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LCQ9: Language Fund

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (May 22):


     The Language Fund (the Fund) has all along been providing financial support for projects and activities aimed at promoting "bi-literacy and tri-lingualism" (bi-literacy referring to written Chinese and English, and tri-lingualism referring to spoken Chinese (Cantonese), English and Putonghua) among Hong Kong people, including the English Enhancement Scheme and the Refined English Enhancement Scheme (the two Schemes) aiming at building up the capacity of schools for raising students' English proficiency. In addition, the Financial Secretary has proposed in this year's Budget that $5 billion be injected into the Fund. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the Fund's balance at present;

(b) of the specific uses of and the plans to use the $5 billion proposed to be injected into the Fund;

(c) whether it knows among the schools which were approved each year to participate in the two Schemes since they were launched, the respective numbers of those schools which, up to the present, (i) have not yet launched, (ii) are still implementing, and (iii) have already completed the relevant projects;

(d) whether it knows the total number of schools participating in the two Schemes which had used the relevant funding to employ English language teachers or English language teaching assistants in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, and the respective numbers of those being employed; and

(e) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the two Schemes in supporting school-based teaching of the English language in schools; if it has, of the assessment results; whether the authorities will consider extending the implementation of the two Schemes; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether the authorities have formulated other policies whereby the English language teachers and teaching assistants employed under the two Schemes may continue to raise the English proficiency of students through other means after completion of the two Schemes?



(a) As at January 31, 2013, the available balance of the Language Fund was $95 million.

(b) The Language Fund supports and funds various projects in enhancing the proficiency in Chinese (including Putonghua) and English of the people of Hong Kong. The proposed $5 billion injection is a seed funding which helps provide a stable stream of funding for the Language Fund to facilitate its longer term planning.

     There is no intention to change the remit of the Language Fund. The Government will seek advice of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research which comprises experienced principals and teachers, renowned language academics and private sector personalities on the use of the fund to support worthwhile initiatives and programmes. Activities supported by the fund in the past include researches and development projects on language education; school-based support to raise students' interests and confidence in language learning and cater for learners' diversity; enhancement of the professionalism of language teachers; and creation of a facilitating language learning environment, including building a closer partnership among relevant sectors.

(c) Both the English Enhancement Scheme (EES) and Refined English Enhancement Scheme (REES) under the Language Fund are time-limited projects with designated objectives. The former (i.e. the EES), launched in 2006, is to strengthen the teaching and learning of English of secondary schools through strategic planning with a holistic school-based plan on capacity building of English teachers with a view to enhancing students' English proficiency. The REES launched in 2010 is primarily for supporting the implementation of the fine-tuned medium of instruction (MOI) arrangements. Schools can build on the foundation of EES to adjust and/or refocus relevant items of their plans as appropriate to put in place their school-based MOI arrangements.

     Schools having taken into account their own situations and other factors including market capacity and adjustment could opt to start their projects under the EES in January 2007 the earliest and the last batch had also commenced their projects in July 2008. At present, 159 schools have completed their projects with the remaining 280 schools continuing their projects. As for the implementation of the REES, schools started their projects earliest in January 2011 and latest in September 2011. Six schools have completed their projects and the remaining 380 schools are still implementing their projects.

     It is anticipated that about 230 schools will continue their projects into the 2013/14 school year.

(d) A total of 440 teachers and 238 teaching assistants were employed under temporary contract terms by schools implementing the EES and REES in the 2011/12 school year. In the 2012/13 school year, the corresponding figures are 399 teachers and 220 teaching assistants. An estimated number of 150 teaching staff would be employed by the 230 schools continuing their projects into the 2013/14 school year. The temporary teaching staff were/are mainly deployed to release experienced school teachers for devising and/or strengthening the school-based curriculum and measures including the planning for learning English across the curriculum with the collaboration between English and non-language subject teachers with a view to adopting the whole-school approach in providing students with more exposure to English. This enables schools to sustain the positive effects when the schemes are completed.

(e) As mentioned in paragraphs (c) and (d) above, the two schemes aim at enhancing the professional capacity of teaching and learning English of individual schools. In evaluating their effectiveness, in addition to the requirements under the School Development and Accountability Framework, we also take into account circumstances of individual schools and recommendations of scholars and language experts at the professional dialogues with each participating school to draw up a performance contract setting out the outcome targets to be achieved within a specified timeframe to facilitate evaluation. In parallel, the Education Bureau conducts supervisory visits to each participating school to verify their performance. Upon completion of the schemes, we will conclude the evaluation findings.

     Though the two schemes are time-limited in nature, their purpose is that schools should continue to benefit from the sustainable effects upon lapse of the schemes, hence we have no plan to extend the two schemes. In general, schools may absorb the teaching staff employed under the schemes concerned by filling the vacant teaching posts arising from staff wastage every year. Besides, schools may continue to employ the teaching staff concerned through flexible deployment of their resources.

Ends/Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:32


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