Teaching English in Hong Kong Kindergartens: A Survey of Practices

By Mei Lee Ng and Nirmala Rao.

Published by The International Journal of Literacies

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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

The International Journal of Literacies, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.25-47. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.248MB).

Dr. Mei Lee Ng

Assistant Professor, Department of Early Childhood Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, New Territories, Hong Kong

Dr. Ng is Assistant Professor of Department of Early Childhood Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education. She combined her specialism on Teaching English as A Second Language and Early Childhood Education to develop her particular interest in researching preschoolers' second language teaching and learning.

Dr Nirmala Rao

Professor, Faculty of Education, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong

Dr. Rao is Professor of Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong. She is a Developmental and Chartered (Educational) Psychologist, recognized internationally for her work on early childhood development and child development and education. Her research program concerns the influences of home and preschool experiences on early child development and the policies which affect them.