The Secretary for Education has defended much-criticised proposals to allocate students to English-teaching classes according to their abilities under so-called 'fine-tuning' of the medium-of-instruction policy. Critics said this could cause a 'stigmatising effect' on those failing to get into classes taught in English. The minister, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, said it was a fact of life that different students had different abilities. 'It is not necessary to interpret this as stigmatising students [in classes taught in Chinese],' he said. The debate over mother-tongue teaching was rekindled last month when the government announced a 'fine-tuning' of the policy to allow schools to decide on the medium of instruction based on student ability. The latest move is seen as an effort to blur the distinction between English-medium schools and those that teach in Chinese. The latter are often seen by parents as inferior. The government will stage forums to explain its proposals. It hopes a decision can be made by June about adoption of the revised policy for the 2010-11 school year. At a consultation forum yesterday, Mr Suen also said the government would print a guidebook in which schools' medium of instruction would be listed objectively to help parents make informed choices. Some headmasters said after the forum Mr Suen had failed to address their fears about 'stigmatising'.