Messages from Leaders of the Task Force
Ms Betty Leung (Chief School Development Officer)
Ms Amy Poon (Senior School Development Officer / English Language Support)
Ms Christine Choi (Senior School Development Officer / Chinese Language Support)
Mr Y.T. Lai (Senior School Development Officer / Chinese Language Support)
Challenges and opportunities for the Task Force
Over the years, we have witnessed immense changes in the field of education - the introduction of numerous language-related policies and initiatives such as Specialised Teaching, Small Class Teaching, English Enhancement Scheme and the implementation of the New Senior Secondary (NSS) Curriculum, etc.; and most important of all, the professional growth of the language teaching community in coping with the challenges and opportunities brought by those changes, policies and initiatives.
As a close collaborator with this community, the Task Force has been inextricably linked with the development and achievement of language teachers. Likewise, the challenges faced by teachers have also been shouldered by the Task Force. Since the setting up of the Task Force, language support officers have been working very closely with teachers and walking hand in hand with them on the same journey to surmount different difficulties to achieve quality language education in Hong Kong.
With the Final Report of Language Education Review – Action Plan to Raise Language Standards in Hong Kong of June 2003, we have been charged with the mission of enhancing the pedagogical capability of language panels to implement the curriculum reform. The Task Force on Language Support was formally set up in September 2004 to take forward this recommendation. At the initial stage, only eleven professional officers were deployed from the Curriculum Development Institute to kick-start this project
In this preparatory year (2003-2004), the small team provided intensive support to about 50 primary and secondary schools. After years of hard work, the Task Force has expanded to a team of about 100 professionals with diverse backgrounds and expertise. Today, about 700 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have received intensive support from us.
Our language support officers have worked very closely with teachers on a number of macro language focuses, including cross-level holistic curriculum planning, cross-curricular planning, supporting a smooth interface between Key Stages and the transition to the NSS in particular, making effective use of resources, using Putonghua to teach Chinese; and micro language focuses such as the development of the four language skills, thinking skills, language arts and non-language arts components, vocabulary building, debating, teaching Chinese to non-Chinese speaking students, etc. A number of other schools not receiving intensive support have also enjoyed our consultancy services or joined our networks which are learning communities for schools interested in exploring specific topics or language issues. In recent years, emphasis has been put on curriculum leadership development which aims to support panel heads and coordinators to better manage their subject.
Commitment to the provision of quality support services
In providing intensive on-site support to schools in Hong Kong, our officers help panel heads and teachers to develop curriculum plans, explore and try out a variety of teaching strategies and improve learning and teaching through collecting, interpreting and reflecting on evidence gathered from lessons and student work. They also provide professional advice and share teaching resources with networked schools or schools receiving consultancy services.
To disseminate the good practices of schools, we have produced a great variety of resources and publications such as our LLSS compendiums, “Language Matters” (newsletter of the Task Force), CD-ROMs and a website containing teaching plans and teaching materials for teachers. We have also conducted professional development activities on different scales such as school-based, network-based and territory-wide seminars and workshops. Through this, the varied needs of teachers can be catered for. The ultimate goals are to help students achieve biliteracy and trilingualism and support teachers in implementing the curriculum reform.
Building a firm language foundation for students
To face changes and uncertainties, we have worked with our teachers in strengthening the foundation areas of language education with particular emphasis on vocabulary building & reading, writing, listening & speaking and assessment for learning at primary and secondary levels. In helping teachers plan the school-based curricula, we have also focused on the development of generic skills such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, learning how to learn and the promotion of positive values and attitudes among students. The enhancement of teachers’ capacity in tackling these areas can build up their confidence in exploring new ground and help students achieve whole-person development.
Breaking new ground in supporting language education
The accumulation of experiences and achievements in tackling the basic areas of language learning and teaching has helped the team develop confidence and capacity in dealing with new and challenging language issues often considered as the uncharted zones of language education by teachers.
Some teachers under our support have become forerunners piloting new initiatives at their schools. In the process, they have acquired essential knowledge and skills and become curriculum leaders and change agents, exerting a positive impact on other teachers. Some of these language initiatives include:
- teaching Chinese to non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students to help them integrate well into mainstream schools;
- using Putonghua as the medium of instruction (PMI) to learn Chinese;
- implementing Specialised Teaching and Small Class Teaching to create space for curriculum and teacher development and to improve student learning ;
- covering electives in the New Senior Secondary English and Chinese language curricula which are new to teachers;
- implementing the English Enhancement Grant proposals to improve learning and teaching; and
- implementing language across the curriculum to foster inter-departmental collaboration in schools, etc..
Conceptualising our work
With ample and useful knowledge about different language focuses, irrespective of whether they are perennial or new, we have developed effective “models” of school support through implementing various language support programmes. Examples of such models include helping primary and the secondary schools build long-term partnerships through conducting activities together (Speaking Fairs, Buddy Reading Programmes, etc.); flexibly integrating different modes of teacher development (structured seminars, school-based support, inter-school lesson observation and events for collaborating schools to celebrate success, etc.) to help teachers reflect, apply and share their learning; and premising on the Mainland-Hong Kong Exchange and Collaborative Programme to establish a bridge for cultural exchange and the professional growth of Hong Kong teachers.
The journey to improving language education
Despite the fact that we have had small successes and accumulated useful knowledge and experiences over the years, the journey to improving language education is never smooth as there are always waves ahead. Yet, safe and happy sailing rests with an urge for excellence and sustainable development. In the years to come, we will step up our support in the area of curriculum leadership development with a view to helping primary schools to make effective use of different resources available (e.g. provision of Small Class Teaching and Specialised Teaching) to build a firm language foundation and supporting secondary schools to implement the NSSC successfully.
We salute our collaborating schools for placing their trust in the Task Force over these years! Together we have grown in confidence and competence in providing the best language education for our students. Please join us to build a professional, dynamic and collaborative language teaching force!