English medium secondary schools: Privileged orphans in the SAR


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This paper examines how Hong Kong has developed from a diglossic society, where the relationship between English and Chinese were largely in complementary distribution to each other, into a bilingual society, where there is a proliferation of mixed codes, involving a continuum of language use from “high” Cantonese and English to “low” Cantonese with code switching. Against this background, the Government’s recently promulgated mandatory language policy on the medium of instruction in secondary schools is examined. Though the obvious purpose of this policy is to improve the credibility and prestige of mother tongue education, it has the effect of creating a set of elite monolingual English medium schools. Whether these will be able to fully serve the needs of a bilingual society is discussed, especially as Putonghua and High Cantonese are increasingly used in the domains of government and higher education, and a variety of mixed codes and modes used in other social and domestic domains. The paper concludes with a preliminary examination into possible directions in research into the development of a bilingual teaching code, which is genre and domain sensitive and responsive to student needs. Copyright © 2000 International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-158
JournalIntercultural Communication Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


O'Halloran, S. (2000). English medium secondary schools: Privileged orphans in the SAR. Intercultural Communication Studies, 10(2), 145-158.


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