Pressure on teachers to be bilingual The relaxation of the medium-of-instruction policy has raised concern over the increased workload on teachers. Under the plan, submitted to the Legislative Council's education panel on Thursday, all schools would be free to teach a class in English if 85 per cent of students in the class were in the top 40 per cent of their age group academically. Where classes did not meet the 85 per cent threshold, schools could devote up to 25 per cent of class time to 'extended learning activities conducted in English'. They could switch to English-medium classes when the pupils were deemed ready. But there is concern over the increased workload for teachers at schools offering bilingual classes. Measures announced by Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung include funding of HK$640 million over five years to support schools switching to English classes and a study of its effectiveness. Supply teachers will be hired so that regular ones can be trained on how to conduct lessons in English. Hong Kong Institute of Education's chair professor of comparative education Lee Wing-on, a former member of the government advisory body reviewing the language policy, expressed concern over training. 'There'll be more pressure on teachers because they will be expected to be bilingual,' he said. Association of Hong Kong Chinese Middle Schools' chairman Yip Chee-tim was worried teachers from schools offering bilingual classes would be asked to sit language tests. Education lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said non-language teachers should not be required to attain the same level of English proficiency as those teaching English. 'Despite the provision of supply teachers, schools won't be able let all teachers take leave at the same time. Teachers from Chinese-medium schools should be allowed to undergo retraining over six years or longer,' he said. Educators also doubted whether the new policy would lessen the stigma attached to schools offering only a limited number of English classes. Yuen Pong-yiu, Association of Heads of Secondary Schools vice-chairman, said the new policy would not lessen the labelling effect. 'In the past, there have been two labels; Chinese- and English-medium schools. Under the new policy, schools will be labelled according to how many English classes they offer. It's just another form of labelling.' Chair professor of educational psychology at Chinese University Hau Kit-tai said the 'fine-tuning' policy would lead to an unprecedented language divide among different classes within each school. 'Students in Chinese classes might feel inferior to those in English ones and their motivation to learn might be lowered as a result,' he said. Veronica Ma Kit-ching, a member of the Grant Schools Council, which represents 22 elite schools, said the so-called school-based plan would lead to the majority being classified as bilingual and so cut the number of schools entitled to use the English-medium title by half. This would be a further boost to the standing of the council's member schools. 'As we have been using English to teach all subjects including liberal studies for a long time, we will retain our pure English policy and our branding will be further polished in the eyes of parents,' she said. The requirement for English- medium schools to teach all classes in English is retained under the plan. With the government forbidding schools from revealing the number of English classes on offer, parents are worried there will not be enough information to make an informed choice when choosing a school. So Lai-chun, vice-chairman of Kwun Tong district's Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations, said parents had a right to know this information. But despite concerns, the proposal was welcomed by some educators for rectifying some of the mother-tongue policy's shortcomings. Chair professor of education at University of Hong Kong, Cheng Kai-ming, said: 'It's a good move because the kind of categorical dichotomy between CMI and EMI schools in 1998 was unreasonable,' he said.