Classroom reforms 'will raise English skills'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Allowing more schools to use English in the classroom will increase by half the number of junior secondary school students capable of learning in the language, education minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung said yesterday.

The government will earmark HK$980 million from September to the 2013-14 school year to implement the new measures - described as 'fine-tuning' of the medium-of- instruction policy - which are scheduled to start in September next year.

At most, 40 per cent of students entering secondary schools are capable of learning in English, according to research conducted by Chinese University in 2004.

Mr Suen said the Education Bureau would commission another large study in a few years to gauge the English proficiency of students entering secondary schools.

'I hope the proportion of students who are able to learn in English would increase from the current 40 per cent to 50 per cent, or even 60 per cent, as students would have a wider exposure to English under the fine-tuning measures,' he said.

Starting with the Form One in the 2010-11 academic year, schools can teach a class in English if 85 per cent of students in the class are in the top 40 per cent of their age group academically. Mr Suen estimated that 20 per cent of the 400-odd secondary schools in the city would be able to run some English-medium classes or teach some subjects in English.

Schools whose students learn mainly in Chinese can use English for up to a quarter of lesson time to promote 'extended learning activities'. Those schools must devote the time to no more than two non-language subjects. The schools must clearly spell out the language adopted for each subject in the secondary school profiles to ensure that parents were well-informed, Deputy Secretary for Education Mabel Chan said.

Mr Suen estimated that at the end of the day only 10 schools in the city would opt for teaching all subjects in English after the policy went into effect.

Current English-medium schools can use Chinese to teach subjects such as liberal studies, religion and ethics once the policy adjustments are implemented.

Schools must decide their language policies and inform the bureau of their decision in writing in October.

From September next year, about 70 schools will be inspected every year. Schools that break the rule will be warned and the matter made public. Language policy for all secondary schools in the city will be reviewed every six years.

Mother-tongue teaching has been controversial since it was introduced in 1998 and all but 112 secondary schools were ordered to switch their medium of instruction to Chinese in forms one to three.

In protest against the government's measures, members of the executive committee of the Association of Hong Kong Chinese Middle School, which advocates mother-tongue teaching and represents more than 190 schools, resigned en masse yesterday.