Present curriculum is not helping weaker students
A researcher in the Education Department has said English students in Hong Kong are 'generally at least two grades below' their usual textbook levels (South China Morning Post, October 15).
The researcher, Tsui Hon-kwong, has recommended the English curriculum for students should be adjusted downwards by at least two grades.
As a supervisor of a Band Three secondary school, I fully agree with this proposal. Among the Form One students who enter our school every year, a large portion cannot get the most basic present tense verb conjugation right: 'I am, you are, he is, they are; I have, you have, he has, they have'. Many would even have problems with the alphabet. These are not new migrant students, but pupils who have been learning English for six years in our primary schools.
The main reason most of our students' English standard is so low is that our present curriculum does not match their capabilities. It is fine for Band One students, but it is much too difficult for those in Band Three. Schools like ours try hard to help weaker-standard pupils by putting them in smaller, remedial classes from Forms One to Three. However, by Form Four teachers must work at a certain pace in order to finish the curriculum. The weaker students sit through classes with little comprehension of what is being taught, and learn nothing. Front-line teachers are faced with this problem every day.
To help our weaker English-standard students, I suggest breaking our present secondary school English curriculum into two parts. 'A' would be practical English and 'B' would be academic English. The stronger English-standard students could finish Syllabus A in Form Three or even earlier and go on to Syllabus B. The weaker ones could complete A in Form Five. Syllabus A would satisfy the requirements of employers who traditionally hire from Form Five but, not university graduates. Syllabus B could concentrate on academic English, drawing mainly from our present Syllabus B.
Employers of Form Five graduates should get together and help the Education Department design this proposed Syllabus A.
What these employers need are workers who can communicate in English, with the emphasis on listening and speaking skills. These skills are best taught in classes of less than 20 students. The department must provide enough funding to make this possible.
If we carry on with our present way of teaching English, we can change our slogan to: 'Hong Kong, a world city where no English is spoken.'
Cotton Spinners Association Secondary School