Nearly half of high schools to teach in English
Elaine Yau and Liz Heron
The number of secondary schools teaching in English in Hong Kong will almost double in September when the changes to language instruction policy take effect, according to school profiles released by the government yesterday.
Taking advantage of the latest changes in language policy, 16 schools which are now teaching in Chinese will switch to teaching entirely in English. Another 80 schools will adopt a mixed approach - using Chinese for humanities subjects but using English for science subjects. Seven schools will do the opposite by switching at least some classes from English to Chinese.
This means 199 schools, or nearly half of the 402 secondary schools in Hong Kong, will be teaching fully or mainly in English.
This is the second turnaround of the medium of instruction adopted in local schools. The government adopted the mother-tongue policy in 1998 when all but selected secondary schools were ordered to switch their medium of instruction to Chinese. At present, 110 schools teach entirely in English.
In 2006, the authorities announced that schools could teach a class in English if 85 per cent of students in that class were in the top 40 per cent of their age group academically. Schools whose students learn mainly in Chinese could use English for up to a quarter of lesson time to promote 'extended learning activities'. The policy will start from Form One students in the next academic year.
Many schools said they made the switch because of an appeal from parents. Ho Kit-to, principal of Shun Tak Fraternal Association Tam Pak Yu College in Tuen Mun, one of the 80 schools using the mixed approach, said: 'Many schools, including us, made the switch because of the market or parents' demand.'
Dr Anson Yang, principal of King Ling College in Tseung Kwan O which will adopt blanket English-language teaching next year, said all parents, teachers and students were excited about the change. 'I believe that students will just learn better,' he said.
Another school which will soon join the ranks of English-medium schools is Yuen Long Lutheran Secondary School, which has been teaching in Chinese for 50 years. Principal Belinda Chan Yuen-chau said: 'Our students are quite ready for this and the school is well prepared.'
Yim Chin-ming, principal of TWGH Lo Kon Ting Memorial College in Yuen Long, said: 'We have been waiting to switch back to English-medium since 1998.
'Until the handover, we taught in English and the school never really wanted to switch to Chinese. Almost everyone in the school is delighted with the change.'
One father, Mr Yip, whose Primary Six son will be affected by the new policy when he starts secondary school next year, said he was confused by the new system.
'We now have more choices. Most parents in this town want their children to learn English well and I am just one of those.'
Michael Tien Puk-sun, former chairman of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research who is critical of the new policy, said: 'These schools switching to English-medium teaching are the first nail in the coffin for mother-tonuge education. In the end, Chinese-medium teaching in junior secondary schools is going to be wiped out altogther.'
Seven English-medium schools will no longer be allowed to teach entirely in English.