The teaching of English to very young learners has become popular across the Asia Pacific region, and Hong Kong is no exception. This trend is believed to be driven by socio-economic forces rather than by educational research since there is a dearth of empirical research in this area. This paper draws on data from a questionnaire which was part of a larger study to portray systematically the school contexts in which the teaching of English took place. The principals of 38% (n=256) of the local registered kindergartens in Hong Kong responded to questions about English instruction time, teachers’ professional qualifications, curriculum activities and the school language environment. The results indicated that English was taught in most of the kindergartens as a specific subject, following a textbook-based approach. It was taught for an average of 64 minutes per week in programmes featuring half-day sessions. The teachers’ professional backgrounds, the allocation of instruction time, and the curriculum planning practices were diverse, implying that there was a large gap between the classroom instruction and the contextual support and guidelines. This gap should alert practitioners, parents, and policy makers to the fact that the perceived head start effect of teaching English early cannot be taken for granted. The intricate interaction between global forces, policy implementation and micro-level practices at the school level are also discussed and extrapolated.
|Keywords:||Teaching English to young learners, English as a foreign language, Kindergarten education|
Assistant Professor, Department of Early Childhood Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, New Territories, Hong Kong
Professor, Faculty of Education, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong