• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:16am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong's education fails the language test

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 2:28pm

The problems facing Hong Kong pupils are closely tied to the education and social environment in which they have been brought up. For decades, a spoon-fed culture and oppressive examination system are said to have made them more adapted to rote learning than critical thinking. Separately, their language proficiency in English and Chinese is also feared to be eroding, due to the inroads of foreign words and technology-related jargons used in everyday life.

A report on the first Hong Kong Diploma for Secondary Education Examination suggests the perceptions are not unfounded. According to the exam authorities, many pupils have yet to master the skills essential for liberal studies, a centrepiece in the new exam aimed at developing their analytical skills and thinking. Their answers were described by examiners as subjective, superficial and one-sided. For instance, pupils were unable to make use of the findings in a university survey to help analyse and comment on local political parties. Nor could they justify their arguments. This is hardly surprising, given the general lack of interest in politics in the city. Their poor performance suggests that pupils have yet to move away from a system based on textbooks and model answers to one that emphasises observation, analysis, reasoning and articulation.

Equally disturbing is the frequent use of the so-called "cocktail" language, a mix of Chinese and English words in an oral exam. Terms like Facebook, iPad and making phone "calls" are so commonly used in daily conversation that most Cantonese speakers are ignorant of the fact that they are foreign words. After all, we pride ourselves on being a bilingual society. But it is entirely different when it comes to a language exam. Our aim should be proficiency in each language rather than mix-and-match.

It is important that lessons are learned and improvements made. The problems and mistakes identified in the report should be seriously addressed so that they are not repeated.


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I don't agree with the writer of this article in a way it has been said the education system of HK is oppressive and is eroding.I don't see any significant changes of the system in decades,so if there are any eroding elements the situation should be stated in present perfect tense,not present continuous tense.The editors of SCMP are mostly Chinese,their mothers' tongue I believed isn't English,but they manages and publishes an English newspaper.Sometimes they are Chinese in heart but not foreigners in mind.I also sightly burst into laughter when some high officials address,revealing their poor standard of spoken English.Why?They are highly educated,probably completed their studies abroad.
2.So why discourages ourselves?The most important of all is to read more,write more and speak more.Practise makes perfect.Do not put the blame on the system wholly,evaluate your own efforts whether it is a whole-hearted or a half-hearted one.
If you want to learn English in a native way try slargon ****slargon.com/
If most Cantonese speakers are ignorant of the fact that they are foreign words, doesn't that just mean these words have become assimilated into the local language? Since languages are living entities, it can be difficult to draw a firm line between what's correct and incorrect.
I've to say our youngster are not only poor in languages but even some basic normal analysis skills. If you heard a couple of days ago news that a man was arrested for sending messages via apps to young female students and asking for naked pictures because the faked senders claimed he is a female doctor helping these girls to diagnosis health problem. Do u find this absurd? I thought whoever have this idea was a real fool to think this stupid act will never works. But ironically many young girls are taking the bait surprising without a simple analysis skill. I first felt sorry for these young victims. But on the other hand it is alarming that we spend so much in education but our young people has zero skills in thinking that is my point! I am sure all these girls know that doctor will not ask for naked picture over the phone for medical purpose. Doctors need lab tests and face to face consultation. Even these girl are fooled by this man, I Am socked they won't report to the police and meeting this guy and get sexually assaulted. And these happens to over 20 cases! Not just an isolated case.
We definitely have problem with our education system not training our students to think despite they work so hard starting at kindergarten, does it make senses?
This only is an illustration, I think I saw and heard many many cases of similar nature of lacking thinking skills.
"Their poor performance suggests that (Hong Kong) pupils have yet to move away from a system based on textbooks and model answers to one that emphasises observation, analysis, reasoning and articulation. "
This is obviously a catch-22. It never occurs to wooly headed, deep thinkers when our students are asked to critique university surveys and comments on political parties, they are supposed to make a silk purse out of sow's ear. Or impolitely, making sense out of unadulterated claptrap stuff in liberal studies.
Ask a stupid question, you deserve a more stupid answer. If you can’t define democracy, human rights and monotheistic God with their respective sets of self consistent attributes, how could our students respond in the true spirit of critical inquiry?
Why don't you demand from pupils learning first the fundamentals of postulates, hypothesis and logic, which were all implicit in my alma mater’s curriculum, St. Joseph's College at Kennedy Road, in the good old days?
Last I heard is our 15-year olds are still tops among OECD countries in reading comprehension, math and science in PISA scores. Thanks for your attempt to instill an inferiority complex into our children by labeling them as learning-by-rote automatons.


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