Q Are the improved exam results related to the mother-tongue policy?
Dubious, I'd say. I agree that students can master different subjects more easily if they are taught in Chinese. Students are also more willing to bring up questions and are more motivated to learn if the language barrier is removed. Some educators even argue that using Chinese can facilitate the teaching and learning processes, thereby yielding better results.
Despite all this, it's too early to jump to the conclusion that the mother-tongue policy is successful in bridging the gap between students from Chinese-medium (CMI) schools and those from English-medium (EMI) schools. As we know, most students from CMI schools sat the easier exam (English syllabus A) for fear that they would flunk the harder one (syllabus B).
Learning a language is a huge task and requires lots of time and exposure. Undeniably, students from EMI schools have much more exposure to English than their CMI counterparts. While the difference may not be noticeable after five years, CMI students may face much difficulty during their tertiary studies.
Jason Kitlet, Diamond Hill
Improved examination results do not prove that the mother-tongue policy is successful or that there is an increase in English-language standards. It is unproductive to make sweeping statements based on imprudent interpretations. I urge the Education and Manpower Bureau and the general population to recognise that an objective stance is necessary for progress.
First, more students are opting to take the easier syllabus A for English. One also needs to look at the room for improvement while comparing.
Second, even if the same percentage of students chose syllabus B, there are numerous factors that can be attributed to 'improved' examination results. Teachers may be more experienced and adept at teaching in Cantonese. The recovering economy may reduce financial problems and increase students' opportunities for further development. Because of the prevailing notion that English-medium schools are better, Chinese-medium students may have more pressure.
Data from three years is not enough to make such general conclusions, especially when other factors are not being taken into consideration.
Guai Sing-chi Arevalo, Pokfulam
There are some factors that we need to take into consideration. For example, the statistics did not indicate which syllabus the students from Chinese-medium schools have sat.
It is also worth considering the fact that the number of students taking syllabus A this year has risen. This means that more students favoured taking the easier paper. It is absolutely normal that the passing percentage will be higher when more students are taking the paper which is tailor-made for the less capable language learners.
As a result, the numbers we got cannot show whether students in the Chinese-medium schools are more proficient in their learning than before the implementation of the new language policy. Besides, even if the students in the Chinese-medium schools have mostly sat for the syllabus B, these students have not received a full-term Chinese-medium education. Their results are still not reliable enough to reflect the success of the Chinese medium education. A long-term assessment is needed to evaluate accurately the effectiveness of the policy.
Annie Cheung, Hunghom
Q Should there be more quiet cars on KCR trains?
Five years ago, when franchised bus operators hooked up with a Commercial Radio station to broadcast its programmes on board buses, passengers found the noise deafening and reflected so to the Transport Department. Despite the negative feedback, several months later the department endorsed bus TV. Passengers have since been fighting an uphill battle to keep bus TV noise down.
Four years later, the government again gave permission to the KCR to broadcast in-transit TV via loudspeakers. Despite the numerous complaints the KCR has received in the past month, the train TV sound continues to be at nightclub level. Many of the KCR staff members I've talked to said that they too found the noise unbearable and have dutifully channelled the many complaints they have received to management, but to no avail. Two of them said it was because KCR could not now break the done deal with Cable News.
It's high time the ombudsman investigated this thoroughly.
Catherine Ng, Hush the Bus
Q Is it appropriate to commercialise the tragic history of Bela Vista?
How far will a human being go in exploiting fellow members of the species, those alive and those already departed as in this case?
District Councillor Lam Kit-sing's idea to turn a tragic spot into a suicide theme park is not only ludicrous but also very offensive in its lack of respect for the memory of those who have died in Bela Vista Villa, as well as for the grief of the bereaved families. It should not be dignified with any amount of consideration.
However, there is something to be said about the councillor's sentiment behind this macabre idea: 'A dirty spot yesterday will be an attraction tomorrow.' This would not be misplaced as the motto for many barbecue areas scattered around otherwise beautiful locations in Hong Kong.
Ivanka Bozinovic-Pearson, Pokfulam