By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
“Macau people’s English skills are very influential to the economic development of the territory, especially after the liberalisation of the gaming industry where contacts with foreigners have increased,” Iao Tun Ieong, principal of Hou Kong Middle School said yesterday.
Because of this belief, Iao decided to establish a new bilingual education school affiliated to Hou Kong Middle School, in Taipa.
For the around 100 students, yesterday was not only the beginning of the new school year, but was also their first day to attend classes in a brand new school.
Premier School currently has two kindergarten level 1 (K1) classes, as well as one kindergarten level 2, kindergarten level 3 and primary level 1 classes.
Iao said the grade will be extended to primary level 3 in next school year, and a secondary school section will be added in 2013.
He also said that each grade will only open one class (except K1 due to “overwhelming demand”) and each class will basically have no more than 20 students.
In addition, Mandarin and English are used as the main languages of instruction there.
“Macau needs schools of international standards and we cannot teach students to only recite textbooks. In the West the teaching style is very different. Macau students have to have the capabilities [such as critical thinking, good language skills] so that they are able to compete with other people in the world,” Iao told the Macau Daily Times.
According to the principal, Macau people’s abilities to speak, read and write English partly determine to what extent the local economy can develop, since Macau is now “an international city”.
He also stressed that having good English skills is beneficial to students’ self development and further careers, while being able to speak fluent Mandarin is “necessary for every Chinese”.
At present, Premier School only has students of Chinese nationality. Yet, Iao told the MDT that foreign children are accepted even though they don’t know Mandarin, as language classes will be given accordingly.
The school has five native English-speaking teachers from the UK and the Philippines and each of them is responsible for a class.
Apart from language skills, children’s artistic talents are emphasised.
“The Education and Youth Affairs Bureau has always said to us that we need to diversify our teaching approaches and content. So besides consolidating the fundamental knowledge, students’ artistic abilities will also be cultivated,” Iao said.
“We have more than 60 pianos and also dance and music rooms in the campus. Calligraphy and Chinese painting are also taught here,” he added.