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LCQ 9: Medium of instruction adopted by universities

    Following is a question by the Hon Bernard Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (November 1):


     An expatriate student studying at a local university wrote to the press alleging that although it is stated in the prospectus that the medium of instruction for some university courses is English, they are in fact taught in Cantonese or "cocktail language", thus hampering expatriate students' learning.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it knows if the authorities of tertiary institutions:

(a) have learnt of the above situation, and have conducted investigation to ascertain whether the situation is prevalent;

(b) have taken measures to ensure that lecturers teach with the medium of instruction as stated in the course prospectus; and

(c) have taken measures to help students who are not conversant with Cantonese cope with their learning difficulties arising from language problems, and whether more resources will be allocated in this respect?


Madam President,

(a) All University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions have established detailed policies and guidelines on the medium of instruction (MoI).  These cover, among other things, the approved MoI for course delivery, the special circumstances under which a language other than the approved MoI can be used, and the arrangements for communicating the MoI policies to students.  The institutions will also advise the students of the MOI to be used for delivering individual courses and modules.  As we understand it, except for a few isolated cases, the institutions have closely followed their MoI policies and guidelines and the approved MoI.  

(b) All UGC-funded institutions have put in place measures to ensure that their established MoI policies and guidelines are followed.  These include -

* regular promulgation of the MoI policy to teaching staff (e.g. through circulars and reminders);

* regular monitoring and auditing of the MoI used in delivering courses and modules at the departmental level;

* collecting feedback through established student feedback mechanisms (e.g. questionnaires) to ensure that the MoI policy has not been breached; and

* establishing complaint mechanisms and handling each and every of the complaints seriously.

(c) The UGC-funded institutions have taken various measures to assist students who are not conversant with Cantonese to overcome their learning difficulties.  Such measures include -

* establishing dedicated counselling offices to provide tailored and proactive support to foreign/non-local students (e.g. providing advice on course selection, and notifying the students concerned in advance of classes that would not be taught in English);

* exempting foreign/non-local students from taking courses that are offered in Cantonese only (e.g. China studies);

* offering English versions of courses/modules that are normally taught in Cantonese (e.g. Chinese civilisation);

* ensuring that programmes that admit foreign/non-local students offer a wide selection of English-medium modules/courses; and

* offering Chinese language courses to foreign/non-local students who want to learn Chinese.

     It is noted that the UGC-funded institutions have already put in place a wide range of measures and devoted resources to assist foreign/non-local students in such areas as course selection and learning.  At this stage, the Administration does not consider it necessary to provide the institutions with additional resources for this purpose.

Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Issued at HKT 15:41