Schools promised more flexibility on teaching in English or Chinese

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 December, 2008, 12:00am

The classification of local schools as either using English or Chinese medium of instruction will soon be a thing of the past, the education secretary said yesterday.

In a forum at Ying Wa College on the adjustments to the medium-of-instruction policy, Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung promised more flexibility in language policies for schools.

The bureau would 'strive for a diversified model' that would 'strike a balance between the needs of different schools', he said.

About 200 principals attended the forum, organised by the Hong Kong Association of Heads of Secondary Schools, to voice their opinions on language policy.

The medium-of-instruction rules govern what language schools can teach in for the first three years of secondary school. Since 1998, schools have been strictly segregated into either English or Chinese-medium.

Mr Suen reiterated the proposals announced in June and promised a more open approach to adjusting language policies.

Schools with 85 per cent of their Form One intake in the top 40 per cent academically can have total autonomy in deciding their language policies. They can choose to teach in both English and Chinese, and split students according to their ability.

'If there's a need, they can teach all their subjects in English. I won't have any disagreements on whatever language they use,' Mr Suen said.

Schools that fall short of the 85 per cent threshold, however, can set aside no more than 25 per cent of class time in non-language subjects for 'extended learning activities conducted in English'. 'As for whether individual subjects can be taught in English, I will ... allow certain degrees of flexibility.'

Mr Suen stressed that these proposals were not final, saying he hoped to gain public support before submitting the final policy to the Legislative Council for approval next month.

Association chairman Michael Wong Wai-yu said the adjustments were nothing more than 'a change of packaging'.

'There won't be any more labels of Chinese or English schools, but the so-called autonomy is still confined within a big framework. If schools cannot admit any [students capable of learning in English], they still couldn't offer English classes. It's not real autonomy,' he said.

Yip Chee-tim, chairman of the Association of Chinese Middle Schools, said class-streaming would be painful for students.



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