Tsuen Wan college has success in switch to bilingual teaching

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 January, 2009, 12:00am

AD&FD POHL Leung Sing Tak College, a Chinese-medium school in Tsuen Wan, has been progressively switching to bilingual teaching.

Students who were educated purely in Chinese after the introduction of the mother tongue policy in 1998 have only had a 20 per cent pass rate at the advanced-level English examination since 2001.

School principal Stephen Lui Ki-cheng said he realised he could no longer 'blindly follow the mother tongue policy' when he took up the job in 2003. 'They were really good students, but they were barred from local university education because of their English standard,' Mr Lui said.

He said he was determined to transform the school into a bilingual one with at least 95 per cent of the students passing English Language in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education. In an experiment launched in 2004-2005, three out of five classes in each junior form were selected to study maths entirely in English. With other academic subject content being taught in Chinese, Mr Lui found the performance of students in English and maths improved significantly.

Last year, the school negotiated with the government on a bilingual approach for junior forms in which students were told to purchase their maths textbooks in Chinese, with the school providing an equivalent English version.

'Teachers will adjust, according to students' abilities, to teach individual topics within the subject through English, as a way to progressively increase students' exposure to the language,' Mr Lui said.

'We need to do this at junior forms or else it'd be too late for them to switch back to English in senior years.'

He added that the advantage of the bilingual approach was that it allowed students to absorb content through their native language while increasing their exposure to English terms.

With more flexibility being allowed under the adjusted language policy, Mr Lui said he would extend the bilingual approach to general science subjects in junior forms this September and computer literacy would follow in September next year.

In senior forms, the school has been teaching maths entirely in English since 2004. Students studying in the science stream are learning 70 per cent of their subject content in English and those in the art stream 30 per cent.