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LCQ13: Chinese language education for non-Chinese speaking students
     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):

     It is learnt that a number of non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students are unable to master the Chinese language for various reasons, and hence their opportunities for further studies, employment as well as upward mobility are limited. Also, this situation has posed difficulties for them to integrate into the community and is a cause of inter-generational poverty. On the other hand, the Education Bureau has, since the 2014-2015 school year, implemented the "Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework" to step up the support for NCS students in learning the Chinese language. However, some members of the education sector have pointed out that most of the schools which admit a small number of NCS students neither operate separate Chinese language learning classes (commonly known as "pull-out Chinese language classes") nor provide adapted Chinese language textbooks and teaching materials for NCS students, resulting in such students being unable to master the Chinese language. Moreover, it is learnt that most Chinese language teachers have not studied in-service training programmes on teaching Chinese language to NCS students. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of secondary and primary schools operating pull-out Chinese language classes for NCS students in the 2016-2017 school year, and the percentage of the number of NCS students participating in such pull-out Chinese language classes in the NCS student population across the territory; the authorities' specific policies and measures to assist schools in operating pull-out Chinese language classes;

(2) whether it will allocate resources for the establishment of an education subsidy scheme to encourage Chinese language teachers to study in-service training programmes on teaching Chinese language to NCS students; and

(3) of the present situation of NCS students acquiring Chinese language qualifications; given that the Chinese Language curriculum of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination is too difficult for a number of NCS students, whether the authorities will consider setting up a separate mechanism for assessment of the Chinese language qualifications of those students in order to provide them with more pathways to further studies and employment?


     The Government is committed to encouraging and supporting the earliest possible integration of non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students (Note 1) (notably ethnic minority (EM) students) into the community, including facilitating their adaptation to the local education system and mastery of the Chinese language. In the 2014 Policy Address, a series of measures were announced to step up the support for EM students, including the implementation of the "Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework" ("Learning Framework"), which aims to help NCS students overcome the difficulties of learning Chinese as a second language with a view to enabling them to bridge over to mainstream Chinese Language classes and master the Chinese language. To facilitate schools' implementation of the "Learning Framework" and the creation of an inclusive learning environment in schools, starting from the 2014/15 school year, all schools admitting 10 or more NCS students have been provided with an additional funding ranging from $800,000 to $1,500,000 per year depending on the number of NCS students admitted (Note 2). The additional funding allows schools to adopt appropriate diversified intensive learning and teaching strategies/modes such as pull-out teaching, split-class/small-group learning and after-school consolidation, with a view to bridging NCS students to mainstream Chinese Language classes as early as possible. As regards schools admitting fewer (i.e. one to nine) NCS students, their NCS students can benefit from the immersed Chinese language environment of the school as well as the "Learning Framework". From the 2014/15 school year, these schools may have an additional funding of $50,000 on a need basis to offer after-school Chinese language support programmes to consolidate NCS students' learning in the regular Chinese Language lessons.

     My reply to Hon Holden Chow's question is as follows:

(1) Developed from the perspective of second language learners, the "Learning Framework" describes clearly the expected learning outcomes of NCS students at different learning stages. According to the varied needs and situations of NCS students, teachers can make reference to the "Learning Framework" to set progressive learning targets, learning progress and expected learning outcomes, adjust the school-based curriculum and teaching strategies, and enhance the learning effectiveness through a "small-step" learning approach with a view to enabling NCS students to bridge over to mainstream classes. In other words, the adoption of pull-out learning during Chinese Language lessons (the so-called "pull-out Chinese Language classes") is not the only effective teaching strategy/mode. Even if schools decide to adopt this teaching strategy/mode, they need to supplement it with other strategies/modes to help create a Chinese language environment conducive to NCS students' learning of Chinese. For instance, among those schools receiving additional funding for the implementation of the "Learning Framework", while 121 of them reported in their annual school plans for the 2015/16 school year (Note 3) that they adopted the pull-out learning strategy/mode, most of the schools concerned (about 90%) adopted two or more intensive learning and teaching strategies/modes (Note 4). A relatively large number of the schools concerned arranged two or more teachers/teaching assistants for co-teaching (an increase from about 20% in the 2014/15 school year to about 40% in the 2015/16 school year) to cater for the diverse learning progress and needs of their NCS students.
(2) The EDB launched the Professional Enhancement Grant Scheme for Chinese Teachers (Teaching Chinese as a Second Language) under the Language Fund in 2014 to encourage serving Chinese Language teachers, through providing subsidies, to enrol on relevant programmes to enhance their professional capability in teaching Chinese to NCS students. Besides, the EDB has been organising diversified and advanced professional development programmes for teachers to ensure that all teachers are provided with adequate training opportunities to enhance their professional capability in teaching Chinese as a second language. Teachers can apply knowledge and teaching strategies learnt in the professional development programmes to any lesson mode.
     As for learning and teaching materials, before the start of the 2014/15 school year, the EDB has provided, by phases, practical tools and steps to help schools master the use of the "Learning Framework". Second language learning and teaching reference materials, including a series of Chinese as a Second Language Learning Packages covering the primary and secondary curricula, have also been delivered to schools and students in the form of textbooks. Other complementary resources such as the Chinese Language Assessment Tools and teaching reference materials have been uploaded onto the EDB webpage and will be updated continually.

     Besides, the EDB has been providing diversified school-based professional support services to schools admitting NCS students. These include on-site support provided by EDB's professional support teams, as well as the University-School Support Programmes, the Professional Development Schools Scheme and the School Support Partners (Seconded Teacher) Scheme financed by the Education Development Fund. The support services aim to cater for the actual needs of the applicant schools, enhance teachers' professional capacity and the effectiveness of NCS students' learning of the Chinese language, and to facilitate their smooth transition between different Key Stages of learning.
(3) NCS students have different needs and personal expectations on Chinese learning. With reference to the "Learning Framework", schools can make evidence-based recommendations on whether individual NCS students can be bridged to the mainstream Chinese Language classes and help them make informed choices on whether to take the mainstream Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination for Chinese Language or to take the Applied Learning Chinese (for NCS students) (ApL(C)) and/or attain other internationally recognised Chinese Language qualifications. NCS students could be articulated to multiple pathways and apply for programmes offered by local or overseas tertiary institutions or apply for jobs with these recognised Chinese Language qualifications.
     Starting from the 2014/15 school year, NCS students can take ApL(C) at the senior secondary level to obtain an alternative Chinese Language qualification to prepare them for further studies and work. In addition to the HKDSE qualification, ApL(C) is also pegged to the Qualifications Framework Levels 1-3. For further studies, University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions and most post-secondary institutions accept ApL(C) as an alternative qualification in Chinese Language for the admission of NCS students with "Attained" as the minimum grade required. For work, Civil Service Bureau accepts "Attained" and "Attained with Distinction" in ApL(C) as meeting the Chinese language proficiency requirements of relevant civil service ranks.
     Meanwhile, eligible NCS students (Note 5) will continue to be provided with examination subsidy for obtaining internationally recognised Chinese Language qualifications (Note 6) for applying for programmes offered by UGC-funded institutions and post-secondary institutions (including Vocational Training Council). Moreover, for NCS students failing to attain Level 3 or above in the HKDSE Examination for Chinese Language , the UGC-funded institutions may consider their applications case by case and handle the Chinese Language requirement flexibly. Arrangement details have been uploaded onto the webpage of "FAQs on University Entrance Requirements".
Note 1: For the planning of educational support measures, students whose spoken language at home is not Chinese are broadly categorised as NCS students.
Note 2: The funding model is as follows:  

Number of NCS students     Additional funding ($ million)
10 –25                               0.80
26 –50                               0.95
51 –75                               1.10
76 –90                               1.25
91 or more                         1.50

Note 3: The schools concerned are required to submit the annual school reports for the 2015/16 school year by the end of November 2016. As for the 2016/17 school year, the annual school plans submitted by schools are being compiled.
Note 4: The major intensive learning and teaching strategies/modes adopted by schools in the 2015/16 school year are summarised are at Annex.
Note 5: Specifically, these NCS students are those who have learnt Chinese Language for either:
(a) less than six years while receiving primary and secondary education; or
(b) six years or more in schools, but have been taught an adapted and simpler curriculum not normally applicable to the majority of students in local schools.
Note 6: The EDB will continue to provide examination subsidy to eligible NCS students to obtain internationally recognised Chinese Language qualifications, including the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) (Chinese) Examination, the Chinese Language examination of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), and General Certificate of Education (GCE). The "subsidised examination fee" is on par with the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSEE) (Chinese). Needy NCS students will be granted full or half remission of the "subsidised examination fee" for taking these examinations.
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:48
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