Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 183–201 | Cite as

The impact of the medium of instruction: The case of teaching and learning of computer programming

  • Wilfred W. F. Lau
  • Allan H. K. Yuen


Despite the seemingly good prospects in the Information Technology (IT) industry, the expected number of students who are interested in the relevant subjects has been limited. While numerous studies have explored the influence of various variables on programming course participation and performance at a personal level, there have been few studies conducted at a policy level. This study examined the impact of the medium of instruction (MOI) on student learning of computer programming in Hong Kong. It also examined the effects of gender and prior academic ability on programming performance. No gender differences in programming performance were found in the sample after prior academic ability was controlled. Prior academic ability affected performance differentially. Chinese-medium instructed students tended to outperform their English-medium instructed counterparts and middle and low-ability students in English-medium schools were notably at-risk. In view of these results, we argue that the MOI issue is further complicated by student ability. This provides a new understanding of the impact of the MOI on student learning. At a policy level, the results offer empirical evidence for policy-makers to rethink the current MOI policy. At a school level, we propose some metacognitive and cognitive strategies to address the needs of those at-risk learners. Finally, we intend to raise a series of questions that warrant further discussion and investigation.


Medium of instruction Gender differences Student ability Second language learners Computer programming 



An earlier version of this article was presented at the Thirteenth Postgraduate Research Conference, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, May 2008. The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their invaluable comments on this article.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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