Welcome Speech by Mr Raymond H C Wong, JP
Permanent Secretary for Education
at the Opening Ceremony of the
Chinese-English Dual-Language Symposium at
Chinese International School
on Friday, 20 March 2009
Dear Professor Sohmen, Mrs. Bean, Mr Mansfield, Dr Faunce, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to this meaningful forum.
I don’t think anybody could seriously doubt that the English language is more widely spoken than it was 50 years ago – or even 10 years ago. There are plenty of reasons for this. People today are more mobile – they relocate to new countries in search of a new career, a new experience, a different lifestyle. This mobility requires a language that enables people from different parts of the world to communicate with each other. The English language already had a foothold in many corners of the world and has thus become an intrinsic part of the globalisation process. It has become the main language of choice for international communication.
Today, the Chinese language is also assuming greater importance. As the Mainland’s influence and economy continue to grow, more and more people around the world are motivated to learn the Chinese language and understand Chinese culture. According to a recent news report, about 40 million people around the world are now learning Chinese as a second language. As of this month, 256 Confucius Institutes and 58 Confucius classrooms have been established in 81 countries.
Proficiency in these two languages – English and Chinese, has become a key attribute for people who want to be competitive in this new world. In Hong Kong we are lucky to have an environment that facilitates and nurtures our young people in acquiring this linguistic competency.
Hong Kong has long been a meeting place for East and West because of its unique geographical position and its political history. While we are proud to be a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, we also value our international characteristics, our cultural and ethnic diversity. Chinese and English are our official languages. Our students are fortunate to have the opportunity of studying both these languages throughout their 12 years of basic education.
With our prime location at the heart of Asia and as the southern gateway to China, Hong Kong is uniquely positioned. As a global financial centre and a city of opportunity with huge potential for economic growth, Hong Kong also has a key role to play in contributing to the prosperity and development of the nation. And in order to achieve this we must equip our students with the requisite proficiency in both Chinese and English.
Chinese is the mother tongue of most students here in Hong Kong, a fact that helps them to perfect their Chinese reading, writing and linguistic skills as they advance through school and college. At the same time they are naturally exposed to the literature, culture and moral lessons inherent in their learning materials. In addition, our teachers further develop students’ Chinese language skills, helping them to widen their repertoire and improve the quality of their reading.
As regards English language education, teachers are encouraged to engage students in meaningful activities and to provide a language-rich learning environment. We want our students to communicate in English both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers can also make greater use of language arts materials and ask more open-ended questions. In this way we can also improve students’ creativity and critical thinking skills. To improve their confidence in using English, teachers are asked to develop students’ phonetic and vocabulary-building skills, and use motivational tasks and projects to facilitate students’ practical use of the language.
We will continue to strengthen the learning and teaching of both Chinese and English by forging a strong partnership with teachers and schools and providing whatever support they need.
One of our key objectives today is to increase the exposure of junior secondary students to English while also promoting mother tongue teaching. Additionally we have to facilitate students’ transition to senior secondary and/or post-secondary education in which English is the primary medium of instruction. To achieve these objectives, professional development for our teachers in dual-language education is critically important and we will make every effort to meet the needs of schools in this respect.
As one of the most renowned international schools in Hong Kong, the Chinese International School (“CIS”) is also a pioneer in fostering an international curriculum in English and Chinese, and has over 25 years of experience in this field. In celebrating this quarter-century milestone, it is especially rewarding for CIS to host this Chinese-English Dual-Language Symposium and to share the school’s valuable expertise and experience in dual-language education.
Ladies and gentlemen, this meeting provides a precious opportunity for school practitioners and experts in the language education field to share their knowledge with a wider audience. It will explore various aspects of language learning and teaching, the challenges, the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts, the good and the bad.
This two-day symposium is timely and relevant to our endeavors in the fine-tuning of the medium of instruction proposal and I will look to the distinguished experts present for inspiration, ideas and advice. I wish you all a rewarding and successful symposium. Thank you.