Hong Kong’s Chinese language curriculum may be “trimmed” down, concerning educators

A document suggesting the streamlining of the Chinese language curriculum is open to public opinion until 16 October, 2019.

Photo: “small_IMG_9263” by side guacamole is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

A consultation document issued in June published by the Education Bureau (EB) has raised concerns in certain circles regarding its suggestions to modify the Chinese language learning curriculum (referring to Cantonese) in a way that may decrease the amount of time spent on learning and speaking the language.

One section in the executive summary of the Task Force on Review of School Curriculum: Consultation Document stipulates that “[t]here is a need for trimming the number of examination papers and/or streamlining the School-based Assessment (SBA)” (p. ii) as to place more emphasis on the “learning of literature and classics”. To promote a diverse learning environment and contribute to “whole-person development”, the review recommends making adjustments to Chinese [Cantonese] Language studies. It states that these studies, which are one of the four core subjects, are “too heavy” and “too language laden” and consume a large share of students’ study time. The review mentions discussing opportunities to have “the listening and/or speaking parts of the public examination and the implementation of the SBA…modified or trimmed to create space” (p. 18). 

Some educators are worried about what the suggestions made in this document may entail if they are enforced, particularly concerned over its impact on Cantonese learning. Mr PS Chik, member of the Progressive Teachers’ Alliance, has told Harbour Times that the oral portion of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE or DSE) is one of the main obstacles preventing the conversion to Putonghua as the medium of instruction (PMI). In 2018, only 2.8% of students took the DSE in Putonghua, which is an 85% increase over the last seven years. This is because the majority of students opt to take the listening and speaking oral examinations in Cantonese, their mother tongue, due to the high stakes of these tests. “If the oral papers are trimmed, the obstacles will be removed,” he states, “Hence the worry of [the] displacement of Cantonese.” 

The looming presence of Mandarin in school systems is undeniable, as 70% of Hong Kong’s primary schools use Mandarin as the language of instruction. But concerned civilians, such as educators like Mr Chik, who worry about the threat of Cantonese dying out have nothing to fear – the percentage of HK’s population that speaks Cantonese has risen from 88.7 to 88.9% since 1996. For those who would like to continue efforts to safeguard Cantonese’s status in HK’s education, the deadline for the public to submit their opinions on the consultation document has been extended by a month – from 16 September to 16 October, 2019.

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Jasmine Lee

Jasmine Lee

Jasmine Lee is writer, commentator, and journalist. She graduated from McGill University where she took numerous opportunities to study and work around the world. Her specific areas of interest include media studies and human rights.
Jasmine Lee
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Jasmine Lee is writer, commentator, and journalist. She graduated from McGill University where she took numerous opportunities to study and work around the world. Her specific areas of interest include media studies and human rights.