The promise and compromise of the use of English as a medium of instruction – perspectives from teachers from self-financing tertiary institutions in Hong Kong

Dr Marine Yeung, Tung Wah College, Hong Kong, ID LLCE2017-123;      Abstract: As in some other former British colonies, English enjoys a special status and takes an important role in various aspects of life in Hong Kong. Although it is one of the three official spoken languages (Cantonese, English and Putonghua) in the “biliterate and trilingual” language policy promoted by the government,  most schools opt to use English as the medium of instruction (EMI), and the unwritten protocol for most tertiary institutions is to abide by the EMI policy, or claim to do so. However, it has become evident that with the expansion of tertiary education in the early 1990s, coupled with the new curriculum structure at secondary level, the general English language proficiency of university students has declined. This raises the question of the feasibility and practicality of the indiscriminate adoption of the EMI policy at tertiary level, particularly at the self-financing tertiary institutions where the student intakes tend to be academically lower achievers.  In order to understand whether or how the EMI policy is upheld in these institutions, an exploratory study is being undertaken to tap into the experiences and opinions of educators and students.  Preliminary findings from the interviews with teachers from different programmes of five self-financing tertiary institutions in Hong Kong reflect that despite the apparent difficulties, the majority of the teachers still support the EMI policy for various reasons, though most of them admit using some Cantonese in their teaching to assist their students’ learning. These teachers’ attitude toward the use of the three languages reveals that the while the prominence of English is little disputed, there is room for adjustment in the overall language policy with considerations in the wider socio-political and cultural context.



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