Language Policy

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 131–153 | Cite as

Moving between language frontiers: the challenges of the medium of instruction policy for Chinese as a second language

  • Elizabeth K. Y. LohEmail author
  • Loretta C. W. Tam
  • Kwok-chang Lau
Original Paper


This article explores the extent to which the medium of instruction (MOI) policy in Hong Kong affect ethnic minority students’ Chinese language learning in school amidst postcolonial policy changes, and how the “flexible” MOI policy affects Chinese as a second language (CSL) frontline teaching in mainstream secondary schools with reference to the three orientations to language planning, namely language-as-problem, language-as-right, and language-as-resource (Ruiz 1984). It reports on a large-scale longitudinal study on the implementation of the “flexible” MOI policy, which is targeted to address the challenges that ethnic minority students and Chinese language teachers are faced with in CSL learning and teaching. Twenty-six CSL teachers and twenty students were target-sampled from fourteen schools involved in the same study. Based on an analysis of interview data through triangulation and critical discourse analysis, the authors argue that (1) difficulties in adapting to the new MOI for the Chinese Language subject would likely lead to low motivation levels and adversely affect CSL development among the students; (2) CSL teachers also experience difficulties in helping ethnic minority students to make successful transition for reasons including huge learning differences, limited time and resources, as well as marked linguistic differences between the two Chinese language variants. The authors recommend that policy reviews be carried out to enhance the quality of CSL teaching and learning in the midst of the current attempt at language standardization.


Ethnic minority students Chinese as a second language Medium of instruction Adaptation Language learning 



The authors would like to thank the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) for their project sponsorship, as well as the schools, teachers and students who participated in this study. Their appreciation also extends to Dr. M.S.K. Shum, Dr. W. W. Ki, Mr. K. W. Sun and Mr. F.K.L. Tang for assisting in the focus group interviews, and Mr. Nixon Leung, Ms. Jenny Zeng, Ms. Sophia Liu, Mr. Kato Chan, Ms. Karen Jiaxin Song and Mr. Jerry Siu-paak Leung for their research assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth K. Y. Loh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Loretta C. W. Tam
    • 2
  • Kwok-chang Lau
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Chinese Language and Literature, Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong
  2. 2.Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research, Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong
  3. 3.Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research, Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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