by Mr Wong Wai Yu, Honorary Executive Secretary of HKAHSS
|Newspaper article on the decision on the Medium of Instruction||中文原文|
The medium of instruction (MOI) in secondary schools has always been a controversial issue in Hong Kong. In 1997, the government issued the Firm Guidance on Medium of Instruction for Secondary Schools (Guidance). Following the Guidance, schools were divided into EMI and CMI schools with English and Chinese as the MOI respectively. In 2005, the Education Commission (EC) published the Report on Review of Medium of Instruction for Secondary Schools and Secondary School Places Allocation which reaffirmed the policy direction set out in the Guidance, i.e., the mother tongue should primarily be adopted as the MOI and students’ English proficiency should be enhanced. It also recommended maintaining the bifurcation of EMI and CMI schools. The government accepted the recommendation.
In 2009, the government decided to fine-tune the MOI arrangements for secondary schools. Instead of classifying schools into EMI or CMI schools, the fine-tuning allowed schools to have different MOI teaching modes in different subjects for different classes. Each school’s MOI arrangement may be different depending on their intakes of students who fall within the top 40% batch.
Recently, the Education Bureau (EDB) announced that it has decided to maintain the policy goal and overall arrangement of MOI fine-tuning for the second cycle of six years, and this has caused heated discussions in society.
An unprofessional decision
Though the Secretary for Education reiterated that the second cycle fine-tuning is a professional decision and supported by schools, I have doubts over it. As the decision came suddenly with little prior consultation with the teaching profession, how could we believe that it has gained wide support in the field?
No reviews or studies
Professional decisions should be based on evidence and proof. Strangely, the government did not mention any reviews or studies to support the second cycle of fine-tuning. We must ask: What effects and benefits the first cycle had on schools, teachers and students in the last five years? What reviews and studies the EDB has carried out on the policy? Is there evidence to show that the first cycle has met its targets and has been beneficial to students’ learning? Is there evidence to prove that it did not have any labelling effects on schools and did not result in regression of the policy on mother-tongue teaching? Without examining these questions, how can we justify the extension of the first cycle arrangements for another six years?
Inconsistent and conflicting criteria
The EDB said it will continue to use the three criteria prescribed before: students possessing the ability to learn through English, teachers possessing the capability to teach through English, and schools having adequate support strategies/measures. Schools are required to devise their MOI arrangements taking into account their school-based situation and their students’ learning ability. At the same time, the government will take a flexible approach allowing schools that have adopted English as the MOI to continue to do so even though some of their students’ English learning ability does not meet the prescribed standard, provided that the schools will step up its support measures and training for their teachers. This flexible approach is unconvincing because students’ learning ability was the government’s first and foremost consideration when it first laid down its MOI policy. The flexible approach contradicts its original rigid criterion which required schools to have 85% of its intake to be within the top 40% batch before they can use English as the MOI for the entire school. When students’ ability to learn in English is not up to standard, it is doubtful if more school support and teacher training will be useful. Whether the so called flexible approach will enhance students’ learning is questionable.
The main goal of the first cycle fine-tuning was to raise students’ Chinese and English proficiency by using Chinese as the MOI while at the same time providing more opportunities for students to use English at school. The EDB tries to justify its flexible approach in the second cycle by arguing that schools need a more ‘stable’ environment to develop their MOI strategies and to implement government’s language policies. However, the instability facing our schools today is not related to the schools’ English environment or their teachers’ teaching capability. Rather, it is caused by EDB’s student population planning policies, class reduction and school closure measures. To restore stability in schools, the real solution is for the government to have an overall population policy, not an MOI policy.
Increased divisiveness among schools
When the first cycle fine-tuning was implemented in 2009, many in the teaching profession opposed it because CMI schools and their students would be adversely labelled as ‘second class’. The flexible approach in the second cycle would further widen the gap between these schools and the other subsidized schools, EMI schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools.
Unlike former MOI policies, the second cycle fine-tuning is decided without wide and balanced consultation with the teaching profession. The policy was revealed and explained to schools in a meeting between EDB officials and representatives of major school councils several hours before the policy was announced publicly by the Secretary for Education.
Lack of long-term vision
The second cycle fine-tuning is only a technical adjustment, without touching the core issues of a full-swing language policy. It reflects the government’s lack of vision and determination to develop a long-term education policy. As the world changes rapidly and cultures interact closely these days, it is time for the government to communicate and cooperate with the teaching profession to come up with appropriate and professional MOI strategies and plans.
長久以來，教學語言一直是香港教育極具爭議的問題，有關政策的發展可謂一波三折。首先是1997年，在多個研究數據支持下，政府推出中學教學語言「強力」指引，將全港中學教學語言二分化－全英文教學或全母語教學 （語文科除外）。2005年教育統籌委員會發表《中學教學語言政策及中一派位機制報告書》，當中肯定了「母語教學，學好英文」，但仍處理不了「不要在我家後園」 (Not in my Backyard) 的心結 – 同意母語教育理念，只要不在我校實施，最後決定維持部份學校以英語教學；也就是說，仍然維持二分法。繼而是2009年宣布「微調」中學教學語言安排–取消教學語言二分法，改為按學校收取成績前列40%的學生人數，開設不同數目英文班或中文班。到最近教育局公告「維持」微調中學教學語言措施，但增加所謂支援措施，再度引起社會的激烈討論。