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Why should we teach in the mother tongue?

Guidance for Secondary Schools
September 1997

1.1 Educational research worldwide and in Hong Kong have shown that students learn better through their mother tongue. The educational benefits of mother-tongue teaching include :

 

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Mother-tongue teaching has positive effects on students' learning;
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Most students prefer learning in the mother tongue;
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Students learning in the mother tongue generally perform better than their counterparts using English as medium of instruction (MOI); and
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Students of traditional Chinese-medium schools consistently achieve a higher pass percentage than the territory-wide average in both Chinese Language and
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English Language in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. This shows the positive impact of mother-tongue teaching on the learning of Chinese and English as a subject.


It is therefore Government's policy :

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to encourage secondary schools to use Chinese as MOI; and
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to discourage the use of mixed code, ie a mixture of Chinese and English, in teaching and learning.


1.2 This policy has been re-affirmed over time:

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In 1984, Education Commission Report (ECR) No. 1 established a clear policy to encourage secondary schools to teach in the mother tongue;
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In 1986, Government introduced support measures to schools using Chinese as MOI;
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In 1990, ECR4 endorsed the principles for MOI and recommended regular reviews to monitor progress and stronger measures to encourage Chinese-medium instruction and minimise mixed-code teaching;
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In 1994, Government started to advise schools on the language proficiency of their Secondary 1 intake to assist them in choosing an appropriate MOI;
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In 1994, Government announced a Policy Commitment to issue firm guidance to all secondary schools on MOI by 1997/98; and
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In 1996, ECR6 re-affirmed the policy of mother-tongue teaching, supported the publication of advice on the appropriate MOI in 1997 for adoption by individual schools in 1998 and asked for clear indications of sanctions for non-compliance.

 

1.3 With the use of Chinese as MOI lifting language barriers in the study of most subjects, students will be better able to understand what is taught, analyse problems, express views, develop an enquiring mind and cultivate critical thinking. Mother-tongue teaching thus leads to better cognitive and academic development. Our students can also have more time to concentrate on the learning of English.

1.4 Nonetheless, Government fully appreciates that some schools have been operating successfully with English-medium teaching and have achieved good results. These schools may continue to teach in English if they wish to do so and satisfy the requirements at paragraph 2.4 below.

1.5 There is consensus among the education sector that ED should continue to work together with schools and relevant bodies to promote mother-tongue teaching and concurrently enhance the language proficiency of our students. To this end, ECR6 provides a comprehensive strategy for enhancing proficiency in Chinese and English.

1.6 ED will continue to do all it can to assist schools to upgrade the standard of language teaching and learning.

 

Last revision date: 02 December 2011
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