The Government's decision to force more than 300 secondary schools to shift to mother-tongue education has outraged many people. Teachers of schools being kicked out of the English stream system say their morale has been badly affected, nervous parents are panicking and some students are said to feel humiliated. All in all, they have rejected the Government's verdict that switching to mother-tongue teaching is in their best interests. These strong reactions may be a little unexpected. After all the campaign for mother-tongue teaching has been going on for decades and very few people have come out publicly and rejected such a cause. But putting the whole question in perspective, the community's muted response in the past and the strong emotions expressed today are understandable. First, in a community which is predominantly Chinese, it is socially undesirable for anyone to openly speak out against the use of the mother tongue as the main teaching medium. Second, with Hong Kong under Chinese rule, it would be politically incorrect for anyone to advocate that local schools should continue to teach in English. But a more important factor, perhaps, is that many schools and parents did not anticipate that they would be affected; that is why they did not bother speaking up until the Education Department announced the list of mother-tongue-teaching schools. The attitude of these schools and parents is clear; they do not care about the teaching medium other schools may adopt as long as they can stay in the English-teaching stream. The Government's verdict came as a shock. Superficially, one can say that such strong reactions are unnecessary. There is proof that mother-tongue teaching is better for students. But to be fair, those who consider that the rejected schools and the parents are only concerned about a loss of prestige have overlooked the practical considerations that many parents have. For the parents, greater exposure to English is an important factor in improving their children's standard of English. The parents' view is not exactly wrong. Unlike students in other places, Hong Kong children come under great pressure from public examinations. Under the present system, language learning is often examination-oriented and rather mechanical. Many parents tend to believe that if other subjects are taught in English, it will at least force their children to use the dictionary more and become familiar with aspects of English grammar and structure. They see that this studying pattern in itself already benefits their children's English. If Chinese becomes the teaching medium for non-language subjects, parents will worry how much extra time is left for their children to study English. Critics say that the parents' belief is without foundation, but unfortunately, the same attitude seems to be shared by many local employers. Given the deep-seated prejudice within the community, the Government's endeavour to promote mother-tongue education was bound to meet great resistance. To make mother-tongue education more popular, it has to come up with more concrete measures to assure parents that students' exposure to English in Chinese stream schools will be just as good. To achieve this, a wider issue will likely be touched on - the reform of the public examination system to relieve students of heavy examination schedules and allow them more time for language studies. But the question remains: are education officials ready for this challenge?