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“Less is more”

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					Less is “MORE”


There are 114 EMI schools in Hong Kong. Learning English is one thing while learning
through English is another. Some people may blame students who do badly in EMI
schools by saying they are lazy or incapable. However, are we giving them enough
support? What can we do to help them learn more confidently and effectively?

Everyone would agree that learning a subject through a second language is more
difficult for students than studying the subject in the mother tongue. To make things
worse, each student has a heavy curriculum to follow. An S.1 student may have to study
at least 7 EMI subjects at the same time. To add to their difficulties, most of our students
were educated in CMI primary schools. How can we try to ensure that they learn well
through a second language? By making sure that the school administration and teachers
adopt the most effective and efficient methods to teach our students in order to
maximize their learning opportunities.

Three of us, DOLACEE tutors following the ESL in the Mainstream course, have been
inspired after attending the DOLACEE tutor-training course. We think that if we can
improve our students’ language ability, they will be able to learn better across all
subjects.

How do we equip our S1 students, fresh from CMI primary schools, with the necessary
skills to be capable EMI students?

Firstly, there should be collaboration among all EMI subject teachers. All subject
teachers should see themselves as second language teachers in the subjects that they
teach. If we can make our students aware of the fact that English is important for the
learning of all subjects, they will treat it more seriously.

Secondly, each EMI subject panel has initially to cut some subject content from the
syllabus in order to accommodate language objectives and adopt a more interactive
teaching approach in their lessons. It may seem quite controversial to cut subject
content and teach less. However, less is “more”, because if students can learn more
effectively in their junior classes, they will be more efficient learners in their senior
years. By sacrificing some subject content in the early years, teachers can spend more
time building a firm language foundation while using English as the medium of
instruction. In a few years’ time, the students will be more confident and much quicker
and more able to learn in English, and then, as Canadian and other research shows, they
will soon catch up on any subject content learning that they may have missed out earlier.
Thus, it is crucially important to equip our students to be capable of learning in EMI in
the junior forms. This will ensure more effective learning in English at every level.




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Thirdly, school support and evaluation are crucial. The school administration should
ensure that students have enough exposure to an English-rich environment. Regular
evaluations should be made to monitor both teacher effectiveness and student progress.

Working collaboratively is a huge challenge. It cannot be achieved by the endeavours of
an individual or a single group. Taking the first step is always painful, but we have to
make a start. If we don’t start, there will be no change. Remember “less is more”, and in
the end both teachers and students will be the winners.

                                 Ho Wing Lan, Anita, Lee Holloway and Poon Chi Fai
                                 Kwun Tong Maryknoll College




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posted:5/15/2010
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