Trilingual education in Hong Kong primary schools: an overview
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Hong Kong is linguistically complex and diverse with three principal languages: Cantonese, English and Putonghua. A substantial debate on the language policies governing the three principal languages has continued for more than two decades among policy-makers and educators. The political transition in 1997 has greatly affected Hong Kong society, including language education. Since then, the HKSAR government has made a series of language policy reforms trying to create a reasonable balance among the three languages in Hong Kong. The policies of ‘biliteracy and trilingualism’ and ‘mother-tongue teaching’ are two of the most significant in terms of controversy and impact. They are now guiding the curriculum design in Hong Kong language education. The goal of the former policy is to train Hong Kong people to be truly biliterate (written English and Chinese) and trilingual (spoken English, Cantonese and Putonghua). However, Hong Kong primary schools presently do not have an agreed method for the implementation of trilingual education. After a comprehensive historical review of the development of language education in Hong Kong schools, this study aims to find out how the ‘biliterate’ and ‘trilingual’ language policy is currently implemented in Hong Kong primary schools. 155 Hong Kong primary schools participated in a questionnaire survey on how trilingual education is implemented in the schools. The findings suggest that the implementation of trilingual education varied significantly from school to school, and the effectiveness of the trilingual education models varied as well. It is hoped that the findings will help us to gain a better understanding of trilingual education in Hong Kong, and the study could lead to some insightful and theoretical contributions to multilingual education in general.
© 2015 Wang and Kirkpatrick; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Language Studies not elsewhere classified