A study of the specialised teacher education needs of content subject teachers in English medium schools in Hong Kong

Philip HOARE, Wai Yu Stella KONG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Recent research indicates that English medium education in Hong Kong, even in schools with very able students, is not helping students to achieve the level of second language proficiency that both theory and the experience of other countries suggest is possible. The study reported in this paper aimed to identify the contribution that teacher education can make to improving the quality of English medium education in Hong Kong. The paper takes into account the recent developments in the Hong Kong Government's medium of instruction policy. The study investigated the specialised language oriented teacher education needs of English medium secondary teachers of content subjects in Hong Kong in connection with the further development of a teacher education programme in the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The study is based within immersion education theory of which English medium education in Hong Kong is seen as a variant. This proposes that students can acquire a very high level of proficiency in the second language through the use of the language as the medium of learning for content subjects across the curriculum. Research in other educational contexts suggests a variety of qualities which teachers may need but none relate to the specific context of Hong Kong. The unusual characteristics of immersion education in Hong Kong area very high proportion of students undertaking English medium education by international standards (even with the recent changes in government policy), teachers with varying levels of second language proficiency and students with very varying levels of motivation to learn in this way. Although some research exists within Hong Kong on this topic it is incomplete and inconclusive. It was, therefore, necessary to bring together research from overseas and Hong Kong within this one study. In addition, questionnaires were administered to teachers, interviews were held with teachers and lessons observed in schools. The analysis produced a framework consisting of five specialised qualities needed by English medium teachers which any teacher education programme needs to help them to acquire. These are as high a level of English/Chinese bilingual proficiency as possible, a basic knowledge of the second language system and the appropriate metalanguage, control of instructional strategies essential for teaching through a second language, a commitment to the goals of English medium teaching in Hong Kong, and lastly, the ability to manage change. The second part of the study describes the provision of teacher education courses for English medium subject teachers across Hong Kong at both pre- and in-service level and reports how far these courses meet the criteria suggested by the framework. Changes to the course design of the Hong Kong Institute of Education in-service course for English medium subject teachers are examined in the light of this research. Possible future directions within both pre-service and in-service teacher education for immersion teachers are then considered from the perspective of the research findings and of the educational and political changes currently underway in Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1997


Hoare, P., & Kong, S. (1997, November). A study of the specialised teacher education needs of content subject teachers in English medium schools in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 14th Annual Conference: Compulsory Education and Beyond, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China.


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