Language teachers' perspectives on mother tongue language education in a multilingual post-colonial region

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Language learning is more than acquisition of linguistic skills but also a social, psychological and cultural process (e.g. Lin, 2012; Ochs, 2002; Vygotsky, 1987). Mother tongue language (MTL) is a core subject in most countries/regions' school curriculum. Usually, the language is both the tool with which knowledge and skills are taught and learned, and the vehicle for students to learn about the traditions of the countries' literature and culture (e.g. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013; Department of Education, UK, 2013a, 2013b; Department of Elementary Education, 2011; Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China, 2011; Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 2011). However, MTL education in Hong Kong is complicated by the colonial history. Traditionally, Chinese language education was a mixture of education on philosophy, history, politics and literacy. On the other hand, as a British colony, the previous Hong Kong MTL curriculum emphasized more on linguistics skills instead of transmission of Chinese cultural, literary and ethical values. With the sovereignty of Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, the new Chinese language curriculum seems to reflect a shift to a more all-rounded model. This study looks at the role of culture in MTL education in postcolonial Hong Kong. It takes a critical perspective on the ways in which a language teacher views the aims and objectives of the language subject he/she is teaching as immediately affecting both the design and pedagogies in the curriculum. So what are Hong Kong language teachers' perspectives on mother tongue language education in the postcolonial period? Interviews were administrated to explore how language teachers view the aims and objectives of MTL education as well as their current practice. Results of the interview on seventeen teachers indicate that although teachers agreed that culture is an important element in MTL education, their practice contrasted this view in focusing on linguistic skills and knowledge. This points to a strong influence of the previous colonial skills-based language curriculum on their modern day pedagogical practices. Attempts will be made to identify implications for culturally transformative teacher education in post-colonial Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


language education
mother tongue
Hong Kong
Ministry of Education
history politics
sports science
elementary education


Leung, W. H. (2015, June). Language teachers' perspectives on mother tongue language education in a multilingual post-colonial region. Paper presented at The 10th IAIMTE International Conference: Languages, literatures & literacies, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.