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星期四 2016年12月08號

【SCMP Education Post:Study in the UK】Time to stand up and take notice

It should be common knowledge that English proficiency generates opportunities, strengthens employability and creates a business-friendly environment. According to the recently published English First English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), all round proficiency levels in Hong Kong have been classed as “moderate” with 29 other countries faring better in the rankings. Is it time for our Government and business leaders to stand up and take notice? 

The latest edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) has just been released. English proficiency levels were determined in 72 countries based on an analysis of online tests taken by around 950,000 adult participants. While the test-taking population can never be representative of a country as a whole, the EF EPI is very thorough and only countries with a minimum of 400 test takers were included in the index.

Highlights of the EF EPI report include the advancement of Singapore to the highest proficiency band; Malaysia and the Philippines ranking in the top 15 countries worldwide; and a decline in proficiency in Japan. Women, meanwhile, have stronger English skills than men in all but a few countries and age groups. Hong Kong lies behind France and in front of Vietnam in the Index.

The figures for Hong Kong are not all doom and gloom as progress has been made and several Asian countries, such as Taiwan and Vietnam, have been overtaken in the rankings. However, I wonder for a territory as prosperous as Hong Kong’s, where a little over 20% of total government expenditure is dedicated to education and the mean number of years of schooling is significantly above average, are we doing enough for our children, university students and, most relevantly, employees?

EF can be credited for doing great work in raising awareness of English language issues in business and, possibly, in schools, even though “language proficiency” is quite a loose term and has certain cultural and situation-specific connotations. For instance, in all our efforts to speak “correctly” with the right tenses and intonation, which I think is inherent in language teaching in Hong Kong, communicative competence tends to go out of the window. Furthermore, it may also be the case that more people in Hong Kong speak English now so of course their linguistic deficiencies will come under the spotlight, though not necessarily in these reports.

Over the past few years, I have followed, with some amazement, the extent to which countries and companies seeking to attract foreign investment and trade, as well as generate entrepreneurial growth, have turned to English as a means for creating a business-friendly environment. One only needs to look at the increasing number of companies headquartered outside of English-speaking countries, such as Rakuten (Japan) and Samsung (South Korea), which have adopted English as their corporate language. Indeed, Rakuten CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, has talked openly about the advantages of “Englishnization”.

Of course, EF has been hot on the heels on the subject of global workforce English with its very own EF English Proficiency Index for Companies (EF EPI-c). EF’s findings are certainly revealing. For instance, executives tend to have lower English levels than the managers they oversee while even the most junior-level staff outscored executives.

I think these EF English skills reports do raise some pertinent issues and should stop entrepreneurs and Managing Directors such as myself from being too complacent. My level of English is possibly above that of the majority of my employees but I do believe that there is always room for improvement and that developing my consultants’ English skills could make the company even more competitive. Generally speaking, I agree with the reports that workforce English scores “correlate positively with indicators of global innovation … and ease of doing business”.

In this cutthroat business world, there is no time for business leaders to take things for granted by believing that their employees’ sound education, certificates and even time spent at boarding school in the US or UK should automatically propel them to the dizzy heights of English proficiency. I have faith in my team’s English proficiency but it is nevertheless an issue I should keep tabs on.

Instead of jumping aboard the “declining or stagnating standards of English in Hong Kong” bandwagon and blaming the Government, business leaders need to scrutinise the issues at hand and seek out ways to improve the English skills of their workforce. For instance, the advantages of English proficiency for specific job functions could be highlighted to workers. What about investing in resources and materials which seek to improve employees’ communicative competency?

Overall, I am glad that we have the EF English Proficiency Index as a reference point as it contributes to the continuous global conversation about English language education. As for Hong Kong, there is a lot of work ahead of us and the EF EPI serves to confirm this state.

Origianl Article:

原文作者為英識教育Britannia StudyLink創辦人陳思銘 Samuel Chan。


1 寄宿百科 2 英國大學
3 談英國 4 赴英須知
5 赴英遊學 6 選校攻略
7 留英所得 8 親子關係
9 英名校大比拼 10 留英專家分享

陳思銘(Samuel Chan) 並非如一般外界人所認為的「富二代留學生」,家人數代都在流浮山經營海鮮買賣,父母學歷程度雖然不高,但努力工作賺錢把Samuel從小(9歲)就供養到英國寄宿學校格雷舍姆學院 (Gresham College)讀書,才能讓他早早就體會到英式教育優越全世界的原因。
Samuel Chan在留英之前亦都曾苦於在香港的教育體系中掙扎求存,但是香港朝令夕改的教育制度卻令他的成續止步不前,甚至感到老師也對自己失去興趣。直到接受英式教育後,他深深感受到兩地學制的差異:在英國,永遠是先發掘學生的興趣,再透過「興趣」作為推動其學習的原動力,釋放潛能。在英國,他獲得了使自己能夠表達自己並嘗試新事物的信心,最終以優秀的成續升讀英國頂尖的學府。
Samuel Chan留英長達15年,在諾定咸大學(University of Nottingham)獲得經濟學學士後,在華威大學(The University of Warwick)攻讀完政治經濟系碩士後回流香港。回流香港的Samuel鑑有感於香港教育制度無法充分釋放學生潛力,於是回流英國的他創辦了英識教育,以幫助更多有志留學英國的同學提供各類支援及顧問服務。
白手興手固然辛苦,但奮鬥數年英識教育終獲香港品牌發展局頒發「香港服務名牌」的升學教育中心,亦是同業首間獲此認證的品牌。後來,Samuel於2017年奪得「英國傑出校友獎」,該獎是英國文化協會及多家英國高等院校的共同構思,並由英國文化協舉辦,評選活動獲不少名人及王室人員支持及參與。可見,讓身為香港人的「陳思銘」的名字深深烙印在英國學術界傑出人仕的陳列櫃中。雖然事業受到肯定,但Samuel並不安於現狀,後來在2020年更創立Britannia Gateway 的學術培訓平台,提供更多元化的課程以幫助客戶適應英國課程。

論名氣,Oundle 未追得上 Eton、Wycombe Abbey 等頂級名校,但學校的學術成績在英國依然名列前茅。作為傳統名校,Oundle 非常重視全人發展,為學生提供多元課餘活動選擇。學校奉行英國碩果僅存的 House Dining System,或是令香港家長趨之若鶩的一大原因。
Bromsgrove 的師生比例是一比八,比一般的寄宿學校低。此外,綜合我曾到訪的學校,此校硬件設施之完善,可入選全英設備最佳的三大校園。校方不惜工本為學生提供舒適環境,甚至收購附近的酒店改建成宿舍,令宿生有名符其實的「五星級享受」。此校極具前瞻性,是國際化的英國宿校。
Brighton College 是英國首屈一指的私校,是香港家長最愛的寄宿學校之一。 看一間學校,除了教育宗旨、多元化活動、成績之外,更要看校長的魄力。十年前,校長 Mr. Richard Cairns 成為 Brighton College 校長後,把學校由全英國接近 150 名推至首 20 名。除了在教育方針上大力推動改革之外,也為了保持學生的求知慾而非常努力,是難得的好校長。
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