Supporting learning across the curriculum in English medium schools: Teachers' views of the role of English as a subject

Philip HOARE

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The purpose of this survey was to discover the extent to which English as a subject supports the use of that language as the medium in the school and what teachers of other subjects believe would be helpful to students. It also investigated the views of teachers as to what the objectives of teaching English are in English medium schools and what these objectives and the subject content should be. The study is set in the context of the changes in medium of instruction currently being undertaken by many schools. Eighty three teachers of English and English Panel Chairs to clarify issues raised in the questionnaires. Genuine English medium education puts considerable responsibility for the language development of students on the subject teacher. There is an increasing awareness of the need for a balance between this experiential form of language learning and more form focused instruction and particularly for an awareness of the relationship that needs to exist between the two (e.g. Stern, 1987; Swain, 1985). Allen, Swain, Harley and Cummins (1990) and others claim that they provide essential support for one another. In order to be most effective, form focused teaching must directly support the purposeful use of the language. The role of English as a subject within the English medium curriculum in Hong Kong schools is, therefore, of considerable significance. The results of this study suggest that English medium schools do not see the support of the study of other subjects through English as one of the major objectives. Language problems that arise in the learning problems that arise in the learning of other subjects are viewed by English teachers as the responsibility of the teachers of those subjects to deal with. They perceive their subject as having a syllabus that is more or less wholly independent of other parts of the school curriculum. The English teachers do, however, believe that some support for other subjects should be provided through English as a subject and identify a variety of reasons why this does not happen at present. Teachers of other subjects believe that there are many areas in which their students do need very direct support from English as a subject if the students are to study successfully through English. There is a considerable consensus among teachers of different subjects as to the types of support they would find helpful. This study suggests that the role and content of English as a subject in English medium schools in Hong Kong requires serious review if subject learning through English is to achieve its potential. A move towards the provision of greater support for students in their studying of other subjects would be supported by both English teachers and teachers of other subjects. The results also indicate a need for much greater understanding and co-operation between the two groups. The paper will suggest some directions for change that may be appropriate.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1995


Hoare, P. (1995, November). Supporting learning across the curriculum in English medium schools: Teachers' views of the role of English as a subject. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association 12th Annual Conference: Rethinking Education: Reflective Practice, Professionalism and Postmodernization, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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