Learning English is a challenge for many Hong Kong students, as the language is not commonly used in their everyday communication and it is very different from Chinese languages. Hong Kong students, along with other East Asian students, are known for the reluctance to participate actively in the classroom (Hanssan & Jamaludin, 2010; Ng, 2001), especially when it comes to the learning activities involving the practice of speaking. Besides, the recent trends in English examinations which require students to demonstrate their English, problem-solving and reasoning skills, all at the same time, is found “too difficult” for primary school students (Zhao, 2015).
What makes teaching English in Hong Kong even more challenging is the growing diversity in the student population. Undoubtedly, students have diverse abilities, interests and readiness, presenting different needs to be fulfilled within the same time frame of a lesson. Even when learning in a streamed class, where students with a similar level of academic ability are put together, student motivation and engagement in the learning activities are still affected by their learning styles. Therefore, adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach in an English Language classroom could put the students at a disadvantage. The less able learners could feel left out and defeated when they do not have the essential vocabulary or grammatical knowledge for completing a task. As for the more able students, they could feel uninterested when they are under-challenged.
To maximize students’ learning choices and their participation in the classroom, teachers participating in the Jockey Club “Diversity in Schools” Project are making an enormous effort to differentiate the learning content, process, product and the learning environment according to the students’ readiness, interest and learning profile. It is envisioned that students who have different proficiency levels can feel safe and confident to reach the learning goal on a path that suits them and at a pace that they can manage.
Hassan, A. & Jamaludin, N. S. (2010). Approaches and value in two gigantic educational philosophies: East and West. Online Educational Research Journal.
Ng, A. K. (2001). Why Asians are less creative than Westerns. Singapore: Prentice Hall.
Zhao, S. (2015, Oct 29). English exam for Hong Kong primary pupils ‘too difficult and tests maths ability’, school principal says. Can YOU pass it? South China Morning Post. Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/1873641/english-exam-hong-kong-primary-pupils-too