Careful vetting

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 May, 1998, 12:00am

Your reader Esther Lee's letter headlined, 'Raw deal for students' (South China Morning Post, May 11), requires clarification.

The Government is indeed concerned to raise the standard of English language proficiency in Hong Kong.

However, that is not the reason for allowing 114 secondary schools to continue teaching in English. The Medium of Instruction (MOI) Guidance for Secondary Schools, issued last year following public consultation, aims to benefit students. It provides that: Schools should adopt Chinese for teaching all academic subjects, starting with the 1998/99 Secondary One intake.

Schools which want to use English as their MOI must satisfy three criteria, that is, student ability, teacher capability and support strategies.

The 114 schools cited result from careful vetting by two independent committees, led by non-officials.

Research worldwide and in Hong Kong has shown that students generally learn more effectively through their mother tongue. By using Chinese as the MOI which lifts the language barrier, students will be better able to understand what is taught, analyse problems, express views, develop an inquisitive mind and cultivate critical thinking. They can also have more time to concentrate on the learning of English. I must emphasise that it is educationally beneficial to students to learn through their mother tongue.

Hong Kong is an international city. The Government attaches equal importance to English language learning in schools. We are providing extra positive support measures to schools adopting Chinese as the MOI. These include the recruitment of native-speaking English teachers worldwide, additional school-based English programmes for students, an 'English corner' in each school to create an environment conducive to English learning, a library grant for additional English reading materials and other teaching aids.

The Education Department always has the interests of our students in mind. Our aim is for young Hong Kong to be biliterate and trilingual, to be proficient in English as well as Chinese.

DIANA TO Chief Information Officer for Director of Education