Change gets a tongue lashing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am

I have been teaching French in Hong Kong for three years now and my colleagues and I are worried about an education reform that will come into effect in 2009. In that year, all foreign languages will become secondary subjects in Hong Kong schools.

Why? Because pupils will have to learn the Chinese language. Hong Kong is part of China, so it is understandable that students should learn it. But why make foreign languages subordinate? Indeed, after the reform, these languages will be considered merely other learning experience such as music and sport.

Schools which want to offer French or any other foreign language from 2009 could have problems finding space for the subjects in the students' timetables and financing the classes.

Also, students choosing to study French or any other foreign language will have less time to prepare for their examinations because fewer teaching hours will be devoted to those subjects. Under such circumstances, Hong Kong schools will no longer have any incentive to offer foreign languages.

One solution to this problem would be to put French and other foreign languages in the 'elective subjects' category.

Many might wonder about the value of studying French or any other foreign language in Hong Kong. One answer could be that in Hong Kong there are French, German and other western companies.

Nowadays you do have to speak English but you'll have an advantage over your competitors if you can also speak French, Spanish or German. French and Spanish are spoken in many countries, not just France and Spain. French is spoken in Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec and many countries in Africa, and Spanish is spoken in most of South America.

Dorine Charvet, Association of French Teachers in Hong Kong