English Level Falling in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has just celebrated the tenth anniversary of the handover to mainland China. There were wonderful firework displays costing HK$60million, parades and festivities all over the city.

Hong Kong was a former colony of the British Empire and this tiny city, sometimes called Fragrant Harbour or the Pearl of The Orient, has prospered by trading with the world.

It's a shame then that we cannot also celebrate a rising level of English. Results released at the end of June show that the pass rate in the territory-wide A-Level English examination has dropped to a twelve year low. What is more disturbing is that this is almost 5% lower than it was ten years ago.

These days Hong Kong's economy rests on its ability to be the leading financial centre in Asia. Most of its other trade is in the service sector. It has to compete, however, with other cities such as Singapore which outscore Hong Kong in several key areas. One of these is English language proficiency. The standard of English in Singapore is the best in Asia and their equivalent English language exit exam is on a different level. Strangely enough, Singapore is also an ex-British colony.

So why is there such a difference in the English proficiency in these two places? Well, for one English is spoken within families in Singapore. It is used at home, as well as in the office for day to day communication. You will hear Singaporeans ordering in restaurants using English. And perhaps the way it is taught is also different.

In short, Hong Kong depends on multi-national trade for its economy and has to compete with other Asian cities. It is time that it competes with English language as well.

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