Information Paper

Medium of Instruction Guidance for Secondary Schools


This paper briefs Members on Education Department (ED)'s plan to issue guidance on Medium of Instruction (MOI) to secondary schools.


2.Hong Kong is an international city as well as a business, financial and tourist centre in Asia. On the one hand, Chinese (Cantonese in the main) is the mother tongue and the language medium for everyday communication for the majority of our population. On the other hand, we recognise the importance of English proficiency in Hong Kong's continued development and prosperity. Hence, the aim of Government's language education policy is for our young people to be biliterate (i.e. master written Chinese and English) and trilingual (i.e. speak fluent Cantonese, English and Putonghua).

3.Educational research studies world-wide show that most students learn more effectively through their mother tongue. Students can study effectively in another language only when they have a firm foundation in their mother tongue and have reached competency in that second language.

4.The use of Chinese as MOI will lift language barriers and raise our students' interest in studying. They will be better able to understand what is taught, analyse problems, express views, and develop an inquisitive mind and critical thinking. Mother-tongue teaching thus leads to better cognitive and academic development. Moreover, our students will also be better able to concentrate on the learning of English.

5.The positive impact of Chinese as the MOI on the learning of Chinese and English as a subject is borne out by the fact that students from traditional Chinese-medium schools consistently attain a pass rate higher than the territory-wide rate in both Chinese Language and English Language in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination.

6.Since its establishment in 1984, the Education Commission has been concerned with the issue of MOI. Education Commission Report (ECR) No. 1 recommended active promotion of mother-tongue teaching. This was accepted by the Government. Since 1986, the Government has been providing support measures and additional resources for local public sector secondary schools using Chinese as MOI to prevent any possible lowering of students' English standard due to reduced exposure to the English language.

7.In 1990, the Government accepted ECR4's recommendation that regular reviews be conducted to monitor progress and to consider whether stronger measures might be needed to achieve the objectives of encouraging Chinese-medium instruction and minimising mixed-code teaching.

8.In 1996, ECR6 re-affirmed the policy of mother-tongue teaching, and recommended ED's publication of advice on the appropriate MOI in 1997 for adoption by individual schools from the 1998/99 school year. It further recommended that, to ensure adoption, ED should give clear indications of sanctions for non-compliance.

9.On 27 March 1997, ED issued the consultation document on Proposed Arrangements for Firm Guidance on Secondary Schools' Medium of Instruction (Annex A) for consultation with relevant bodies from 27 March 1997 to 31 May 1997.

10.In addition to the views of the Legislative Council Panel on Education, the Education Commission (EC), the Board of Education (BoE) and the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR), ED received 106 written submissions from school councils, educational bodies, school heads' unions, teachers' associations, sponsoring bodies, educators, parents, student bodies and other members of the public. The Legislative Council in a Motion Debate on 7 May 1997 gave unanimous support to using Chinese as MOI.

MOI Guidance for Secondary Schools

11.In July 1997, after considering views from consultations, ED again consulted SCOLAR, BoE and EC, and the following principles and arrangements have been established for the MOI guidance for secondary schools to be issued in September 1997:

  1. All local public sector secondary schools should, on the basis of the principles in the MOI guidance, examine their own conditions to determine the MOI appropriate to the needs and ability of their students.

  2. Starting with the Secondary 1 intake of the 1998/99 school year, Chinese should be the basic MOI for all local public sector secondary schools. If a school should, after careful deliberation, intend to adopt English as MOI, the school must provide sufficient information and justification to ED to support such choice.

  3. ED will establish a vetting committee, chaired by a non-official, to consider schools' proposal to use English as MOI. The factors for consideration will be detailed in the MOI guidance. The aim is to ensure that the procedures are open, fair and transparent, with the benefit of impartial input.

  4. Mixed-code teaching should not be used in schools.

  5. At junior secondary levels, individual schools should not operate both Chinese-medium and English-medium classes at the same level.

  6. At senior secondary levels, the MOI policy may be applied with more flexibility. Exceptionally, schools meeting requirements may, with ED's agreement, use English as MOI for some subjects.

  7. At sixth form levels, schools may choose the MOI which best meets the needs of their students.

  8. For the subjects of religious studies, cultural, commercial and technical subjects, individual schools may choose the MOI which best meets their circumstances.

  9. Schools should introduce to students the English-Chinese glossaries for various subjects, reference books and learning materials regardless of the language medium.

12. To ensure that individual schools' appropriate MOI is clearly known to parents and the public, from 1998, ED will publish each secondary school's appropriate MOI in the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) School List. ED will monitor the situation through inspections, parents' feedback and liaison with schools. ED will remind schools where appropriate.

13.Any schools not adopting their appropriate MOI will have to bear the consequences: e.g. face complaints from parents, queries from the public and directions from the Director of Education under the Education Ordinance.

14.ED has been running teacher training programmes to prepare teachers for using Chinese as the MOI for many years. Since 1990, the then Institute of Language in Education (now merged under the Hong Kong Institute of Education), have been running in-service courses for teachers in secondary schools using Chinese as the MOI. The ED Advisory Inspectorate has also over the years conducted numerous training programmes for secondary school teachers other than those teaching Chinese Language and English Language to facilitate their adopting Chinese as the MOI. Such training will continue. ED will expand relevant training programmes and activities as necessary.

15.ED has plans to strengthen support to schools using Chinese as MOI. There are sufficient sets of Chinese-medium textbooks on the market. Publishers have also responded positively to ED's call to produce more quality Chinese-medium textbooks to meet the increasing need for implementation of the MOI guidance. At the same time, in accordance with ECR6 recommendations, SCOLAR is studying and implementing various measures to enhance language proficiency.

16.Every three years, ED will review the situation to ensure that the implementation of the MOI guidance meets its aim. We are confident that mother-tongue teaching can lift language barriers in students' learning and raise the standard of education, as well as sustain our language education policy of biliteracy and trilingualism to maintain Hong Kong's high international standing.

Education Department
August 1997