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Mother tongue education


Date of sitting: 30 October 2002

Asked by: Ir Dr Hon Ho Chung-tai

Replied by: SCS


Will the Government inform this Council whether :

  1. it has assessed, in the past three years, the effectiveness of using Chinese as the medium of instruction ("mother-tongue education"); if so, of the criteria for assessment and the results thereof;

  2. the Chinese language proficiency of those students who study in schools offering mother-tongue education has improved as a result of receiving mother-tongue education; and

  3. apart from English language classes, other means of learning English are provided by schools offering mother-tongue education?


Madam President:

  1. Since the Government implemented the Medium of Instruction (MOI) Guidance for Secondary Schools in 1998 with a view to enhancing students' learning efficacy, most secondary schools have adopted Chinese as the MOI. It has been generally recognised in the education sector that learning through an appropriate MOI (for the majority of students, it should be their mother-tongue) helps enhance students' cognitive and learning ability. It facilitates more lively discussion in class, picks up the pace of learning, and promotes more in-depth learning. In the past three years, officers of the Education Department (ED) monitored the implementation of the MOI policy in schools through routine and focus inspections which further affirmed the above learning effects.

    Separately, the Working Group on MOI jointly formed by the Board of Education and the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research conducted an opinion survey on the MOI policy in June 1999 to gauge views from secondary school principals, teachers, students and parents. The findings revealed that mother-tongue teaching enabled classroom teaching to be more versatile, made it easier for teachers to engage students in in-depth discussion, and helped enhance teacher-student relationship and make classroom discussions more animated. These phenomena were very common even in schools with mostly academically low achievers.

    Besides, the ED commissioned the Chinese University of Hong Kong in October 1999 to conduct a longitudinal study in about 100 public-sector secondary schools to monitor and evaluate the academic performance and personal development of students learning through different media of instruction. The study has covered the respective cohorts of Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 students in these schools in the 1999/2000 school year and followed up on them until they completed Secondary 3 and 4 in the 2001/02 school year. The report is expected to be ready in 2003. The preliminary findings indicate that students in schools using Chinese as the MOI (CMI schools) have better performance in content subject learning especially in the subject of science. Their attitude towards learning becomes more positive. The ED has recently extended the study to cover development of these students in their senior secondary education until their completion of Secondary 5. Preliminary findings of the study will be available towards the end of 2003. The study will be completed in 2005, which will then give a more comprehensive evaluation of the MOI policy.

  2. Based on schools' results in the Hong Kong Attainment Tests administered each year from 1998 to 2001, there is no significant change in the Chinese language standard of Secondary 1 to Secondary 3 students in CMI schools. When the Chinese University of Hong Kong completes the above 5-year longitudinal study, we would have more concrete and comprehensive data for evaluating students' Chinese language standard after the implementation of the mother-tongue teaching.

  3. Since the implementation of the MOI policy in 1998, the Government has endeavoured to help CMI schools strengthen students' learning of English. These secondary schools have been provided with the following additional support measures to facilitate them to create a favourable language environment :

    • additional English language teachers to support extra-curricular activities for learning English;

    • a recurrent English Language Grant for enhancing the teaching and learning of English. Schools may use the Grant for purchasing English learning materials and teaching aids, and for organizing extra-curricular activities for the English language subject;

    • a one-off grant provided under the Language Fund in the 1998/99 school year to set up an English Corner in each school for enhancing the environment for learning English on the school premises;

    In addition, CMI schools may effectively deploy school and community resources, available to all schools, to extend the scope of learning English through various measures such as :

    • Schools may use the English Extensive Reading Grant to purchase English reading materials in support of their school-based reading programmes to encourage their students to have more exposure to English;

    • Schools may also use the Capacity Enhancement Grant to hire outside services to organize English learning activities for enhancing students' language proficiency;

    • The Curriculum Development Council encourages schools to promote "learning through reading", use information technology effectively, and adopt project learning, so that students may have the initiative to engage in independent learning outside the classroom. Schools may also extend the learning space of their students and provide them with life-wide language learning opportunities by making use of community facilities and resources, and taking part in the learning activities such as English Camp, overseas exchange programmes, etc. organised by the ED or other organizations;

    • Many schools have also made use of the allocations from the Language Fund and Quality Education Fund to organize English learning activities such as English Camp, English Day, English drama/opera, English radio/television broadcast in school and overseas exchange programmes, etc. so as to provide students with a variety of experiences in English learning.

Last revision date: 30 October 2002
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