HONG KONG-LESS ENGLISH GOVERNMENT COMPROMISES ON ENGLISH-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION

Posted on in Politica e lingue 17 vedi

HONG KONG-LESS ENGLISH GOVERNMENT COMPROMISES ON ENGLISH-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION

HONG KONG (AP) _ OFFICIALS COMPROMISED FRIDAY ON PLANS TO MOVE AWAY FROM ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TEACHING, FORCING ONLY SIX OF 20 HIGH SCHOOLS THAT APPEALED A GOVERNMENT ORDER TO START TEACHING NEXT YEAR IN CANTONESE.
THE ISSUE IS AN EMOTIONAL ONE FOR PARENTS. MANY FAVOR ENGLISH-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION, BELIEVING IT HELPS THEIR CHILDREN’S CAREER PROSPECTS.
AS EARLY AS 1984, THE FORMER BRITISH COLONIAL GOVERNMENT BEGAN PROMOTING CANTONESE IN THE BELIEF THAT CHILDREN LEARN BETTER IN THEIR MOTHER TONGUE. CANTONESE IS THE FIRST LANGUAGE OF MORE THAN 90 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE IN HONG KONG.
THE TERRITORY’S SWITCH TO CHINESE SOVEREIGNTY LAST JULY ADDED POLITICAL INCENTIVES FOR THE CHANGE, ALTHOUGH THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE ELSEWHERE IN CHINA IS MANDARIN, NOT CANTONESE.
CHINESE IS SLOWLY REPLACING ENGLISH IN MOST GOVERNMENT BUSINESS AND COURTROOMS, BUT ENGLISH CONTINUES TO BE IMPORTANT IN THE BUSINESS WORLD.
THERE ARE ABOUT 400 HIGH SCHOOLS IN HONG KONG, ABOUT HALF OF WHICH TAUGHT EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH. LAST YEAR, THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT GAVE PERMISSION FOR ONLY 100 OF THEM TO CONTINUE TEACHING IN ENGLISH NEXT YEAR.
PERMISSION WAS GIVEN ONLY IF AT LEAST 85 PERCENT OF THE SCHOOL’S STUDENTS WERE DEEMED ABLE TO LEARN EFFECTIVELY IN ENGLISH.
TWENTY SCHOOLS APPEALED THE DECISION. SOME SAID BEING FORCED TO SWITCH TO CHINESE-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION HAD BADLY HURT THEIR ENROLLMENT APPLICATIONS.
CRITICS SAY ALLOWING SOME SELECTED SCHOOLS TO CONTINUE TEACHING IN ENGLISH IS SOCIALLY DIVISIVE AND WILL FOSTER EDUCATIONAL ELITISM.
CHANG HSIN-KANG, THE HEAD OF AN INDEPENDENT APPEALS COMMISSION, SAID EDUCATORS AGREE STUDENTS LEARN BETTER IN THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGE.
“BUT BECAUSE OF JOB REQUIREMENTS AND THE NEED FOR HONG KONG TO REMAIN BILINGUAL, AND THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION OF HONG KONG, MANY PARENTS, IN MY OPINION, PUT UNDUE EMPHASIS ON THEIR STUDENT’S ABILITY IN ENGLISH,” HE SAID.
HE ADDED THAT THEY EQUATE GOING TO A SCHOOL THAT TEACHES IN ENGLISH WITH GOOD LANGUAGE ABILITIES.
IN MAKING ITS DECISION, HE SAID, THE COMMITTEE DID NOT BOW TO ANY POLITICAL PRESSURE.
EDUCATION SECRETARY JOSEPH WONG SAID THE GOVERNMENT WILL PUT IN MORE RESOURCES TO HELP SCHOOLS ORDERED TO TEACH IN CANTONESE TO MAKE THE TRANSITION.
THE GOVERNMENT ALSO WILL SPEND ABOUT 450 MILLION HONG KONG DOLLARS (U.S. DLRS 96 MILLION) TO HIRE 750 NATIVE SPEAKERS TO TEACH ENGLISH, HE SAID.
TO CHI-SHANG, PRINCIPAL OF THE GOVERNMENT-SUBSIDIZED UNITED CHRISTIAN COLLEGE, WHICH LOST ITS APPEAL, TOLD COMMERCIAL RADIO THAT THE DECISION WAS UNFAIR BECAUSE IT JUDGED THE ABILITY OF INCOMING STUDENTS TO LEARN IN ENGLISH ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CURRENT STUDENTS.
13 MAR 98




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