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Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1999
Length: 10 pages

Abstract

Long-building concern about the quality of Hong Kong public education culminates in March, 1996 with the decision of the territory''s Education Commission to push its 400-plus secondary schools toward replacing English with Cantonese as the basic "medium of instruction" in the classroom. The decision has apparent public support; the idea of the use of the "mother tongue" of the vast majority of Hong Kong''s population is, at least in theory, popular. The territory''s Education Department, however, expects controversy to develop. English has long been the international city''s language of commerce; proficiency in English is viewed as a key to economic upward mobility. Historically, that has meant that all classes were to be taught in English at most schools, rather than students learning English as a second language. This case focuses on the implementation challenge faced by the Hong Kong Education Department as it seeks to win smooth acceptance and adoption of a policy which it believes is in the public interest but with which much of the public may disagree. It allows for discussion both of how and whether the policy itself should be shaped to gain maximum public acceptance, and on the public consultation and persuasion approaches of those who have been told by Hong Kong''s Governor that the policy must go forward.

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Abstract

Long-building concern about the quality of Hong Kong public education culminates in March, 1996 with the decision of the territory''s Education Commission to push its 400-plus secondary schools toward replacing English with Cantonese as the basic "medium of instruction" in the classroom. The decision has apparent public support; the idea of the use of the "mother tongue" of the vast majority of Hong Kong''s population is, at least in theory, popular. The territory''s Education Department, however, expects controversy to develop. English has long been the international city''s language of commerce; proficiency in English is viewed as a key to economic upward mobility. Historically, that has meant that all classes were to be taught in English at most schools, rather than students learning English as a second language. This case focuses on the implementation challenge faced by the Hong Kong Education Department as it seeks to win smooth acceptance and adoption of a policy which it believes is in the public interest but with which much of the public may disagree. It allows for discussion both of how and whether the policy itself should be shaped to gain maximum public acceptance, and on the public consultation and persuasion approaches of those who have been told by Hong Kong''s Governor that the policy must go forward.

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