Enhancing English Proficiency while Capitalizing on Mother-tongue

In document Chapter 2 Current Medium of Instruction Policy in Secondary Schools (Page 73-91)


4.1 Hong Kong is part of China as well as an international city where the East meets the West. Against this background, we need to train up our younger generation to become biliterate and trilingual. Since our students do not have much exposure to English in their daily life, and given the fact that the language structure of English is fundamentally different from that of Chinese, we do have to put in greater efforts to increase the English proficiency of our students. Over the past years, the Government has invested significant resources in schools for enhancing students’

English proficiency (see Annex 6) and with good results. Although there have been concerns that mother-tongue teaching will reduce exposure to English, we are convinced that there are many more effective ways to enhance students’ English proficiency. In the following paragraphs, we shall set out our recommendations on how schools may further enhance students’ English proficiency while practising mother-tongue teaching.

Key to Enhancing English Proficiency

4.2 We would like to reiterate that using English as the MOI and learning English are two different issues. Using English as the MOI in learning content subjects will not automatically enhance students’ English proficiency. By strengthening English language education and enriching the English environment on

campus, our schools can indeed enhance English proficiency while practising mother-tongue teaching.

4.3 The EMB earlier commissioned The University of Hong Kong to conduct a study on “Good Practices in Secondary Schools for Enhancing Students’ English Learning Proficiency” during 2003 and 2004. The study has concluded that the following good practices adopted by schools will effectively enhance students’ English proficiency:

(a) Schools have maximized resources and opportunities for students to engage in the meaningful use of English (e.g. schools have effectively deployed manpower resources by including students, parents, alumni, Native-speaking English Teachers (NETs) and native-speaking English students from international schools; schools have also made good use of learning materials available on the Internet, television programmes, movies and newspapers);

(b) Apart from the English Language teachers, other subject teachers, library teachers and non-teaching staff, etc. are involved in the promotion of English language learning. Parents and non-English subject teachers are also made aware that they play an important role in enhancing students’ English proficiency;

(c) Teachers have a thorough understanding of the curriculum design and teaching resources, the basic principles for English learning and the relevant teaching pedagogy. Moreover, they are allowed enough

flexibility in curriculum tailoring to address the particular needs of their students;

(d) The formal and informal curricula have been integrated so that students are given sufficient opportunities in applying and brushing up their English in an authentic language environment outside the classroom;

(e) Teachers have provided students with the necessary scaffolding (e.g.

guidelines, samples, etc.) to perform activities or tasks in English; and (f) A school culture that is positive, non-threatening and collaborative is

created so that students are encouraged to take risks with the use of English through mutual support and encouragement. Professional collaboration such as collaborative lesson planning and peer classroom observation is also strengthened with a view to sustaining the effectiveness of English teaching.

4.4 The study has reaffirmed that the above good practices for learning English can be adopted irrespective of a school’s MOI. Not only can the good practices be carried out under the formal curriculum, they can also be applied outside the classroom in the form of extended learning activities. We are also of the view that language learning hinges on the learning attitude, determination and perseverance of students. It is therefore important to develop students’ initiative, motivation, interest and confidence in learning.

4.5 In fact, a considerable number of schools adopting Chinese as the MOI have

already deployed different strategies to raise students’ interest in learning English.

Some students learning through the mother tongue have also taken the initiative to pursue high standards in English. Some of these successful cases have been documented in the Booklet on Good Practices in English Language Education published in January 2005 and uploaded onto the EMB website. The exemplary schools have encouraged students to make reference to English learning materials as much as possible (such as web-based resources and publications) while learning the content subjects through the mother tongue. They are also keen in creating an English-rich environment, and in promoting reading and writing as well as applying English in school activities and daily life. It is noted that, in general, individuals who have successfully acquired good English have made use of every opportunity in everyday life to expose themselves to English, e.g. by reading English newspapers, magazines, notices and even the directions on food products and other goods, and by listening to radio/television programmes, etc.

Original Proposal

4.6 In the Consultation Document, the Working Group has proposed the following:

(a) Schools adopting Chinese as the MOI may allocate, on top of English Language lessons, not more than 15% of the total lesson time in S1 - S3 for extended learning activities conducted in English.

(b) The Government should continue to provide additional resources for

schools adopting Chinese as the MOI21, and should enhance the flexibility for resources deployment by giving these schools the option of a cash grant in lieu of part or all of such additional teaching posts.

(c) Irrespective of the MOI adopted, students should make good use of learning materials written in both Chinese and English.

Public Concerns

4.7 The direction proposed by the Working Group has received general support from the community and the education sector. There is also a strong consensus in the community that more resources should be made available for schools adopting mother-tongue teaching to strengthen their efforts in “upholding mother-tongue teaching and enhancing English proficiency concurrently”.

Furthermore, the school sector and many of the students we have met during consultation wish that the time allocated for English-medium extended learning should increase incrementally as students progress to a higher grade level so as to increase students’ exposure to English and to better prepare for possible transition to EMI

21 According to the Code of Aid for Secondary Schools, schools in which Chinese is fully used as the MOI in S1 to S3 are provided with additional English teachers. The number of such teachers is assessed on the basis of the number of classes in S1 to S3: one additional teacher for schools with 14 or below classes, two for 15 to 23 classes, three for 24 to 29 classes and four for 30 to 35 classes.

For schools continuing to use Chinese as the MOI in S4 and S5, they will be provided with another additional English teacher according to the total number of classes at these two levels and their percentage of CMI teaching (Remarks: Schools with a total of four or more S4 and S5 classes and the CMI teaching percentage is equal to 25% or more; or schools with less than four S4 and S5 classes in total and their CMI teaching percentage is 50% or more).

learning at senior secondary or tertiary levels.

4.8 The EMB has looked into individual cases to see how schools adopting mother-tongue teaching deploy their existing additional resources for enhancing students’ English proficiency. The case studies have indicated that most schools deploy the additional English teachers for split-class teaching. In some cases the additional teachers provide relief for existing teachers who may then spend more time in leading English learning activities. In other cases the additional teachers are deployed to run additional English lessons for students. Many schools adopting mother-tongue teaching consider that they would require additional resources to enhance students’ English proficiency.

The Way Forward

4.9 Having considered the views from all quarters, the Working Group recommends the following support measures for schools adopting mother-tongue teaching for the purpose of enhancing students’ English proficiency:

(a) Facilitate schools to conduct EMI extended learning activities;

(b) Encourage schools to maximize the use of Chinese and English teaching resources;

(c) Provide additional resources;

(d) Encourage the creation of an English-rich environment; and

(e) Help schools enhance the teaching effectiveness of English Language.

Strategies for Schools Adopting Mother-Tongue Teaching to Enhance English Proficiency

Strategy (1) EMI extended learning activities

4.10 We have set out our proposal on English-medium extended learning activities in paragraph 3.55. Having considered the views of schools and students, we recommend that schools adopting Chinese as the MOI at junior secondary levels may, on top of language lessons, choose to allocate not more than 15%, 20% and 25% of the total lesson time at S1, S2 and S3 respectively in a progressive manner for conducting extended learning activities in English.

Within these upper limits, schools should adjust the percentage of lesson time concerned according to the ability and needs of students. If extended learning activities are conducted at the subject level, the lesson time should also be capped at the above respective percentages, i.e. not more than 15% (at S1), 20% (at S2) and 25% (at S3) of the total lesson time of the subject.

4.11 The EMI extended learning activities aims to give CMI students of different abilities more opportunities to use English as a learning tool. The depth and breadth of the extended learning contents should be designed flexibly to suit the different abilities and aptitudes of the students. Since the core contents of the subjects will continue to be taught through the mother tongue, the normal progress and effectiveness of teaching should not be affected by the extended learning activities.

The EMI-capability requirement of students participating in EMI extended learning may be applied flexibly. Schools may allocate an appropriate percentage

of lesson time and design suitable extended learning activities according to students’

ability and progress in learning the content subjects.

4.12 As teachers’ ability directly affects teaching effectiveness, teachers who will be conducting EMI extended learning activities are also required to meet the same requirement for EMI teachers as set out in paragraph 3.35.

4.13 To facilitate self-evaluation, schools offering EMI extended learning activities should work out a holistic strategy and the detailed arrangement for inclusion in their school development plans and annual school reports. Since extended learning involves the learning of both the content subjects and the English Language subject, English Language teachers should work in close collaboration with content subject teachers to systematically expose students to the use of English in the context of the relevant subjects.

4.14 It is worth exploring how the time allocated for extended learning can be utilized effectively without prejudice to students’ learning of content subjects. We understand that the effectiveness of extended learning hinges on how the extended learning activities are conducted. As rightly pointed out by the education sector, by making use of the extended learning time in a flexible and creative manner and integrating the extended learning activities with other learning activities, schools will be in a better position to capitalize on mother-tongue teaching while enhancing students’ English proficiency. We recommend that the EMB should conduct a

study on extended learning in English with a view to collecting information on local and overseas experiences, developing effective learning models, trying out the models in some selected schools, providing professional support and conducting in-depth case studies. The objectives are to identify good practices and develop the necessary teaching materials for dissemination to schools.

4.15 Currently, we envisage that the extended learning activities may take one or more of the following forms:

(a) Content subject teachers and English Language teachers may collaborate with one another and allocate a certain number of lessons per week cycle for conducting extended learning activities in the form of cross-curricular English enrichment programmes. They may draw reference from the EMB-commissioned English enrichment programme developed by The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2001. Already tried out in 14 schools, the programme consists of 60 modules suitable for CMI students at S2 - S3 levels.

The EMB has organized experience sharing sessions for other schools and uploaded the modules onto the EMB website.

(b) Teachers may allocate some of the lesson time for individual content subjects or cross-curricular subjects during which they would use EMI to go through the relevant subject concepts and contents that have already been taught through the mother tongue. The revision can also be supplemented with a variety of illustrations or other learning


(c) Teachers may spare some time during each lesson of the content subjects concerned for teaching the English vocabulary related to that lesson or for concluding the lesson/conducting discussion in English.

(d) Teachers may, according to the curriculum contents, add on individual modules or themes to be taught in English.

(e) Teachers may consider teaching certain subject content in English depending on the nature of the learning materials (e.g. when the materials obtained from the Internet are written in English).

(f) Schools may strengthen the bridging programmes to facilitate a smooth transition for students who choose to switch to EMI learning at senior secondary levels.

4.16 Certainly schools may, having regard to their own characteristics and the needs of students, choose to conduct the extended learning activities in the mother tongue, thus enabling a deeper and broader treatment of the curriculum. Teachers may, for instance, conduct diversified learning activities which seek to explore daily life issues or socially controversial topics so as to sharpen students’ capacity for creative and analytical thinking as well as decision-making – attributes which facilitate students to construct knowledge on their own.

Strategy (2) Chinese and English learning resources

4.17 Chinese and English learning resources abound in the electronic age.

Irrespective of the MOI, teachers should try to expose students to learning materials written in both Chinese and English. Mother-tongue teaching does not imply that CMI students should confine themselves to Chinese resources; students should also make reference to materials expressed in English. Similarly, EMI students should also draw reference from Chinese materials to enrich their learning experience. As English is an international language, plenty of reference materials, such as books, magazines, websites, textbooks and programmes communicated by the electronic media are available in English. Students should not regard English just as a language subject; they should also regard English as a learning tool for direct access to, and comprehension of, information and the latest knowledge worldwide.

Teachers teaching through the mother tongue should encourage students to make reference to first-hand learning materials written in English.

Strategy (3) Provision of additional resources Enhancing deployment flexibility of existing resources

4.18 We recommend that the Government should continue to provide the existing additional resources, including the additional English teachers (see Annex 6).

Moreover, the Government should provide schools with greater flexibility in the deployment of such resources by allowing existing schools the option of a cash grant in lieu of part or all of such additional teaching posts.

Allocating additional resources to set up an English enhancement scheme

4.19 Making reference to the EMB-commissioned research study conducted by

The University of Hong Kong (see paragraph 4.3) and some successful cases (see paragraph 4.5), we recommend that extra resources should be provided to promote the teaching measures which are proven to be feasible and effective, to encourage schools to attach greater importance to the undertaking of enhancing students’

English proficiency, and to help teachers adjust their teaching strategies. Having examined the deployment of existing resources, we would like to stress that in providing additional resources, the Government must ensure that the resources would be used strategically and assess the effectiveness of the strategies introduced by measuring their impact on students’ English proficiency.

4.20 The Government has undertaken in the Policy Address to top up the Language Fund for strengthening language education. There is a consensus in the community that the Government should provide more resources for schools which adopt mother-tongue teaching to strengthen their teaching and learning of English.

Therefore, we recommend allocating a substantial portion of the top-up fund for setting up an English enhancement scheme for these schools. The initial framework we have in mind is as follows:

(a) In principle, the scheme is open to all schools adopting Chinese as the MOI.

(b) Successful applicant-schools will be given non-recurrent additional resources for building up their capacity for promoting the teaching and learning of English within an agreed timeframe (e.g. six years). The amount of grant will depend on individual school’s proposal and

implementation strategies, but there should be an upper limit.

(c) Participating schools are required to enter into a performance contract with the Government in which they undertake to build up their capacity for effective teaching of English and to enhance the English proficiency of students. The performance targets cover capacity building and academic attainment of students. The indicators for the performance targets on capacity building may be categorized into the following five areas:

(i) Development of a professional teaching team, such as creating more room for teachers to undertake relevant courses in order to acquire the qualifications recommended by the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR)22; (ii) Creation of an English-rich environment in school, such as

developing a culture of using English for day-to-day communication;

(iii) Effective deployment of English Language teachers, such as practising specialized teaching;

(iv) Development of a holistic curriculum plan, such as formulating a

22 In 2003, the Government accepted the recommendations contained in the Action Plan to Raise Language Standards in Hong Kong published by SCOLAR. Starting from the 2004/05 school year, new language teachers should hold a Bachelor of Education degree majoring in the relevant language subject, or both a first degree majoring in the relevant language subject and a Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate in Education majoring in the relevant language subject. Teachers without the above qualifications should acquire them within three to five years of their entry into the profession.

coherent curriculum plan having regard to the teaching focus at different grade levels; and

(v) Commitment to building up a collaborative and reflective teaching culture in the English Panel, such as arranging collaborative lesson planning and peer classroom observations.

For the performance targets on academic attainment of students, participating schools should undertake to attain an improvement target within an agreed timeframe. We propose that the EMB should give further consideration to the specific targets to be set and other implementation details.

(d) Applicant-schools will submit a holistic implementation plan to the EMB which should appoint professionals to provide advice on the feasibility and appropriateness of the proposal.

(e) The implementation plans and annual evaluation reports should be endorsed by the School Management Committee for inclusion in annual school plans and school reports. The EMB would also conduct an interim review of the schools’ progress in implementing the plans.

(f) Since the objective of the scheme is to enhance students’ English proficiency in a CMI setting, the participating schools should not change their MOI status during the specified timeframe of the scheme.

Nor should they withdraw from the scheme unilaterally for no good reason.

4.21 We hope that schools would, through entering into a performance contract with the Government, consciously and systematically deliver what they have undertaken. Our vision is to bring about a new landscape in enhancing students’

English proficiency through collective efforts in the school sector.

Strategy (4) English-rich environment

4.22 Schools should create an English-rich environment outside the classroom with a view to enhancing students’ exposure to English. Multifarious English activities outside the classroom can arouse students’ interest in learning English, which is crucial to enhancing English proficiency. The study by The University of Hong Kong (see paragraph 4.3) reveals that a whole-school approach should be adopted for creating an English-rich environment in school. We recommend that schools consider adopting the following specific measures:

(a) Creating a culture of using English for day-to-day communication – Students should use English in real-life context. In order to provide more opportunities for students to be exposed to and apply English, English Language teachers and EMI teachers should as far as possible converse with students in English. By providing students with a risk-free environment in which no assessment is involved, the arrangement can help boost students’ interest and confidence in the learning of English.

(b) Making effective use of NETs – NETs can provide an authentic

In document Chapter 2 Current Medium of Instruction Policy in Secondary Schools (Page 73-91)

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