The Development Of Putonghua Mandarin Education Essay

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Hong Kong is an island situated off the southern coast of China, with a land area of only 1,095 sq. kilometres. It was a British colony for over 150 years before being returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.At that time the Hong Kong Annual Report of 1997, stated that 95% of its 6.3 million population are Chinese, most (95.2%) of whom speak Cantonese as their mother tongue. 38.1% can speak English and 25.3% can speak Putonghua. Due to this historical background, both English and Chinese are official languages in Hong Kong.

In spite of this fact, the state of bilingualism in Hong Kong is unique. Hong Kong is a society where "two largely monolingual communities coexist" (Luke & Richards, 1982). Before the reunification, English and Cantonese were used in different domains, in which Cantonese had an integrative orientation (Peal and Lambert, 1962). The Cantonese speech is always used for social communication within the family, at school and at work, whereas the use of English is largely used for more formal occasions. Apart from Cantonese and English, the other language in use is Putonghua, which is the national and official language of China. It has increasing importance in the domains of government, business and the professions. Its use is emerging in the local language scene in Hong Kong and it is beginning to be widely used, especially when interacting with people from mainland China.

It is because of this situation that the language situation has become a ¿½¿½thorny issue¿½¿½. For a long time, it has been the subject for discussion by politicians, government officials, educators, language experts and other groups in educational sector of Hong Kong Downey (1977); Gibbons (1982); Johnson, Shek & Law (1991) and Pennington (1995). Tracing back its history, the MOI (medium of instruction) changed from English to Chinese until today¿½¿½s trilingualism, which is a common phenomenon which Cantonese, English and Putonghua are used. This in line with the government's policy that Hong Kong should be trilingual in spoken Cantonese, Putonghua and English, and bi-literate in written Chinese and English (Tsui and Bunton, 2000).

Except for this three language policy, the current situation in Hong Kong involves, in practice, code-switching by teachers in practice, as Pennington (1998, p.28) noted, it has a high variable mixture of essentially Cantonese grammar on the one hand and English lexis on the other. It has also become popular in Hong Kong classrooms, especially secondary ones.

The code-switching practice is condemned by purists due to its side effect of developing bilingualism in Hong Kong, as that it has caused deterioration in language standards among students and reduced their ability to use 'pure' Cantonese and English code in communication.

However, using a mixed-code is very much the characteristic of everyday language used by most Hong Kong citizens, which tends to mark out their unique ethno-linguistic identity. It is difficult to adopt a pure code for either Cantonese or English in the Hong Kong context. Although many discussions have taken place about introducing regulations and other ways of preventing it, some people question what has caused this situation and whether it should be condemned as counter-productive behaviour.

It is in this context that this dissertation was conceived.

Chapter two introduces the definition, specific historical background of medium of instruction in Hong Kong, and analyses factors that may influence the decision to use MOI, and both the advantages and limitations concerning the adoption of Chinese as medium of instruction, or English as medium of instruction mainly in secondary classrooms from the political, affective and pedagogical viewpoint.

Chapter three explores the development of Putonghua (Mandarin) education in Hong Kong. By discussing its historical background, the political and economic change in the country, and the differences between using Cantonese and Mandarin, the author attempts to examine whether it is practical to adopt Mandarin as the future MOI.

Based on the conclusions drawn from the above chapters, Chapter four closely investigates the current code-switching practice in relation to political, social and economic reality. It reviews the literature on mixed-code teaching, including a series of Education Commission Reports, the actual language use in the Hong Kong classrooms, the functions of mixed-code and the factors determining its use in the classroom. Then, the author analyses its advantages and possible limitations, in order to ascertain whether it has outstanding benefits for secondary language acquisition and the learning of content subjects. Finally, suggestions are raised for a change of policy concerning Hong Kong¿½¿½s education system.

In Chapter five, the conclusion is drawn, recommendations are proposed and the possible implications, of Hong Kong¿½¿½s present medium of instruction, for education in the future.

Chapter 2 CMI (Chinese Medium of Instruction) versus EMI (English Medium of Instruction)

2.1 Introduction

The language situation in Hong Kong is considered complex. The medium of instruction has been the most thorny and tricky issue in Hong Kong education.

In Hong Kong education, CMI is for 'learning' while EMI is for 'proficiency'. On the one hand, a high proportion of EMI school students acknowledged that they find it easier to learn in their mother tongue than in English. This view has been identified by many other researches who conducted studies, recently, in Hong Kong (Tse et al.2001; Yip, Tsang, and Cheung 2003; Salili and Tsui, 2005). EMI students still prefer continuing to use English as MOI, since it is the most effective means of achieving high levels of proficiency in a language which is a prerequisite for both educational and professional development.

In this chapter, the author will discuss the arguments concerning EMI and CMI in order to ascertain whether the use of MOI in Hong Kong is influenced not just by these two systems of education but also by social and economic factors. The strict division of these two types of schools does not seem to be practical, but rather, a mixed-code system of teaching may be preferable, as it could lead to bilingual education (see Chapter 3) which could be Hong Kong's future language development.

2.2 The Definition of Language Policy, Language Planning and Medium of Instruction

The term 'language policy' is used sometimes in conjunction with other terms, such as 'language planning' and 'language-in education policy' (Baldauf, 1994; Cooper, 1989). 'Language planning' and 'language policy' are "two different yet related concepts", which "share some common characteristics" (Poon, 2000a, p.119). They both involve "deliberate and organized efforts to solve language problems, which very often have a social, political or economic orientation" (ibit, p.116). Language planning is "a macro-sociological activity¿½¿½at a government and national level" only, while language policy can be either a "macro- or micro-sociological activity (ibit, p.116-117). That is to say, language policy may operate at either a governmental or an institutional level in the absence of language planning and covers a wider range of situations than language planning. Language-in-education policy is a type of language policy in the area of education, just like language policies in other areas such as in government administration or business. The medium of instruction is a species of language-in-education policy, which mainly deals with the instructional medium in class (Poon, 2004, p.54). It could also, specifically, be explained as the language used when delivering the content of lessons in subjects other than language learning (Lo, Macaro, 2011).

2.3 Historical Background

The Hong Kong government, so far, has adopted four different MOI policies, namely laissez-faire MOI policy, prior to September 1994, the streaming policy during September 1994 and August 1998, the compulsory Chinese-medium teaching policy since September 1998, and in January 2009 the Education Bureau of Hong Kong has proposed a "fine-tuning policy" which has been implemented in September 2010.

2.3.1 The Language Situation Prior to the Handover from Britain to China in 1997

The language situation, prior to the handover, from early colonial days to late 1980s could be best described as diglossic (Ferguson, 1972) and superposed bilingualism (So, 1989). The diglossic situation in Hong Kong refers to different statuses and functions allocated to English and Chinese. English has always been regarded as the supreme language in the colony and that Chinese could not compete with English even after it had become the co-official language in 1974. English has functioned as a "high" language in government administration, legislature and the judiciary, as well as in the educational field, while Chinese was, and is, used as "low" language at home for daily communication by the majority of the population (Luke and Richards, 1982 and So, 1984, 1989). English as the medium of instruction in colonial days is an example of ¿½¿½superimposed bilingualism. 'Superimposed bilingualism' means that throughout colonization by the British, a bilingual situation was enforced to some extent, rather than being the natural outcome of general usage.

Prior to 1970s, English was the sole official language in people's mind due to colonial influence. To have the Hong Kong Certificate Education Examination was a requirement for entering the Civil Service. Since the 1980s, however, English has been accepted as an international language and so the demand for English-medium schools is even greater, due the requirement in the business field as well as the Civil Service. Since that time, the number of Chinese-medium schools decreased dramatically, so by 1994, to only 12% of the former (Education Commission, 1994, p.22).

In the 1973¿½¿½s Green Paper, the Hong Kong government formally proposed, and later documented, the use of Chinese as the medium of instruction in lower junior secondary schools (Board of Education, 1974). Additionally, schools were given autonomy to select their own instructional medium. However, the implementation proved unsuccessful, so that the final result was that it became only a policy on paper.

Until the 1980s, the laissez-faire policy was popular, which resulted in a decline in English standards and the emergence of the use of mixed-code teaching. However, when Hong Kong entered its late transition period in the early 1990s, English was no longer regarded as a colonial language but as an international language for universal communication (Johnson, 1994; Pennington and Yu, 1994). More than that, it received much praise among students and parents (Poon, 1999, 2000a). Similarly, Hong Kong people now began to realize their sense of identity. Chinese has also been used, positively, by the mass media and in daily life. In 1990 the Education Commission proposed a policy in its fourth report to stream students with different language abilities into three different types of school, which were, the English-medium school, the Chinese-medium school and the two-medium schools (Education Commission, 1990). It was the first time that the Hong Kong government established a clear framework and detailed language plan. However, Poon (2000a) has identified many factors which suggest that the streaming policy is not likely to be fully implemented, and that the use of mixed-code will be predominant in the English-medium schools.

2.3.2 Language Enhancement Policy

Due to the declining standards of students¿½¿½ work, especially English standards, the government has undertaken powerful measures to combat the problem. Four full reports about this issue were published prior to 1997 (Education Department, 1989; Education Commission, 1994, 1995, 1996) with, in addition, several sections of the Education Commission Reports No.1, 2 and 4 that came out with ideas on how to enhance the language standards of students (Education Commission, 1984, 1986, 1990). The ideas involved revising the syllabuses in secondary schools, increasing library funds for language learning in schools, providing additional teachers in secondary schools, and trying out the Expatriate English Teachers scheme in secondary schools (Education Commission, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996). However, after all these efforts, not much improvement was evident in the area of language learning, especially English.

2.3.3 Language Policy after the Handover from Britain to China in 1997

The compulsory Chinese medium instruction policy and bilingual and trilingual policies were put forward after the handover. The scope of language-in-education policies in this period was broadened to encompass the wider societal level, so it included language policies in the workplace and efforts were made to begin to look into area of corpus planning.

In April 1997, Hong Kong issued a document called 'The Firm Guidance', proposing a compulsory Chinese medium of instruction policy (Education Department, 1997a). However, this aroused strong resistance from parents and students (Ming Pao Daily, 3 May, 1997; South China Morning Post, 19 September 1997). Therefore, the 'Firm Guidance' policy and so, subsequently, was revised in September 1997, into 'Guidance', which allowed schools to be exempted from compulsory Chinese medium instruction (Education Department, 1997). Due to the impact of this policy, the number of Chinese-medium schools was increased to 70% in 1998.

Originally, the 'Firm Guidance' and the 'Guidance' policies were aimed at helping to fully implement the streaming policy, according to the stipulation in the Education Commission Report no.4 in 1990 (Education Commission, 1990). In fact, however, these two ¿½¿½Guidances¿½¿½ provided a new direction for Hong Kong's medium of instruction policy that of the compulsory Chinese.

The Chinese medium instruction policy was warmly welcomed by some educational bodies such as Professional Teachers' Union of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Government Secondary Schools Principals¿½¿½ Association, on educational grounds, and Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, on patriotic grounds (Ming Pao Daily, 30 May 1997; Wen Wei Po Daily, 25 March 1997).

Through tracking students' performance, some tertiary institutes commissioned by the former Education Department claimed that one of the intended benefits of Chinese medium instruction was more interaction between teachers and students) and now this has been achieved (SCOLAR, 2003, p.33).

However, the policy was not so popular among students, parents and schools. A study conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups in 1997 reported that 73% students and parents believed that English standards would be lowered and 55% thought it would be disadvantageous for students in getting admitted to university or finding a job in future (South China Morning Post, 19 September 1997).

Meanwhile in 1999, quantitative and qualitative studies conducted by officials, academics and professionals did not have similar results to those claimed by the former Education Department. For instance, a study conducted by the Hong Kong subsidized Secondary schools¿½¿½ Council showed that two thirds of schools disagreed with this policy. The support rate from principals fell from 85% in 1998 to 65% in 1999. According to these studies, the advantages of Chinese medium of instruction may be better teacher-student relationship, and that students would have more motivation. However, the disadvantages could also be poorer self-image on the part of students and a higher student attrition rate.

Later, a review report called 'Action plan to raise language standards in Hong Kong' (SCOLAR, 2003) was issued. Although the support for Chinese medium instruction policy was reinforced, the Committee's position toward the use of the English medium of instruction and the requirement for adopting EMI were less strict than before. The 'Action Plan to Raise Language Standards in Hong Kong' (2003) actually continued the spirit of the bi-literate tri-lingual policy which refers to two written languages (i.e. Modern Standard Chinese and English) and three spoken languages (i.e. Cantonese, Putonghua and English).

Then, in January 2009 the Education Bureau of Hong Kong proposed a "fine-tuning policy", which was implemented in September 2010. It relaxed the limits on teaching English in junior and secondary schools. However, this was said to be a matter of expediency for it cannot truly change the language situation in Hong Kong at the present time.

2.4 Arguments In Favour of Chinese Medium of Instruction

For a long-time it has been recognized, and proved, that there are benefits in the use of the mother tongue. The Hong Kong Department of Education once reported that "educational research worldwide and in Hong Kong has shown that students could learn better through their mother tongue"(Education Department, 1997, p.1). Therefore, "mother tongue (Cantonese) should be used for the purpose of teaching and learning so as to enhance the maximum cognitive development among students" (Chan, 1993.p.89).

Mother-tongue teaching has provided a positive and non-threatening learning environment for students. Students in CMI schools appear to be more active and enjoy themselves more in school. According to the Boys and Girls Association in Hong Kong (Cheung, 1999), one students said that "there is such a happy learning atmosphere in the class- lots of jokes and discussions".

Pedagogically speaking, EMI schools may encounter more English, but it may be the case that the English encountered by students in CMI is more comprehensible. One research, Lin (1991) surveyed 189 Chinese-medium schools, where the results have shown that 80% of the principals and 70% of teachers believed that mother-tongue teaching facilitated higher-level learning for students. As the subject matter input at the secondary level is complex, so it is more difficult for students to gain comprehensible input with limited proficiency. This is identified by the Education Department of Hong Kong (1997) which reported that students in EMI schools were more passive than those in CMI schools, especially in verbal responses to short phrases or even single words. In contrast, English input for those in CMI school students may become more comprehensible when the background knowledge is gained through their mother tongue. Just as Sing To Daily (1997) reported, those students in CMI schools said that they understood English as well as those in EMI schools, but the former understood more in other subjects.

In addition, one of the main topics for EMI-related research in post-colonial Asia, is the dissatisfaction among students, due to the quality of classroom teaching, learning and communication (Vavrus, 2002; Martin, 2003; Bunyi, 2005; Neke, 2005). In Hong Kong classroom, when the MOI changes from students' mother tongue to a second language, lessons tend to become more teacher-centred and there are fewer chances for negotiation of meaning and structure. Complaints include that the lessons often lack enough students' participation and over reliance is placed on memorization. Unlike CMI schools, teachers in EMI schools tend to require cognitive understanding, and pose closed questions which elicit very short responses from their students. This, to some extent, limits their students' time and space for digesting and fully acquiring the necessary knowledge (Ng, Tsui and Marton, 2001). This argument is echoed by another research (Lo, Macaro, 2011, p.47) which suggests that fewer negotiation of meaning at the lexical or phrasal level occur in EMI lessons. Teachers in EMI lessons rarely adopt the kind of pedagogical scaffolding (e.g. clarification, requests, confirmation and comprehension checks) that might enable students to have a deeper understanding. The teaching techniques that they use, only enables students to arrive at a basic conceptual understanding. In addition, In Cheung's study (1999), both in CMI and EMI teachers said that they preferred to lecture in the classrooms. However, EMI teachers relied more heavily on teacher lecturing. An average of 19.8% teacher talk-asks questions are asked in CMI classrooms while 8.3% teacher talk-asks questions are recorded in EMI classroom. As a result, EMI students complain that while EMI may have some positive effects on English proficiency but it can also have considerably disadvantages on the learning content of subjects, and that the EMI lessons are much more "transmission-oriented", partly due to the fact that students lack of opportunities for speaking which would result in them having limited proficiency to provide detailed English answers in class.

It was discovered that teachers in EMI schools have a relatively narrow range of teaching methods. For instance, they rely heavily on text reading, or pay more attention to explaining and reciting the vocabulary in the text. On the contrary, when Chinese MOI was used, teachers' instructions are in depth, and questionings are more frequent (Mak and Siu, 1992).

2.5 Arguments In Favour of English Medium of Instruction

The status of English in modern society is indispensable, as English is a world language and it is also the language of science, technology and business. Therefore, according to Tsui, Shum, Wong, Tse and Ki (1999, p.208), "the mastery of English by every citizen can put the country in a very competitive position in Asia". Hong Kong is no exception, as a former British colony and now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, English has a superior socio-economic status and has long time been regarded as a gateway to bright academic and career prospects.

Pedagogically speaking, one of the reasons for people opposing the adoption of CMI, is that CMI has reduced students' exposure to English. Exposure time plays a significant role in language acquisition as in Chan's large-scale study (1997). He has shown that more than 5000 students believe that the relationship between the amount of English used by teachers and students' progress in the language is closely connected. If a society intends to continue L2 competence, the language must be used not as a subject but as a medium of instruction in education. When adopting EMI, students have a chance to use English in a variety of contexts during other lessons. On the one hand, students really feel the need to improve their English in order to learn content-matter subjects as well. On the other hand, since content subject lessons provide a means for using the language, English learning is made to be more interesting and authentic. Therefore, as Beardsmore (1998) commented "to achieve adequate levels of meta-linguistic awareness it is not enough to teach language as a subject". The compulsory Chinese medium instruction policy only has weakened English language learning despite the little effects shown by the bi-literate trilingual policy.

Generally speaking, students from EMI stream have expressed greater confidence in their English ability than their counterparts from the CMI schools. Except for writing and vocabulary, all the other means are over 2.50, it indicates the degree that EMI students have toward their English skills (Evans, 2009). On the contrary, the means of CMI school students are below 2.50, which suggest that the majority of students lack confidence in their English competence (Evans, 2009). Though the reason behind their perception may be related to many students having private tutors, or taking part in English-related activities, the main reason which leads to this disparity is still their different language-learning experiences in these two types of schools. More than that, for CMI students, they show their concern that their only opportunity to learn English is in English-language classes while EMI graduates could learn the language not only in English-language classes but also in other content subjects. CMI has been obligatorily deprived the rights of having more time exposing to English, this has potentially restricted their chances for future advancement.

Besides these findings, students also tend to pay less attention and interest in English, when proficiency of English will only influence their scores of English as a subject. The other content subjects would no longer be affected by English since they are all taught in Chinese. Just as Poon (1999, 2000b) argues that the Chinese medium of instruction policy has an adverse effect on English language learning. In her reports, a headmaster in one secondary school which was originally adopted EMI and then switched to CMI from 1986 said that his present students are less motivated since English now is only a subject and the proficiency in English will not impact on other subjects.

Apart from the affective and pedagogical reasons of adopting EMI, the most important reason for supporting EMI, for me is the social and economic reasons. It is best identified by noting parents¿½¿½ attitudes towards the medium of instruction. Although they support that Chinese-medium education as being helpful in certain "art subjects" like history and geography, they disagree that the MOI in Hong Kong should be CMI in secondary schools. Rather, they still prefer EMI because it could bring further educational and professional development for their children. This is echoed by the evidence from CMI graduates, who are admitted by university, and often find it more difficult than their EMI counterparts to reach the requirement of English-medium University study (Evans and Morrison, 2007). As a result, parents and schools are fully aware of the need for English, and so many parents are fighting to get their children into EMI schools. All schools, especially CMI schools, are putting a great deal of their resources into English teaching. According to a survey of CMI schools, 86.5% of the schools have made use of extra-curricular activities to provide more opportunities to learn English and 78.9% are enriching their library resources for English learning as well (Tsui, Shum, Wong, Tse, Ki, 1999).

2.6 Conclusion

Admittedly, the mother-tongue policy was primarily motivated by educational rather than political considerations (Education Commission, 2005), or as Weinstein (1984, p.115) remarked, schools make access for students to the political and economic system, and they help to build a sense of national identity.

As far as I am concerned, if the decisions made about MOI in Hong Kong are based solely on educational factors, the issue would be much less complex. However, concerning the current situation in Hong Kong, factors influencing MOI are not only about classroom pedagogy but also include political, economic and demographic issues. Tsui and Tollefson (2004, p.2) argued that MOI policy, which acts as a part of the education policy, determines which social and linguistic groups have access to political and economic opportunities, and which groups are disenfranchised, and is therefore a key means of power distribution and social construction'. This reflects that why keen parents and school authorities are in favour of EMI. It is the adoption of EMI that could give the greatest guarantee for their children¿½¿½s further development in the business society. What the parents consider to be best is not confined to academic study, more than that, they have to take into consideration what their children could be able to do after graduation. Therefore, one could conclude that the language policy in schools is never simply an educational issue. It is intertwined with social, political and economic concerns.