The historical and socioeconomic context out of which classroom code switching has arisen in Hong Kong is examined. Empirical analyses of actual instances of classroom code switching in Hong Kong secondary schools are presented, and the social, cultural, and educational functions of classroom code switching are discussed. Classroom code switching is found to be the teachers' and students' local pragmatic response to the symbolic domination of English in Hong Kong, where many students with limited English capital struggle to acquire an English-medium education because of its socioeconomic value. The theoretical justification and the social consequences of the linguistic streaming policy adopted by the Hong Kong government since September 1994 are also examined. The article concludes with a cost-benefit analysis of the English-dominated educational system in Hong Kong. Copyright © 1996 Published by Elsevier Inc.