Challenges arising from dissonant views about trilingual education in an early childhood context

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The discourse around combining local, national and international languages constitutes an important issue in the global education agenda (Kirkpatrick and Chau 2008). Ideas about how trilingual education ought to be designed and implemented vary across stakeholders. This study explores (1) the beliefs which early childhood education (ECE–ECE refers to teaching of young children up to the age of six) principals, teachers and parents exhibit about trilingual preschool education in Hong Kong; (2) the challenges in the trilingual preschool implementation processes, and (3) the mechanisms employed by ECE principals for coping with these challenges. Semi-structured interviews and observations were conducted to collect data from four preschools, and these were supplemented with documentary analysis. Findings indicate that the inconsistent beliefs among stakeholders about the aims of trilingual education and language choice, curriculum design, and instruction (pedagogy and activities) in trilingual preschools are the major challenge administrators-principals encountered impacting the implementation process. Teachers who lack professional knowledge and skills in the provision of trilingual education are also problematic. Moreover, the recruitment of native-speaking teachers of the target language is difficult due to perceived heavy workloads and poor pay. Findings also make evident important implications for policymakers, principals and professional development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-1010
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2018


  • Trilingual education
  • beliefs
  • curriculum
  • early childhood education
  • pedagogy
  • professional development


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