Raise English standards in kindergartens

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 1:57am

I support those who have called for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to pledge in Wednesday's policy address to subsidise the recruitment of native English-speaking teachers for kindergartens.

Introducing such a measure for children whose mother tongues are Chinese or other Asian languages is very important.

The argument for such a policy is a simple one. Recruiting these teachers lays a solid foundation from the very start of a child's education for proficiency in English.

It is therefore of paramount importance that such a policy is introduced. I hope parents, including those on low incomes, will voice their support for this policy to be introduced.

Since the reversion of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, we have seen a gradual decline of English-language teaching in schools and standards have dropped in the commercial sector.

Our first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, must take responsibility for the problem in our schools thanks to his education reforms.

These included Cantonese mother-tongue medium of instruction and a mandatory English exam for teachers. It is difficult to see how such an exam can improve the quality of English taught by local teachers.

Well before the reversion of sovereignty, in fact going back to the early 1980s, many Hong Kong families migrated to English-speaking countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain and established a second home there for the sake of their young children.

However, this was, in the main, only a feasible option for well-off families who could meet the tough assets conditions laid down by the immigration authorities of those countries.

Families of more modest means were obliged to remain behind, depriving their children of the benefit of growing up in a native English-speaking environment.

This made it difficult for them to compete with children who were educated abroad and then returned to Hong Kong to re-establish themselves.

It disappoints me when I hear some people in the teaching profession raising doubts about whether the addition of more native English-speaking teachers in kindergartens would raise English standards and help facilitate a better English-learning environment.

My answer to that is simple. Children at kindergarten level must begin their educational journey in a native English-speaking teaching environment. They deserve to be given an equal opportunity in this area of education.

Ronald Wong, The Peak