Language policy and the medium of instruction

Wai Him Vincent KAN, Thomas Andrew KIRKPATRICK

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Hong Kong provides an excellent case study of language policy in a multilingual world. Cantonese is the medium of instruction for all government primary schools, where English and Putonghua are taught as subjects. The majority of HK's secondary schools are also Chinese (Cantonese) medium, but about a quarter are English medium. This policy has not been popular with parents and the government has now bowed to parental pressure for more access to English and announced a 'fine-tuning' of the current policy, to take effect from the school year 2010-2011. This new policy will allow secondary schools to teach more subjects through English, as long as certain criteria concerning student and teacher capabilities and resources are met. After a brief historical review of Hong Kong's language policy, the paper will report on an empirical study into the practical and pedagogical consequences of the new fine-tuning policy. The study surveyed 127 secondary schools to identify what changes in practice were planned. The hypothesis was that schools would be primarily influenced by parental demand and that therefore the overwhelming majority of them would plan to use the maximum allowance given by fine-tuning to increase their teaching through English as a subject and as a medium of instruction. In reporting the findings, the paper will show whether these predictions were in fact met, and the effect of the new policy on the hiring, deploying and professional development planning for teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010


Kan, V., & Kirkpatrick, A. (2010, December). Language policy and the medium of instruction. Paper presented at the 2nd East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research: Teacher Education for the Future: International Perspectives, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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