Proposals will keep English an `elite' language

First published: 13th January 2009

I am concerned that the latest Educational proposals fail to address the needs of individual children, and continue to reinforce the status of English as an "elite" language.

The proposal is that schools where more than 80% of the pupils are in the "top 40%" will be given flexibility in the language they use for teaching. But what is this "top 40%" measuring? In at least one local primary school, class rankings are dependant on passes in all core subjects, so a student who scores "A" in English and Maths, but "D" in Chinese would be ranked lower than a student that scores "C" in all three subjects. This makes sense when trying to encourage well-rounded development in all core subjects, but it is counter- productive to use that ranking to determine the teaching environment. A student that is good in English, but poor in Chinese would not be in the "top 40%", and would therefore tend to end up in a class where Chinese is used for most teaching, with the probable result of further learning difficulties. Statistics is a good tool for understanding trends in populations, it is not a good tool for determining individual cases. Can the Education Department explain how the new proposals will address the needs of children as individuals?

On a general level the new proposal, just like the current system, reinforces the status of English as an "elite" language. Only the schools with the "top" students will be permitted the flexibility to teach in English, and those schools will naturally show the best results, because they have the "top" students. The success of other schools in raising the standard of their students will be overshadowed. English is important for Hong Kong's competitiveness in a global environment, but to be successful, proficiency is required at every level of business, not just in the Board Room.