Context and Constraints: Immersion in Hong Kong and Mainland China
The worldwide demand for additive bilingualism through schooling is immensely strong, especially among Asian countries. Immersion education, in different forms and with different names, is a frequently chosen means of achieving this. Educators must, however, balance the promotion of immersion with caution in order to ensure that implementation leads to success rather than disappointment and consequent loss of confidence in the model.
This paper discusses this challenge in the context of two programmes. In Hong Kong, the transition from a colonial education system has resulted in "late immersion under stress". In Mainland China, the demand for more English in the curriculum has resulted in various programme designs, some of which are inspired by immersion in North America.
The paper discusses the contextual features which have been instrumental in the emergence of these programmes and the views of stakeholders towards them. It suggests that the programmes, though they might not always meet the "classic" definitions of immersion, represent a pragmatic response to the political, social and educational contexts in which they operate. Nonetheless, if additive bilingualism is to be developed to the extent that is sought, more attention must be paid to the core features of immersion.