Reversing the Trend: Curriculum Design and Pedagogies in Boosting English Proficiency in Hong Kong

Sam LAU
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
samlau@hkbu.edu.hk

Vicky LEE
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
leesyehk@hkbu.edu.hk

Theresa CUNANAN
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
tcunanan@hkbu.edu.hk

Abstract

Hong Kong ranks 22nd across 60 non-English speaking countries and territories in the world. Educators, employers and researchers are facing the fact that the overall competitiveness in English proficiency is gradually slipping compared to other Asian neighbours.

The College of International Education (CIE) of Hong Kong Baptist University, like many of its sister institutions, has to confront the declining English proficiency of students. To this end, CIE, which abides faithfully by the University English MOI, has implemented a rigorous language curriculum. The majority of our students are graduates with the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) who come from both Chinese Medium-of-Instruction (CMI) schools and English Medium-of-Instruction (EMI) schools. At the same time, we also have a growing number of Mainland students as well as international students coming to us. To address the growing diversity among our students, it becomes imperative for CIE to offer an English language curriculum and support system that addresses the needs of every student.

The College's English language strategies can be divided into three core areas: The first core area is GE and Graduation Requirement. Students in their first year have to complete two GE Core English language courses, namely Thought and Writing 1 and Thought and Writing 2, which require very rigorous expository and academic writing. In addition, they also have to complete an English Literary Appreciation course in their second year. CIE is the only one institution across the sub-degree and degree sector in Hong Kong where English Literary Appreciation is a mandatory course for graduation. While many educators see literature as something traditionally reserved for students whose first language is English and students with strong English language skills, the College's experience shows that using literature as a way to enhance English skills is just as important for students who are learning English as a second language.

The second core area is the offer of Enrichment Courses and Workshops. These are non-credit bearing courses offered throughout the academic year. The summer English Refresher Course is offered to students before the academic year commences. The English Enhancement Courses are specially designed for students from the Mainland. There is also a pool of language courses consisting of writing workshops tailored for various needs such as English for Special Purpose (ESP) and different levels of preparation courses for the IELTS test.

The last core area is the English Support Service (ESS). The ESS has proven to be of great benefit especially to students who lack confidence in their spoken and written English. It is a personalized one-on-one support service. ESS together with Convo Circles provide a small comfort zone that students need to practice conversing in English.

Evidence has proved that students have gained greater confidence in their spoken and written English after two or three semesters. Many CIE students had begun to enjoy speaking English more and have volunteered at community outreach events where they would speak English to secondary school students who come to our campus for English related activities

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