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LCQ17: Language education programmes

    Following is a question by the Hon Tam Heung-man and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (December 21):


Will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities introduced, in the past three years, language education programmes which were not funded by the Language Fund; if so, of the details of the programmes (including their contents and assessment methods) and the resources involved;

(b) whether it has reviewed the effectiveness of the above programmes; if so, of the review results; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it plans to put forward new language education programmes which are not funded by the Language Fund or revise the existing ones; if so, of the details of the plan; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a) Major initiatives aiming to raise the language proficiencies of students introduced in the past three years, in addition to the ones supported by the $1.4 billion strong Language Fund, are set out below ˇV

(I) Primary and Secondary Levels

Building of a Professional Language Teaching Force

     Since the 2000/01 school year, resources have been allocated each year as training subsidies for about 8 600 English and 4 800 Putonghua teachers to meet the Language Proficiency Requirement (LPR).  The allocation for 2005-06 for this purpose is about $60 million.  Starting from the 2004/05 school year, new teachers of these subjects are required to meet the LPR before they take up their teaching duties.  All serving teachers of these subjects should have met the LPR by August 31, 2006.

     In addition, new Chinese and English teachers joining the profession in or after the 2004/05 school year should possess, on appointment or in three to five years thereafter, qualifications on subject knowledge and pedagogical knowledge in the subject that they teach in.

     Moreover, professional upgrading courses (PUCs) organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Education are on-going for curriculum leaders of the English, Chinese, and Putonghua subjects in primary and secondary schools.  The provision for 2005-06 for this purpose is about $26 million.

Creating Room for Language Teachers

     To enable teachers to focus on teaching the subject they specialise in, starting from the 2005/06 school year (initially for three years), a provision of $141 million for 2005-06 is made available for over 400 public sector primary schools with 12 or more classes to implement specialised teaching starting with English, to be followed by Mathematics and/or Chinese.

     For the 300 schools using Chinese as the medium of instruction (CMI Schools), additional recurrent resources in various forms including additional English Language teachers (ranging from one to four depending on the size of the school) and a grant for developing materials or activities related to English learning.  The provision for this purpose for 2005-06 is about $430 million.

     The number of Native English-speaking Teachers (NETs) in primary and secondary schools has increased from 640 in the 2002/03 school year to 805 in the 2005/06 school year.  At the same time, 47 Advisory Teachers are also supporting the scheme.  We plan to increase the number of NETs by about 200 in the coming school years.  About $656 million is required for implementing the NET scheme to more than 1 000 primary and secondary schools.

Curriculum Reform

     As part of the education reform, major efforts were made in the past few years in the curriculum reform of the language subjects.  The revised Curriculum Guides (CGs) for Chinese and English Languages in Secondary and Primary Schools were released in the previous few years, increasing emphasis on the promotion of reading and language arts activities, such as drama, poetry and role plays in primary schools, learner-centred and task-based learning, and assessment for learning, etc.  About $20 million was allocated for 2004-05 for developing professional development programmes and resource packages for teachers in this regard.

Specifying a clear and realistic set of expected competencies

     The Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) was conducted for Primary 3 students in 2004 and for Primary 3 and 6 in 2005.  TSA results are important feedbacks to teachers and schools on the strengths and weaknesses of their students and as signals for improvement strategies.  The pro-rata annual cost for the assessment on the two languages is around $27 million.

(II) Post-secondary Level

     In the 2005/06 academic year, the University Grants Committee (UGC) has allocated a sum of $76.6 million for providing Language Enhancement Grants (LEGs) to all the eight UGC-funded institutions.  The grants support efforts to enhance studentsˇ¦ proficiencies in Chinese and English through programmes in various forms, including compulsory ones for all students, those designed for specific disciplines, courses on specific skills in writing or speaking, as well as workshops and summer courses on language abilities.

     In addition, the UGC introduced the Common English Proficiency Assessment Scheme in 2002 as a voluntary assessment scheme with the International English Language Testing System as the testing instrument.  In 2004/05, about 8 600 students participated in the Scheme with an average score of 6.64 on a nine-point scale, which is higher than that in 2003/04 (6.51).  In 2005/06, 9 500 students enrolled in the Scheme, recording an increase of 10% as compared with the number in 2004/05.

     This summarises the major initiatives on language education implemented by the Administration and not funded by the Language Fund in the past three years.

(b) Evaluation on the effectiveness for some of the initiatives above is on-going.  For example, evaluation for the NET Scheme is in progress, and the effectiveness of specialised teaching will be reviewed in three years.  For others, while there is no specific evaluation mechanism for individual measures, analysis of studentsˇ¦ performance (e.g. annual TSA or Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) results) would help reflect the outcome of various measures on language education.

     Indeed, gradual improvements have been observed.  For example, the average Hong Kong Attainment Test scores for English at Pre-S1 level have consistently risen from 2001 to 2004.  At HKCEE (English Language, Syllabus B), the percentage of students achieving a "C" or above has risen from 8.6% in 1997 to 12.2% in 2005; and that for an "E" or above from 59.2% to 74.8%.  Moreover, an employer survey conducted by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute in September 2005 also suggests that about 90% of employers surveyed are in general satisfied with the English language proficiency of their entry-level graduate employees.

(c) The Administration will continue to implement initiatives set out above, as well as new and on-going programmes supported by the Language Fund (including the $525-million strong Professional Development Incentive Grant Scheme for Language Teachers, the $276-million strong Task Force on Language Support, and an injection of $1.1 billion pending Finance Committeeˇ¦s approval for the purposes of strengthening the teaching and learning of English in CMI schools, enhancing the quality of English-medium teaching in  EMI schools and supporting the wider use of Putonghua to teach the Chinese Language subject in primary and secondary schools).  

     Substantive investment will be made in meeting the challenge of implementing the new academic structure for senior secondary education, and we are now working closely with stakeholders in the drafting and refining of the curriculum and assessment frameworks of New Senior Secondary (NSS) subjects, including Chinese and English.  Professional development programmes to build professional capacity of teachers have also started.  At the same time, the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority is in the process of developing a standards-referenced system for the HKCEE in the two language subjects for implementation by 2007.  These standards-referenced assessments will make it clear that a candidate's performance in the examination can peg against a set of standards-related descriptors in the relevant subject.

     As regards strengthening support on language education in primary and pre-primary levels, other than earmarking $200-million in the Language Fund for launching various programmes (including overseas immersion programmes for primary and kindergarten teachers and pilot programmes to support English education in kindergartens), we will examine the needs of kindergarten teachers in English teaching, including professional development needs and support in class.

Ends/Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Issued at HKT 14:01


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