Emotions ran high as more than 1,000 graduates bade each other and their teachers farewell at a convocation ceremony. The event, at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, marked the start of a new phase of life for students of Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China's 19 schools. A corporate prayer of thanks was said for the happy times and supportive learning environment the schools had provided over the years. Outstanding students were presented the certificates by the Director of Education, Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping. Addressed the gathering, the director explained the need for Hong Kong schools to implement mother- tongue teaching. She said the experience of other countries suggested the mother-tongue was the most appropriate language of instruction in schools. 'Without language barriers, students absorb knowledge, analyse problems and express their ideas easily,' she said. 'This leads to a happier and more effective study environment.' However, Mrs Yu said the Education Department would not neglect English, even though the mother-tongue teaching policy would be strictly implemented in the next academic year. 'Hong Kong being an international financial and trading centre, good English is very important. The Government will continue to allocate more resources to improve English skills while implementing mother-tongue teaching in schools,' she said. According to a department study carried out in 1993, students from mother-tongue schools achieved better results in non-language subjects like History, Geography and Economics. Students of mother-tongue schools were also found to achieve higher pass rates in the HKCEE from 1995 to 1997.