different from that for academic subjects. Paragraph 2.2 of the guidance states: 'Exceptional consideration may be given to the special nature of certain subjects such as religious studies, cultural, commercial and technical subjects, and to the individual circumstances of a school.' In this context, some English-medium schools in September will be teaching some cultural and technical subjects in Chinese. Similarly, for some Chinese-medium schools, there are subjects taught in English.
As far as Secondary Four and Five are concerned, paragraph 3.8 of the guidance provides as follows: 'Some schools using Chinese as MOI [medium of instruction] for their Secondary 1 to Secondary 3, from 1998/99 to 2000/01, may wish to switch to English-medium for certain subjects in some classes at Secondary 4 and Secondary 5.' The guidance aims to benefit students, to help them learn more easily, more enjoyably and more effectively in all subjects. It accords with the Government's efforts to enhance the quality of school education. Mother-tongue teaching lifts language barriers in the study of most subjects. It leads to better cognitive and academic development. Our students can also have more time to concentrate on the learning of English.
On scientific and technical subjects, we believe our students learn better in these subjects in their mother tongue.
To quote a few examples, Japan, China, Taiwan, Germany and France all adopt mother-tongue teaching and achieve remarkable success in science and technology.
As for Hong Kong, we have produced English-Chinese glossaries for various subjects in secondary schools. These should help to overcome difficulties in translation or misunderstanding.
DIANA TO for Director of Education