Pragmatic education system should take bilingual approach

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2015, 3:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2015, 3:38pm

I am an ex-member of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research and refer to your report ("English-medium policy in schools will continue, says education minister Eddie Ng", July 4).

Our education minister, Eddie Ng Hak-kim, has said the status quo of our language policy will not be changed, which seems to favour English-medium-of-instruction schools. Meanwhile, he takes the blame from the Chinese-medium ones for breaking the government's previous promise of allowing changes between the two systems. Before we are drawn into the whirlpool of discussing our language policy, could we consider the following issues?

Firstly, English-dominated teaching is feasible for only a minority of Hong Kong students.

There are always dropouts with poor English ability from English-medium schools. Some of them cannot understand English at all, and as a consequence they become depressed or develop other behavioural problems. Parents and school administrators need to be more realistic. Instead of squeezing their children into English-medium schools or aiming for admitting top achievers only, could both consider the children's real language ability first?

Secondly, teachers and students of Chinese-medium-of-instruction schools are also suffering because of tremendous pressure from principals and parents to upgrade students' English standards, regardless of their actual ability and interest in doing so.

I just wonder why we are bound by a monolingual mindset in education when, in fact, the benefits of bilingualism have been supported by academic studies and veteran teachers worldwide. It is proven that the bilingual experience improves the brain's command system, favourable for our problem-solving and performing various mentally demanding tasks.

If we look back to before the mid-1980s, bilingualism nurtured generations of elites, the top leaders of Hong Kong. What has aggravated the situation is our change-ridden language policy and the blind pursuit of new language approaches by our education officials, a kind of musical chairs. They keep imposing new language projects or educational experiments on our children.

I strongly suggest our education officials recognise that students and teachers are suffering.

A more pragmatic language policy like bilingual education should be considered for the benefit of all parties.

It can ease the unnecessary tension between schools and the stress felt by parents and children.

Kendra Ip, Hung Hom