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【The Standard:Study in the UK】The lengths that some parents go to

Boarding 101


We are living in one enormous rat race and Hong Kong parents feel the need to enable their children to master the English language younger than ever.


With Hong Kong’s education system doing very little to arrest the slide in English standards, can parents be blamed for shelling out tens of thousands of dollars on educational materials?


I have seen parents at book fairs seeking out storybook series and English-language materials for the children. They are usually the ones willing to pay HK$50,000 for a generous collection of books.


Some talk of the need to boost confidence in preparation for school, whole others focus on job competitiveness and English as a global language.

Many are disillusioned with language teaching standards in Hong Kong. The education system is still reeling from a government decision in 1998 for schools to teach in Cantonese.


So, Hong Kong parents have sought to give their children a head start in life. In terms of buying books, my main point here is about jumping on a bandwagon which is not necessarily useless but one which may need more analysis. For instance, parents should be wary of choosing grammar manuals and exercise books as they may deter children from developing a passion for English. We do not want English to be a mechanical tool.


Highly interactive books and cartoon video packages can facilitate acquisition and stimulate a child to develop a lifelong passion for English.Indeed, they can get a feel for the language and pronunciation at a young age.


What is really missing for children at a young age is engagement with native speakers. They need to gain a slow appreciation for the way native speakers construct common collocations and sentences which can be heard, learned and mastered over time.

Samuel Chan is the managing director of Britannia StudyLink.