Head of education panel urges rethink

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2009, 12:00am

The head of a panel that advises the government on language education has urged shelving proposed changes to policies on mother-tongue education, claiming parents' support could be based on misunderstandings.

The call by Michael Tien Puk-sun, who chairs the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research, follows a poll he commissioned that found a majority of parents knew little about the changes.

Mr Tien, who commissioned the poll in his personal capacity, said he would press for a rethink of the changes during a meeting with Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung today.

The poll, conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, interviewed 524 parents early this month to gauge their views on the so-called 'fine-tuning' of the medium-of-instruction policy.

Under the proposed changes, schools would be allowed to conduct some classes in English as long as a certain proportion of its students were deemed to be up to standard. Under the current policy Chinese-medium schools can only have lessons taught in Chinese - except for English language.

The government had planned to finalise details of the changes this month and implement the new measures in the 2010-11 school year. But the poll found that 55 per cent of the parents knew 'quite little' or 'very little' about the proposed revisions.

Only 9 per cent said they knew it 'quite well' or 'very well'.

Only 29 per cent knew it had been suggested that the distinction between English-medium and Chinese-medium schools be scrapped. And 43 per cent of parents believed, incorrectly, that all students at a school could be allocated to English-medium classes.

Mr Tien, an advocate of mother-tongue education, said: 'The government likes to boast its revised policy has gained support from parents. I am afraid the parents' support has been based on false impressions.'

He proposed that arrangements be made to allow parents to sit in classes to see for themselves which medium of instruction would be beneficial to their children.

'The government should shelve the fine-tuning policy, or delay it by at least one year to allow parents more time to have a rethink,' Mr Tien said.

In a statement, the Education Bureau said it had consulted stakeholders on the fine-tuning policy and had received their general support.

'Consultative seminars with parents were also held, allowing us to explain to them the fine-tuning arrangements and listen to their feedback. When we finalise the arrangements, we shall certainly consider all of the views,' said the statement.