The language of change

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2001, 12:00am

I would like to comment on the Education Commission's reform proposals. I appreciate the framework formulated in its final report, with its proposals for a student-focused aim for local education, that there should be no losers, life-long learning, and the need to mobilise the whole society behind the reforms.

But language competency should also be among the basic aims, and traditional elite schools have a role to play in this. Maintaining the use of English as the medium of instruction in certain academic subjects should be further encouraged, for at university the majority of textbooks are still written in English.

The earlier students have access to the language, the better. A good grounding in English, at primary level, is essential. As languages are easy for learners to read but hard for them to master, and the earlier pupils are immersed in the intensive use of the language the more competent they will be.

Similarly, it is stupid and stubborn to put forward the vague concept of a language-learning strategy based on nationalism, to argue that the mother tongue is the best medium for teaching and learning.

Measures to promote a new culture in learning and teaching aim to enhance in-depth and more extensive and vigorous lifelong learning. But none may dare to question the practicalities of change. In fact, the classical elite schools may have their merits: they guarantee effective learning for their pupils.

It is regrettable that Hong Kong lacks a statutory translation authority for accrediting new Chinese terminology translated from other languages. Taiwan has such a body, and Hong Kong could learn from its example.


Quarry Bay