Monday, February 25, 2008

Learning in Mother Tongue

Strong hints are being floated that the Mother Tongue Policy will be relaxed. For the past 10 years, Only slightly more than 100 secondary schools (114 to be exact) have been allowed to teach in English, while the rest (300+) must teach in Chinese. It is now said that more flexibility will be allowed, such as a school teaching some subjects in English and other subjects in Chinese, blurring the line between English medium and Chinese medium schools. If so, it should be a welcome change.

But any changes in education policy in Hong Kong is never as simple as it appears. Teaching in a child’s mother tongue is good in principle. But there are other consideration such as the desire and the need to learn a second language, providing equal access to quality education, having sufficient qualified teachers, the students’ ability to learn in a second language, etc.

Many have considered the past 10 years of mother tongue education a disaster, with the students affected a lost generation. It is generally agreed that the English language proficiency overall (particularly in Chinese medium schools, the majority) has declined, the Chinese language proficiency has not gotten any better, and the gains in other subjects minimal, if any.

Such a report card on mother tongue education is bad enough by themselves. But considering also the resentment generated among the schools, the students and the parents, the lost in productivity in schools forced to switch back and forth, plus the negative impact on university learning and the community as a whole, it is no wonder many people consider it a disaster.

Many have pointed to a simple fact: if the policies and the schools are so good, why don’t the government officials, particularly those in charge of education policy, send their children to local schools? Why are all their children in international schools or even overseas on government funding?




8 comments:

Anonymous said...

陰謀論的說, Mother tongue education is a tool that the official to ensure their children are more competitive than the other HK children. This is to endure everyone else except their children get lesser education.

The Cat said...

If so, it's not quite working since all of those who can afford it (and even those who can't quite) are sending their children to the international schools. Even parents who don't quite fit the traditional stereotype/demographics are turning to the international schools for education for their kids, now.

The ESF schools (and many of the other international schools) all have looooooong waiting lists to get in, while some of the local schools have been forced to close due to declining enrollment. What this says for the vote of confidence in Hong Kong education should be a pretty big hint for the officials.

StephenC said...

Most of the students in ESF/international schools nowadays are Chinese.

Why would the parents send their kids to such schools at huge costs, while they could have sent their kids to local schools at much lower costs? - unless most of the local schools are really no good, and the good ones are impossible to get in?

The government officials cannot be blind to this.

The more cynical view is that they are really so blind.

The more charitable view is they they think they know better than the parents and the teachers how to fix the problem. But their "solutions" repeatedly make a bad situation worse.

Gilbert said...

我已經開始不去想教學語言的問題了, 人總是喜歡找個標籤去區別自己, 方能獲得些許的安全感.

我只是非常狹隘地想, 只要老師和孩子都同心在小小的課室裡溝通, 交流, 思考, 教育過程自然就會出現. 學生是否學到從他們的眼神就看得出.

只是老師們已經疲於奔命, 做好一堂課也越來越不容易了.

StephenC said...

Logically the teachers should know best how to teach, and in what language. Being the closest to the students, they should also have the students' interests closest at heart.

Unfortunately we are not in an ideal world.

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