Hong Kong’s system of education is similar to the system of education of the United Kingdom. Protestant and Catholic missionaries introduced education in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the Kindergarten level of education takes three years and is not compulsory (Postiglione & Lee, 1997, p. 26). After kindergarten, the learner joins primary school which takes six years and it is compulsory. Secondary education is compulsory and it takes three years. It has two levels which are senior secondary which takes two years and is not compulsory and matriculation course which takes two years. A learner qualifies to get tertiary education after going through the matriculation course. At the tertiary level, the duration depends on the subject that one is studying. Most of the schools in Hong Kong are single-sex schools and the students are disciplined.
In addition, adult education is provided in Hong Kong and it helps middle-aged people to get degrees (Postiglione & lee, 1997, p. 29). In Hong Kong, the government runs a few schools while most of the schools are run by a charitable and religious organization and most of these organizations determine the curriculum to be studied in those schools. However, some charitable organizations are not financially supported by the government. Private schools that perform well are supported through the direct subsidy scheme (Postiglione & Lee, 1997, p. 27). In addition, there are international schools that follow the baccalaureate program but they mostly cater to the children of the elite and expatriates. In Hong Kong, there are eight internationally recognized universities that are funded by the government. These universities offer associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Therefore many students from all over the world join these universities.
The use of English as a medium of instruction in schools in Hong Kong will help to produce multilingual school graduates and improve language standards among the residents. This is not true and the essay does not support it.
A Multilingual school graduate is an individual who can be able to communicate in two or more languages. The person may be communicating through writing or speaking which is termed as actively communicating or through listening, reading, or perceiving which is known as passive communication. In most cases, multilingual speakers usually maintain the language acquired during childhood.
According to Schaeffer (n.d, p.15), Hong Kong was colonized by the British colonizers and also the Chinese. Therefore English and Cantonese are the most used languages. In some school levels such as kindergarten and primary school, Cantonese is used as the medium of instruction in most schools. In addition, some secondary schools also use Cantonese as the medium of instruction. This helps many students to learn their vernacular and hence they understand better because of learning using their vernacular.
However, in the senior secondary level and at the tertiary level English is used as the medium of instruction because they admit students from diverse cultures and hence English is the most common language to many people. The language of instruction used in schools depends on the school the learner attends. Schools that have Chinese as the medium of instruction use Cantonese and English as a second language while those that use the English medium of instruction teach in English and use Cantonese as a second language (Marie de Mejia, 2002, p. 199). However, about eighty percent of schools use Chinese as the primary medium of instruction in Hong Kong.
Importance of multilingual education in Hong Kong
Multilingual education has advantages to the students as well as the institutions in Hong Kong. For example, children at the kinder garden level and primary level of education may take learning positively when taught using vernacular as the medium of instruction and English as a second language. Therefore the use of many languages motivates the learners and also helps them to learn more languages.
In addition, multilingual education in Hong Kong attracts many teaching staff especially in tertiary institutions because in these institutions English is used as the medium of instruction. Therefore lectures from different countries in the world that are mostly attracted to teaching in Hong Kong due to the high salaries, can lecture in these institutions because English is used in most countries (Marie de Mejia, 2002, p.198).
Multilingual education favors’ those who immigrate to Hong Kong especially those from countries where English is not widely used as a medium of instruction in academics. Therefore this system of education attracts students from all over the world to study in the institutions located in Hong Kong. This is because it does not restrict its education to those who are proficient in English only but rather it provides education to people from all cultures. Multilingual speakers have an added advantage because they can do their studies in other countries. For example, students from Hong Kong may choose to do their further studies abroad in countries such as the United States of America, Australia, Canada, and Britain. Therefore multilingual education contributes to the economic growth and development of the country (Marie de Mejia, 2002, p. 199). This is because the use of many languages attracts traders to Hong Kong.
In addition, multilingual education helps in boosting self-esteem in people especially those from nonnative speaking countries. It also creates a sense of belonging to the students studying in Hong Kong institutions because they can communicate and also understand what is taught in schools. When students understand the academic content taught, their performance improves and hence the quality of education improves. Other than creating self-esteem in students, multilingual education brings equality among those from poor backgrounds and the students from elite families. Equality is achieved when the same language is used as a medium of instruction in all schools. For example, when Cantonese is used both in private and government schools learners get the same quality of education (Marie de Mejia, 2002, p. 199). Therefore use of English as a medium of instruction in institutions would not produce multilingual school graduates and it would not improve language standards among the residents of Hong Kong. This is because many students are not proficient in English and hence it would be difficult for them to study in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s multilingual education favor students, those from within the country and abroad. This is because most schools use Cantonese and English. Cantonese is used as the medium of instruction and English as a second language in lower levels of education. Students get motivated when they are taught in their vernacular. Multilingual education attracts students from nonnative speaking countries. In addition, it creates a sense of belonging and boosts self-esteem in learners.
Marie de Mejia, A. (2002). Power, prestige, and bilingualism: international perspectives On elite bilingual education. Multilingual matters.
Postiglione, A.G., & Lee, W. O. (1997). Schooling in Hong Kong: organization, teaching and Social context. Hong Kong University Press. Hong Kong:
Schaeffer, G. (n.d.). Bilingual education in Hong Kong: a historical perspective.