Innovation in English language teaching in Hong Kong : one step forward, two steps sideways?
AbstractDrawing on a number of recent research studies, this article evaluates the process of implementation of a more student-centred task-oriented approach to English language teaching in Hong Kong primary schools. The reform, essentially a top-down system-level initiative strongly influenced by curriculum developments in the UK and Australia, called for sweeping changes to existing learning and teaching practices by promoting whole-person development, task-based syllabus design, criterion-referenced assessment and pair and group work. The article presents an analysis of the various stages of the curriculum decision-making process – from the intended curriculum as manifested in policy documents; through to the resourced curriculum, as exemplified in commercially published textbook resources; to the implemented curriculum – what teachers teach – and the experienced curriculum – what students learn. The article shows how the reform was progressively reinterpreted by the various stakeholders, resulting in a hybrid and evolving set of accommodations to local cultures which ultimately may be assimilated by them. The article identifies the key factors which have caused this slippage, including conflicting or unclear expectations, attitudes and beliefs at all levels, as well as a lack of real understanding of the established pedagogical cultures, and concludes with some implications for teaching, teacher education and curriculum innovation.