Friday, February 29, 2008

Wasting Time in English Classes

On average, a Hong Kong student in a local government-funded school spends at least 4 hours in classes on English each week. This does not include the time spent on doing exercises. Nor does it include, in English-medium schools, the time spent on learning other subjects supposedly using English. Why is it that, after 13 years, the typical Hong Kong student cannot read and write English at a reasonable level? Isn’t the time spent in English classes thus largely wasted?

Roughly the same amount of time is spent in mathematics classes. Yet the typical Hong Kong student is doing quite well in mathematics compared to students in other countries. Why is it that the English lessons are not producing similarly satisfactory results?

Why aren’t the students motivated to learn proper English - when everyone agrees that English is so important?

Why do so many of the students find the English classes boring - when reading and writing can be such rewarding activities if properly taught and enjoyed?

Why do so few ever discover the joy of reading and writing - when most of us should have the potential to do so?

Whose fault is it? The teachers? The schools? The government? The parents? The students?

I say the government must bear a large part of the responsibilities because it sets the policies governing language learning.



34 comments:

The Cat said...

Maths can be drilled. English cannot. Hong Kong schools put a huge emphasis on drilling students for tests and exams. Maybe that's the reason behind poor test scores in English, vs. Maths.

The same problem would apply to Chinese. I haven't seen any such surveys yet, but I would be curious to know how the Chinese standard of Hong Kong students compares with their counterparts in Taiwan, the PRC and Singapore. I have a feeling that it won't be all that great either.

StephenC said...

Very much agreed.

There are very good language teachers in Hong Kong, and I personally know some of them. Mostly they succeed because they can make learning fun.

Why don't we let the good teachers take charge and make the not-so-good ones learn from the good teachers? It seems such a logical thing to do.

Why can't we make language learning fun?

Kelvin said...

Many student/people like to sneer at other's "poor english", but not "poor maths", even their own english is also no good.....finally, many student are not encouraged to pratice...This was my feeling when I was in a band 5 secondary school.
:(

StephenC said...

We, the teachers and the administrators and ultimately the policy-makers, must take the responsibilities for making such a mess.

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