Press Release



Students benefit from mother tongue teaching


Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower, Mr Raymond Young, said today (Saturday) that recent reports about the Government intending to allow English medium secondary schools to operate classes taught in Chinese was only a suggestion made by an individual member of the Joint Working Group on Medium of Instruction (MOI) Policy. He stressed that the Government did not believe the concept was feasible, and that the Working Group had also not accepted the idea.

Speaking at the annual conference held by the Support Centre for Teachers using Chinese as the Medium of Instruction (CMI) Centre of the University of Hong Kong, Mr Young said that the policy of using Chinese as medium of instruction was generally accepted by schools, parents, students and the community as a whole.

The CMI Centre and the Joint Working Group conducted two surveys respectively last year. Both surveys confirmed the positive impact of CMI teaching on students' learning.

"The use of CMI teaching could enhance students' self-learning ability and confidence, stimulate a higher order thinking, re-kindle students' interest and motivation in learning, improve student-teacher relationship and activate students' participation," Mr Young said.

"Based on the preliminary observation from most of the schools, the results of Form One students showed improvements, whereas no regression in the English language subject was found," he said.

Despite all these positive results, there are still serious misconceptions about the CMI policy.

"A news magazine commentator recently said that the use of CMI in schools was designed to enhance students' ability in Chinese. In fact, the main objective of the CMI policy is to allow students to learn efficiently in a language that they are most familiar with, so that they could participate meaningfully in a learning process. I am glad that this is in fact happening in schools that have adopted Chinese as their medium of instruction," Mr Young said.

"Some people are of the view that the Government's actively promoting the use of Chinese as a medium of instruction would mean less importance being attached to the teaching of the English language.

"This is absolutely untrue when we look at the substantial additional resources that have been allocated to upgrading the English language teaching and learning in Hong Kong during the past two years. New measures include introducing the Native English Teachers scheme and establishing language benchmarks for all English teachers," he added.

On the question of students' transition from learning in Chinese in secondary schools to the English environment in universities, Mr Young revealed that the Joint Working Group was inclined to allow flexibility for the use of Chinese or English textbooks and reference books for Form six and seven classes in CMI schools.

Mr Young noted that many people believed simplistically that using English as medium of instruction (EMI) always led to high English standards, while CMI would lead to a decline in English standards. They therefore thought that individual schools should have the autonomy to decide which medium of instruction to adopt.

"We agree that given the right conditions, such as teacher capability and a genuine English-speaking environment, EMI is in fact beneficial to the learning of the English language," he said.

"Unfortunately, such conditions were not present in most of our secondary schools. In most of these so-called 'EMI' schools, teachers were teaching with limited, and often incorrect, English. Many of them did not even bother to use English at all. The students, on their part, failed to understand what was being taught, and eventually lost their interest in their studies altogether. As a result, not only did they suffer in terms of subject content, they also failed to learn good English.

"For a very long time in the past, the education system had paid a high price for the 'EMI' label," he said.

Commenting on the proposal of applying the MOI policy to all schools across the board, Mr Young said: "Whilst promoting the use of the mother-tongue, we should not disregard the fact that some schools do have the right conditions for EMI, and EMI has not affected the effectiveness of teaching and learning."

"If the purpose of the MOI policy is to ensure effective learning, we saw no justification to require all EMI schools to switch to CMI schools. The community as a whole is for retaining those schools which are effective with EMI, then we should work together to make the system work," he added.

Mr Young noted that the Joint Working Group was inclined to recommend that, if the teachers of a CMI school were capable of EMI, the school should be allowed to use EMI in Form Four and above. This would further reduce the labelling effect on CMI schools.

The Joint Working Group is now formulating final proposals for the arrangements in secondary schools from the 2001/02 school year onwards. The final report is expected to be released by the end of February.

End/Saturday, January 22, 2000


  • Speech by Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (Chinese only) (22.01.2000)