ORIGINAL RESOURCES FOR
TEACHERS AND STUDENTS OF EDUCATION AND
ENGLISH IN HONG KONG
LANGUAGE LEARNING DIFFICULTY IN HONG
KONG: An ethnographic assessment of the
Hong Kong context with proposed solutions
wide-ranging Hong Kong University
doctoral thesis by George Adams is
available as a PDF file here
(34.1 MB). It is also gradually being
made available in HTML sections on the
OTHK site. See links below.
PART ONE - Background
and preparation for research
Research Project I
1. THE CONCEPT OF
DIFFICULTY - Philosophical, psychological
and general semantic orientation
Chinese cognition and
2. DIFFICULTY AND
ENGLISH - General linguistic orientation
Authority and usage
First language errors
Contrasting first and
second language errors
Relative difficulty of
A universal hierarchy
3. ENGLISH IN HONG KONG
- Sociolinguistic orientation
Hong Kong English -
S.E. Asian and world perspectives
Localized forms of
English as an
Errors as unrecognised
features of Hong Kong English
The Hong Kong identity
Hong Kong English in
4. ENGLISH LANGUAGE
LEARNING - Focus on TEFL and TESL and our
Optimum acquisition and
Conditions for second
language learning (Spolsky)
Constraints in foreign
A TA Education Model
foreign/second language learning
and foreign/second language learning
5. RESEARCH PROJECT I -
Focus on Hong Kong English Language
Possible use of the
Comparison of student
and teacher perceptions of difficulty
PART TWO - Examination
and elucidation of Research Project I
Research Project II
6. THE INTERFERENCE OF
CANTONESE IN HONG KONG ENGLISH USAGE -
Contrastive lingusitic aspects to
perceived English language learning
difficulty in Hong Kong
Beyond error correction
and interference analysis
and sociological factors in
7. THE DIFFICULTIES OF
THE HONG KONG TEACHING/LEARNING
SITUATION - Sociology, educational
function and constraints
situation of Hong Kong students
The function of
education in Hong Kong society
The constraints of the
Hong Kong education system
The perception of
learning difficulty within the education
8. LEARNING STYLES AND
APPROACHES IN HONG KONG - The perspective
of the educational psychologist
The culture myth
Literature unrelated to
Users and sympathisers
of the Biggs Study Process Questionnaire
Critical assessment of
the Biggs line
9. RESEARCH PROJECT II
: CLASSROOM OBSERVATION - Do Hong Kong
English teachers attempt to counter the
nexus of difficulty?
STRATEGIES AND A SUGGESTED INTERVENTION
Comparisons between TA
Language Learning and other methods and
TALL in principle
TALL in practice
Results of the study
Directions of future
GAMES HONG KONG PEOPLE
PLAY - the best-selling classic guide
to Hong Kong life (1992).
Now out of print but about to be
re-published. 'Adams is a wickedly astute
people watcher who has managed to sum up,
with absolute accuracy, a small mass of
mankind in a minimum of words...Wonderful
stuff.' TV AND ENTERTAINMENT TIMES.
TAI TAM TUK - Light reading
for casual moments in tribute to Raymond Chandler.
THE HUI BOYS - George Adams' 2014 investigation of
the Rafael Hui / Thomas Kwok corruption trial.
EXIT TO STANLEY - The Donald Tsang bribery and
NOTE AND CONDITION OF USE: ©
George Adams 1992-2010. Copyright and all
other ownership rights have not been
relinquished on the above material.
George Adams works available in the Hong
Kong Public Libraries.
George Adams USA published stories
available on Google
Tribune article by Ed Neilan
describing NOT THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING
THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST" -
Chapter 8 of The
Suffocation Of Hong Kong.
NOT THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
available at Hemlock's
Journalism Review 50 International
Names To Know.
HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS?: Education and
Socialisation in Hong Kong by Anthony
Solloway on Amazon.
NOTE AND LATEST LINKS
The following are
examples of actual examination papers used in past
1. Study with a routine.
An effective study strategy is a must.
How did I handle my routine it?
Here’s my strategy that you can use as well:
time across multiple subjects. The
#1 rookie mistake students make is throwing all
their time on one subject per day. Every subject
needs a bit of love and attention.
more specific: time. Spend
one hour on thee to four different subjects per day,
every day. For your weaker subjects, 2 hours
would be required. This means around 4 hours of
regular study every day if you want to do extremely
well in the IB.
To help organise my study schedule in the IB, I used the
Calendar app. Below is a recreated version of what
my timetable once looked
like. Please note that the schedule is a recreation and
it is too organised. The point is to give you the idea
routine schedule for study is extremely important.
Example of my study calendar.
Benefits of an
- It ensures that
you study a healthy
subjects every evening
- It ensures that
you give equal
all subjects. I made sure I did 3 x one-hour study
sessions for each subject every week.
A lot of students don’t use calendars because they feel
Of course, it is hard
to stick to rigid guidelines.
if an urgent assignment is due this week? What if I
need to spend more time on this subject because I
can’t understand it?
No problem. The time at which a subject is allocated is
flexible and should evolve depending on your daily
needs. Simply move the block of time to another time or
another day. Add time to a block. Shorten a block of
time. Do whatever you want.
The purpose of a calendar is not to enslave
yourself. It’s meant to give you a well-planned but
flexible guide for how you should be spending your time.
It also relieves the invisible stress of having to
organise your day in your head.
2. Stay ahead
We are successful when we are prepared. One way to excel
in the IB is to stay ahead of the class material. Hey,
no one said getting an IB 45 is easy.
Staying ahead means preparing
early. Don’t wait for your teacher to cover the
content in class. Use holidays to
begin learning new content independently. When the new
semester arrives, you can use class time as
clarification, revision, and consolidation. Early
preparation also reduces stress during the academic
term–a big plus.
3. Running the long
Don’t be the guy who makes notes for two years’ worth of
IB content in the month before finals. You won’t get
Learning is like marinating a chicken.
For knowledge to seep into the deep crevices of your
brain, you need to consistently and regularly immerse
yourself in the subject content for two years — not a
The IB is a triathlon (yes, I avoided the pedestrian
marathon metaphor, pun intended), not a 100m sprint. If
you treat the IB as a sprint, you’ll die
It’s also a very stressful experience.
IB: “Do you want cortisol with that?”
“No thanks. Ketchup is fine.”
4. Use the subject
syllabus, aka train tracks
The IB outlines exactly what you need to know for
your exams. This magical information is all contained in
the corresponding subject
syllabus. It’s pretty much a train
track. Follow it and you’ll get to where you need to go
(the Land of 45).
word of warning: Syllabi change every couple years;
make sure you use the correct one.
Note-making with the syllabus
I made all my notes based on the syllabus points for
- This keeps my
notes organised, concise and neat.
- I know exactly
what I need to know by sticking to the syllabus.
Do not be lazy and just rely on the textbook. Textbooks
are made by third-party companies. These textbooks like
to add redundant information and do not stick to the
syllabus. Of course, good textbooks are also extremely
important, which brings me to my next point.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
As you go through your IB journey, you encounter the
good and the bad. There are some textbooks that are
indeed quite bad to learn from, not just because they
contain glaring mistakes and misprints in both
questions and answers,
but also because they babble on and on about irrelevant
I have yet to write more textbook and learning resource
recommendations for different subjects. You can read the textbook
and resource recommendations for IB Chemistry.
6. Be proactive and
ask for help
Never leave problems unsolved.
Deal with problems in your understanding immediately. Knowledge
is like a house of cards. You need a solid foundation
(basic skills, SL) before you can build the beautiful
arches and domes at the top (advanced skills, HL).
If you build on a weak foundation, everything you learn
later in the course will not be able to hold itself up.
“London bridge is falling down…”
Avoid these troubles by ensuring your complete
understanding of course material when
it is being taught.
- Ask your
- Consult YouTube.
- Ask a friend.
- Sell a kidney
and trade it for wisdom (not really, although…).
Don’t let problems fester and come back to haunt you.
7. Get to know the
do I realise that I don’t understand a concept
If you can teach a concept to a friend or peer, then you
understand the concept.
We don’t always have a convenient friend that we can
just steal and force upon them with our teachings.
QuestionBank is a collection of past IB questions
collated officially by the International Baccalaureate
Organisation (IBO). I recommend that you ask your IB
teachers about QuestionBank first because it is
Anyway, after I made my notes and felt that I understood
the theoretical concepts, I used QuestionBank to test
myself. Success in IB exams requires you to be familiar
with the style of IB questions.
After working through a question, I check the Mark
scheme (Official answers key) which conveniently pops
onto my screen. I then compare my answers with the Mark
scheme and adjust how I answer that type of question.
will maximise your exam score, GUARANTEED.
8. Do an Anticipated
Doing well in the IB is mostly about being organised and
consistent. But there are also times when the IB can be
made, strategically, into a mad sprint–for your own
a great way to minimise stress and academic workload in
your final diploma year, when TOK, CAS, EE and countless
IAs are all due in a conveniently squished period of
time. I talk about the benefits
of doing Anticipated subjects in the IB in
my recent article.
We reproduce this important
article temporarily from the Daily
Telegraph in full for the benefit of Hong
Kong students contemplating study in the
school pupils 'being rejected
By Graeme Paton,
Eleanor Harding and Heidi Blake
Published: 10:00PM GMT 12 Feb 2010
Entry at Oxbridge is especially hard
this year Photo: IAN JONES
Headmasters are blaming a shortage of
university places caused by funding cuts,
combined with the effect of Labour’s
“social engineering” drive that
prioritises bright children from
Two out of three top independent
schools approached by The Daily Telegraph
said teenagers were finding it harder to
get into higher education this year
compared with 12 months ago.
In some cases, pupils predicted to get
three A*s at A-level – along with a
string of perfect GCSE results – are
being turned down from all five of their
Entry to Oxbridge is especially hard
this year, heads claim. Some schools
reported a drop of around three-quarters
in the number of students with offers
from Oxford and Cambridge.
Heads said the squeeze was being
exacerbated by the Government’s “widening
participation” policy. It encourages
universities to give lower grade offers
to bright pupils from poor schools
showing the most potential.
It is also feared that universities
are prioritising foreign students who can
be charged far higher fees.
Richard Cairns, head of Brighton
College, said: “The financial pressures
and the social mobility agenda are
leading to a situation where children who
have worked very hard to get the grades
that their forebears got are finding it
more difficult than their predecessors to
get into university.”
One student from Brighton – rated
among Britain’s top 20 schools in a
recent league table – has been rejected
from Oxford, University College London
and Durham, despite being predicted three
A*s at A-level, on top of straight As at
GCSE and AS level.
The Telegraph interviewed the heads of
30 leading independent schools and
two-thirds reported concerns over the
In many cases, they said universities
imposed last-minute rises in A-level
entry requirements – often after
students had applied.
The disclosure follows the publication
of figures this week showing applications
to degree courses are up 23 per cent
compared with 2009. More than 100,000
extra applications have been made and
demand for places at some institutions
has doubled in just 12 months.
The rise is being driven by students
reapplying after being turned down last
year combined with a dramatic increase in
demand from mature students returning to
education because of a shortage of jobs
in the recession.
Despite the surge, separate research
from the Telegraph suggests that as many
as a quarter of universities are actually
cutting the number of places for British
undergraduates after a drop in budgets.
Last week, universities were told that
spending would be slashed by £449m in
the autumn, including a £215m reduction
in cash for teaching and warnings of
further reductions in the future.
Steve Smith, the president of
Universities UK, which represents
vice-chancellors, told the Telegraph that
admissions tutors still had a “duty”
to identify good students with poorer
grades despite the admissions crisis –
potentially placing further pressure on
places for independent school pupils.
“Many students who have shown a
desire to go to university are going to
be very disappointed this year,” he
said. “But data shows that people often
do better coming in with lower grades
from a poorly-performing school then if
they come in with higher grades from a
Antony Clark, the head of Malvern
College in Worcestershire, said
outstanding candidates who would have
received five offers from top
universities were now lucky to receive
one or two.
“I think admissions tutors are
looking closely for the rough diamond who
has not been through the private school
system but is showing huge potential,”
Peter Roberts, the head of Bradfield
College, Reading, said: “We will have
some boys and girls who are turned down
for all five universities they apply for
in the upper-sixth and that’s very hard
for a young person who has worked hard
and done well.”
Many independent schools send a small
number of students to Oxbridge every
year. But some told the Telegraph that
numbers had plummeted in 2010.
Woodhouse Grove School, West
Yorkshire, said it usually had three
offers, but only received one this year.
Elizabeth Enthoven, head of sixth
form, said: “I think the competition is
much fiercer, and they have their agenda
about open access.”
Sunderland High School said it had no
Oxbridge offers, despite normally
receiving around two. One boy had three
A* predictions and straight As at GCSE
and AS level but was rejected.
Queen’s College, Taunton, said the
three or four places pupils normally
gained had dropped to one, while Emanuel
School, Battersea, said numbers dropped
from around three a year to one in 2010.
Mark Hanley-Browne, Emanuel
headmaster, said: “It’s harder to get
into the top universities in 2010. We had
very good students that didn’t make it
who in previous years would have done -
people with 10 A*s at GCSE and four As at
Other schools told how students were
finding it significantly harder to get
into other universities, suggesting that
the squeeze is being felt across the
In a separate disclosure, the
Telegraph surveyed 30 top universities. A
quarter said they planned to cut student
numbers. This included Lancaster,
Leicester, Manchester and the West of
England. At least half said numbers were
In all, between 750,000 and 800,000
students are expected to compete for
around 480,000 places.
Graham McQueen, head of sixth form,
Warminster School, Wiltshire, said: “It’s
never been more competitive to get into
the Russell Group universities.”
King’s School, Rochester, said the
grades offered for red brick universities
were noticeably higher.
Kevin Jones, head of senior school,
said: “My main concern is what happens
in the summer. The people who miss their
grades by a whisker are going to have
“It’s going to be much more
difficult to negotiate on results day.”
A spokesman for the Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills, denied
that private school pupils faced
“Although admissions are rightly a
matter for individual institutions, the
Government is committed to ensuring that
entry to university is determined by
aptitude, potential and merit, not where
a student was educated,” she said.
“There are a record number of
students – over 2m – at university.
That’s 390,000 more than in 1997 and
next year we expect there will be more
students than ever before.
“But getting a place at university
has always been, and should be, a
competitive process. Not everyone gets
the grades and some decide university is
not for them.
“But, it is early days and students
haven’t even sat their A-levels yet.”