Mother Tongue for Students in Hong Kong

"Tongues Clack Over Speaking Chinese in Hong Kong Schools" (Jan. 14) misunderstands and misrepresents Hong Kong's policy on medium of instruction. Let the facts speak for us.

According to your article, " Tung Chee Hwa ordered all high schools to begin teaching in Cantonese next semester. Exceptions were granted only to those schools that demonstrated 'a high level of proficiency in English' "

Our policy was established in the 1980s, well before the appointment of Mr. Tung as our Chief Executive in 1997. There is no political motive. In fact, the policy commitment to issue firm guidance on the medium of instruction for secondary schools was announced in 1994.

The prime objective of our policy is to help students: to adopt the most appropriate medium of instruction enabling them to learn more easily, enjoyably, and effectively. Research studies, worldwide and locally, have demonstrated that most students learn more effectively in their mother tongue - in our case, Chinese. Since the 1980s, government policy on language in education has therefore been on two prongs: to promote the use of Chinese and to encourage mother-tongue teaching in public-sector secondary schools, and to give parallel priority to English-language learning in schools.

Over the years, we have provided extra positive support to enhance English-language learning in all schools. We are launching a worldwide drive for native-speaking English teachers. We're also implementing the Education Commission's recommendations for improving language proficiency generally, not just among students but also for teachers.

Our aim is for young Hong Kong to be biliterate and trilingual, to be proficient in English and Chinese, including Putonghua.

Helen C.P. Lai Yu

Hong Kong

Director of Education

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,

People's Republic of China

Alas, Shakespeare wrote his plays

The article about yet another feckless attempt to discredit William Shakespeare as the author of the greatest treasure of English literature contains an egregious error ("A Russian Debunks the Bard," Dec. 31). The author cites other names that have been offered in author theory, "Francis Bacon, Philip Marlowe, and even Queen Elizabeth I." Philip Marlowe is the hero of several Raymond Chandler novels of the 1940s; you mean Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare's contemporary and brilliant playwright.

Ilya Gililov's claim for the Earl of Rutland has the virtue of novelty. But your article is right in one observation about Gililov: "he certainly won't find much acceptance among Western Shakespeare scholars." There's too much historical, textual, and biographical evidence for the certain authorship of Shakespeare, not least the tribute of one of the most learned, accomplished dramatists of the age, Ben Jonson.

There are many compelling arguments to refute the non-Shakespeare Shakespeareans, but one will suffice. A first-rank contemporary Shakespearean scholar, the Canadian Northrop Frye, observed: "If William Shakespeare of Stratford did not write the plays, then we have one of the most extraordinary coincidences in history: someone else with the same name, living in the same place at the same time, wrote the plays."

Norman Anderson

St. Louis, Mo.

Rumor and truth

I want to commend you for the way the Monitor has been soft-pedaling the gossip swirling around the nation lately about our president and concentrating on some of the important news of the day, all but forgotten by so many in the feeding frenzy.

Whether the stories are true - and I tend to believe they are part of a well-orchestrated political attempt to destroy Clinton - rumors, true or false, can never be recalled. They continue to ooze their poison into human society, even after proven false unequivocally.

Carl H. Schwarzenberg

Etna, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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