English for young learners in Mainland China and Hong Kong: Opportunities and dilemmas

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Over the past decade, the education systems in mainland China and Hong Kong have implemented major changes to language policy. In China, English has been introduced at Primary 3 level, while in Hong Kong the initial post-handover guidelines have been effectively reversed by the so-called “fine-tuning” of the language policy in 2009, which favours English as the Medium of Instruction. In both places, there is also huge parental demand in the Kindergarten sector for helping young children to learn English. This paper uses the triadic framework of Fagerlind and Saha (1995) that comprises political, socio-economic and educational perspectives, to understand the phenomenon of English in terms of its role and status in education in mainland China and Hong Kong, and to identify the implications of these language policies. It finds that, while the learning of English at a young age can benefit the children in preparing them for socio-economic advancement, there are issues of social equity, identity, resourcing and curriculum balance that need to be addressed. While the focus is on mainland China and Hong Kong, the findings are relevant to many education systems in the Asia Pacific region where English is a foreign language.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010



Adamson, B. (2010, May). English for young learners in Mainland China and Hong Kong: Opportunities and dilemmas. Paper presented at the International Conference on Teaching and Learning of English for Children in Early Years in the Asia Pacific Region, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.