Knowing it Well to Teach it Well
According to the 2016 Population By-census, Han Chinese constitutes 92% of the Hong Kong population. 93.9% of the population aged five or over use Chinese (Cantonese, Putonghua and other dialects) as their ‘usual language’.
Despite the fact that Chinese has always been one of the core subjects in the Hong Kong school curriculum, there had been some common misconceptions that the acquisition of Chinese as a first language is comparatively effortless for children and the teaching of it can be conveniently conducted by any adult who knows the language. As a result, the teaching and learning of the Chinese language had not received the due attention it deserved.
Fortunately the misconception is being rectified. As recommended by the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research, starting from the 2004–05 school year, Chinese Language teachers in primary and secondary schools should hold at least a relevant Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree majoring in a Chinese language, or both a first/ higher degree majoring in Chinese language and a recognized teacher training qualification majoring in the subject.
CUHK pioneered in 1998 to launch a four-year full-time programme in Chinese Language Education (CLED) leading to the award of a BEd degree and the equivalent of a Postgraduate-Diploma-in Education qualification. The programme, offered in conjunction by the Faculty of Education and the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, was restructured into a five-year programme to award an additional Bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language Studies.
Dr. Eric Ng, Programme Coordinator of CLED, explained: ‘The BA (Chinese Language Studies) and BEd (Chinese Language Education) Co-terminal Double Degree Programme aims at cultivating professional Chinese Language teachers with a comprehensive understanding of Chinese language and literature, who are also competent in local and international contexts.’
In other words, graduates from the programme will fulfill the government’s three major requirements for new language teachers, namely, a solid subject knowledge, an excellent language proficiency and a firm grip of language teaching methodology, and can join the teaching force right after graduation.
CLED comprises two major areas of studies. In the Chinese Language and Literature Area, mandatory courses on language and linguistics, ancient text, classical and modern literature plus a wide selection of electives will be offered. In the Chinese Language Education Area, students will study language teaching methodologies and educational issues, and engage in overseas immersion and teaching practice to further hone their language competency and teaching skills.
Financially supported by the Government, the eight to ten weeks immersion programme will bring students to Beijing or other major mainland cities. Students who have taken the mandatory CLED courses on Putonghua and the use of it as a medium of instruction will have a chance to immerse themselves in a fully Putonghua context, with exposure to local Chinese culture. Before returning to Hong Kong, they will sit for the Putonghua Proficiency Test (PSC) administered by the National Language Commission of China to obtain the qualification required for certified Putonghua teachers in Hong Kong.
Cheung Ka-man’s dream career is to be a Chinese language teacher. ‘I want to share the beauty of Chinese literature with the younger generations and bring inspiration to my students. Having just completed the fourth year of the CLED programme, I can tell that I have made the right choice to spend five years for my undergraduate studies. It has enriched both my subject and pedagogical knowledge, and also familiarized me with Hong Kong educational policies. I begin to know what classroom management is, what techniques I can employ in teaching the language effectively and also the psychological aspect of first language acquisition which will help facilitate teaching. The immersion in Beijing last year has broadened my vision and boosted my confidence in teaching Putonghua.’
CLED students have abundant opportunities to observe real-life classroom situations. The programme has well-placed arrangements to familiarize its students with the education frontline and equip them with basic teaching abilities. These include visits to primary and secondary schools and also schools catering for the special educational needs, school attachment for students to observe classroom instruction and school operation under the guidance of a teaching consultant assigned by the collaborative school, and six weeks of practicum in the fourth and final years under the joint supervision of a teaching consultant and teachers from the Faculty of Education.
Ka-man is eagerly looking forward to these school experiences. ‘I can’t wait to apply what I have learned and interact with my first students. I wish I will receive positive feedback from the school and my supervisor and if I do not, I’m sure that I can improve myself through practice and become a better teacher upon the valuable advice from the experienced frontline teachers and my academic supervisors.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018