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Fwd: Cantonese-medium instruction in Hong Kong

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  • Donald Z. Osborn
    FYI, this item concerning how HK students studying in their first language, Cantonese, also performed favorably in English compared to students who followed
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 13, 2005
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      FYI, this item concerning how HK students studying in their first language,
      Cantonese, also performed favorably in English compared to students who
      followed the English only curriculum. I suspect they also had better Cantonese
      skills than than the students taught in English as medium of instruction (hence
      more likely to have high bilingual literacy, among other things). It would also
      be interesting to know about performance in Mandarin Chinese. (Fwd from Stephen
      Krashen's distribution list)... DZO


      No letter to the editor, just a comment. OK to

      Two articles of interest from Hong Kong. It is very
      hard to draw firm conclusions from standardized test
      data, but if Hong Kong students are in fact doing
      better in English from a Cantonese-based curriculum,
      as compared to English-medium, as suggested, it could
      be because (1) they have more mother-tongue education,
      which means firmer knowledge of subject matter, which
      in turn means they understand much more of the English
      they hear and read, and (2) the English-medium classes
      are not as comprehensible as they could be.

      August 10, 2005
      Higher results for Chinese-medium schools


      Chinese-medium schools have performed better in this
      year's Certificate of Education Examination, including
      in English language, Secretary for Education &
      Manpower Professor Arthur Li says.

      During his visit to the Methodist Church HK Wesley
      College in Chai Wan today, Professor Li said the
      proportion of Chinese-medium students obtaining five
      or more subject passes increased 5.6%. And their
      English results have shown continuous improvement.

      The proportion of students obtaining a pass in English
      (syllabus B) and a credit in English (syllabus A) have
      increased remarkably. Of the 200 schools switching
      from English-medium to Chinese in 1998, more have
      exceeded their attainments in 2002, up from 40 schools
      in 2003 and 80 in 2004, to 120 in 2005.

      In addition, 75%, or 150 schools, have their pass
      rates in English (syllabus B) or credit rates in
      English (syllabus A) higher than those of 2004.

      "This reflects that the overall English language
      standard of students in Chinese-medium schools is on a
      steady rise and we can also re-affirm that
      mother-tongue teaching indeed can enhance our
      students' acquisition of subject knowledge," he said.

      Mother-tongue education is working well, Li asserts
      Winnie Chong
      August 11, 2005
      The Standard

      Education chief Arthur Li insisted Wednesday that Hong
      Kong students are reaping the rewards of the switch to
      mother-tongue teaching that began eight years ago -
      and that educators should be lauding their progress
      instead of insulting them.

      The broadside from the Secretary for Education and
      Manpower followed criticism that improved English
      results at this year's Hong Kong Certificate of
      Education Examination came about only because more
      students had switched from a harder English
      curriculum, which requires longer essays and higher
      comprehension levels, to a much easier one.

      The number of students sitting for the easier course
      increased by 25.3 percent to 28,733 this year, from
      22,933 in 2004, while the numbers dropped in the
      harder course from 50,978 in 2004 to 48,276 this year.

      As a general rule, a ``C'' grade in Syllabus A, the
      easier course, is the equivalent of an ``E'' grade in
      Syllabus B, the harder one. Nonetheless, while
      acknowledging that Syllabus A is easier, Li said
      results from the more than 200 secondary schools that
      had been forced to switch to
      Chinese-medium-of-instruction (CMI) are sufficient
      proof that the system is working effectively. Li said
      that in 2003, about 40 of the 200 schools showed
      better results over the previous year when English was
      still the medium of instruction. In 2004, 80 of the
      200 schools boasted better results and that this year
      the number had risen to 120.

      Pass rates, he said, matter more, with the pass rate
      of the easier Syllabus A rising from 45.3 percent in
      2002 to 48 percent in 2003, 48.9 percent in 2004 and
      52.2 percent this year. In the harder course, Syllabus
      B, the pass rate of 68 percent in 2002 fell slightly
      to 66.3 percent in 2003 before rising to 70.2 percent
      in 2004 and 74.8 percent this year.

      ``Instead of words of encouragement to our young
      people, we go on criticizing them and I think this is
      very unhealthy and very unfair to them,'' Li said. ``
      Our students are doing better.''

      Explaining why CMI students are getting better
      results, the bureau's principal assistant secretary,
      Lam Fan Kit-fong, said students are now able to learn
      English as a subject, rather than having to digest
      English as the medium of instruction for most

      However, Choi Kwok-kwong, vice chairman of Education
      Convergence, a concern group, said the government
      should give precise figures for the number of CMI
      students who sat for Syllabus A and Syllabus B and
      provide the exact pass rate for each group so that the
      public can better gauge whether the mother-tongue
      switch is really working. Choi also urged the
      government to give EMI schools more resources so that
      they can better help their students learn
      English.``Instead of just saying CMI schools are doing
      better in English, the government should investigate
      why parents believe CMI schools are inferior to
      [English-medium] schools.''

      Au Pak-kuen, vice-president of the Hong Kong
      Professional Teachers' Union, said many other factors
      affect the school performance, including the quality
      of students allocated to them, and that reliable data
      is needed for proper assessment of the results.

      Lam Tat-yan, principal of the Chung Sing Benevolent
      Society's Mrs Aw Boon Haw Secondary School, agreed
      that the switch of some students from English Syllabus
      B to Syllabus A had helped his school get better
      results. He said that last year, when all students in
      the school sat for Syllabus B, the pass rate was only
      20.8 percent. However this year, 60 of the 122
      students switched to Syllabus A and managed a pass
      rate of 26.7 percent.


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