The final proposals on medium-of-instruction changes received a predictably mixed reaction from educators, given the divisiveness of the issue.
Increased autonomy and other flexible arrangements were seen as a godsend by schools eager to shake off the stigma attached to Chinese- medium teaching, but the hopes of schools that have embraced the mother-tongue policy were dashed.
Anson Yang, principal of King Ling College in Tseung Kwan O, said the school would switch junior classes from Chinese to English.
'The fine-tuning policy allows us to use another method to nurture our students,' Ms Yang said.
The principal of Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School in Tuen Mun, where most students are eligible to learn in English, says it will also benefit. Tai Hay-lap said it would offer both 'pure English' and 'flexible' classes.
The Chinese-medium school would have been eligible to switch to English next year, when a review of language policy is to be conducted. Under the mechanism, the school would have had to offer all subjects in English after 2010.
'Now we can offer all academic subjects in English, while retaining mother-tongue teaching for cultural subjects,' Mr Tai said.
A fervid supporter of the mother-tongue policy since 1986, Shun Tak Fraternal Association Tam Pak Yu College in Tuen Mun is one of the few Chinese-medium schools that have thrived on the policy, with a pass rate of more than 90 per cent in English-language public exams.
Principal Ho Ki-to said changes to the medium-of-instruction policy would deprive the school of an environment conducive to continuing mother-tongue teaching.
'With many schools switching to English or flexible classes to cater to parents' needs, we will be forced to introduce bilingual classes for survival.' The school would probably maintain Chinese-medium teaching but introduce bilingual classes for science, Mr Ho said.
'Mother-tongue teaching can nurture better critical-thinking skills and make for a happy teaching and learning experience,' he said. 'With extra resources set aside for enhancing students' English standard, students' English proficiency won't be sacrificed.'
Tsang Enian, principal of Pooi To Middle School, a Chinese-medium school in Kowloon City, said it would suffer. 'It's of the utmost importance that there won't be any language barrier under the new academic structure,' she said.