In post-colonial Hong Kong, despite the Chinese government’s effort to promote the national language, English is still held to be the most marketable language, particularly in this age of globalization. Most tertiary institutions in Hong Kong therefore continue to adhere to the English-medium instruction (EMI) policy. However, with the changing socio-political environment, the Chinese language has assumed more importance; meanwhile, the general English language proficiency of university students has declined as a result of the democratization of tertiary education. This raises the question of the practicality of the adoption of the EMI policy across the higher education sector, particularly at the self-financing tertiary institutions, where students normally are less academically accomplished. In order to understand how the EMI policy is practised in these institutions, teachers and students from different academic programmes of five self-financing tertiary institutions in Hong Kong were interviewed to explore their perceived realities in EMI classrooms, coping strategies and language preferences. Findings reveal persistent support for the EMI policy, though its actual implementation involves various adaptations which may be harmful to students’ English learning. It is argued that efforts be made to address the issues involved so that the EMI policy can be more than an aspiration.
Key Words: medium of instruction, ESL, higher education, Hong Kong