This Is Why Hong Kong English Levels Are Declining

Canadian journalist Joyce Lau writes in her blog about some observations about teaching English in Hong Kong, wherein her brother was denied a teaching post, even though he was a native speaker of English:

A potential employer basically told him he would not be hired because he is not white. The explanation was that his English is “not native English enough” because his skin is not white.

[…]I told an American colleague this, expecting outrage. But he just shrugged. His argument was Chinese parents don’t know better. Schools, being profit-seeking companies, just want to please parents, so they play into their prejudices. It’s not the parents’ or educators’ fault, it’s the government’s fault for not legislating.

[…]But, typical for Hong Kong, they will put appearances (“face” for Chinese parents to brag about their token white teacher) before actually teaching our children.

Read more about Hong Kong’s Anti-Racism Law.

Joyce Lau also comments in her blog on the importance of English declining in Hong Kong due to the increasing need to learn Mandarin (or Putonghua), the standard dialect of Mainland China, after its return in 1997 from British rule.

An article from The Economist corresponds these sentiments in an article about Hong Kong lifting a requirement to teach Cantonese, a native dialect, in its schools.
In related news, a recent article on Xinhua reports on the 14th National English Speech Contest that reinforces the importance of learning English in Mainland China:

Learning English became a fashion and even a fever since China adopted its reform and opening-up policy 30 years ago. Almost all college students in the country study English as a touching stone to apply for overseas studies. In recent years, English skill has become a necessary quality to get a good job.

For a long time, English teaching in China emphasized more on reading and writing instead of listening and speaking, therefore, students could easily get high exam scores despite poor spoken English.

Liu Xianghong, a Ministry of Education official, said the competition not only gives students a platform to showcase their language skill, but also encourages Chinese schools to improve communication-oriented teaching methods of English.

Related to teaching English is Li Yang’s Crazy English phenomenon where teaching English is promoted to a nationalist agenda. See also CDT’s articles on Crazy English.


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