LCQ7: Enhancing public's Putonghua standard
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     Following is a question by the Reverend Canon the Hon Peter Douglas Koon and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (November 23):
 
Question:
 
     The Opinions on Comprehensively Strengthening Language and Writing Work in the New Era, which was issued by the General Office of the State Council on November 30 last year, expressly supports the launch of Putonghua education and enhancement of the level of application of Putonghua in Hong Kong and Macao. Regarding the enhancement of the public's Putonghua standard, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1)  of the respective current numbers of primary and secondary schools which fully use Putonghua as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language subject (commonly known as PMIC);
 
(2)  whether the authorities provided any funding in the past five years to encourage schools to organise multifarious Putonghua activities (such as public speaking competitions, interactive theatres, radio dramas and outside school exchange activities), so as to give students more opportunities to use Putonghua on and off campus; if so, of the amount of funding provided each year and the number of students benefitted from each activity, and whether they have compiled statistics on the percentage of students who showed good Putonghua standard in the total number of participants in each activity;
 
(3)  whether the authorities provided any funding in the past five years to enhance their websites (such as the "Tong Da Xue Pu" website developed by the Education Bureau), apps and learning software for learning and applying Putonghua, so as to enable students to gain exposure to Putonghua, learn more Putonghua vocabularies and extend their classroom learning anytime and anywhere; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
 
(4)  whether it will add a standardised Putonghua proficiency assessment in the civil service recruitment examinations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
 
(5)  as there are views pointing out that while enrichment courses for the Putonghua Shuiping Ceshi (PSC) conducted by the State Language Work Committee are included in the reimbursable course list under the Continuing Education Fund (CEF), the threshold for reimbursement of course and examination fees for applicants who have completed the courses is too high (e.g. applicants must have attained a result of Grade 3 Level B or above in PSC), whether the authorities will consider lowering the relevant threshold or including Putonghua courses of lower levels in the CEF course list, with a view to providing more opportunities for students and adults to learn Putonghua, thereby enhancing the public's interest and enthusiasm in learning Putonghua; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:
 
President,
 
     Hong Kong's policy on language education at primary and secondary levels aims to enhance the biliterate (written Chinese and English) and trilingual (Cantonese, Putonghua and spoken English) abilities of our students. As the common language of the Han nationality, Putonghua is used among various Chinese ethnic groups for communication. There is no doubt that proficiency in Putonghua will help Hong Kong students acquire a better understanding of our country and facilitate development in future. In this connection, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has all along been adopting a multi-pronged strategy to promote learning of Putonghua among students.
      
     In consultation with the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) and the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB), my reply to the question raised by Reverend Canon the Hon Peter Douglas Koon is as follows:
 
(1) and (2) After Hong Kong's return to the Motherland, Putonghua has been included as one of the core subjects at the primary and junior secondary levels. Since 1998, all primary and secondary students have been able to learn Putonghua in class. As for using Putonghua as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language subject (PMIC), schools may, taking into account their school-based circumstances and conditions including the qualification levels of teachers, the Putonghua standard of students, the language environment of schools and support from parents, make relevant decisions in a professional manner. PMIC may be adopted across the board, at certain levels/classes or for certain modules/teaching content. Given the different circumstances of schools adopting PMIC, their curriculum planning as well as numbers of levels/classes and students vary each year. As such, information on the number of schools adopting PMIC is not available. 
     ‚Äč
     As mentioned above, the learning of Putonghua is not limited to the subject of Putonghua and PMIC. The use of Putonghua is flexible and not confined to the classroom. The Education Bureau (EDB) has all along been encouraging schools to organise multifarious Putonghua activities to give students more opportunities to use Putonghua on and off campus. The EDB collaborates with schools, educational organisations and social organisations to organise various kinds of Putonghua activities for students such as the Putonghua competitions organised for schools by the EDB (Note 1). Furthermore, the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) makes use of the Language Fund to encourage and provide funding to different sectors of the community, such as community organisations, charitable organisations, tertiary institutions, and arts and cultural organisations., to conduct a variety of activities to promote Putonghua. The above will foster a social atmosphere that is conducive to Putonghua learning and create a diversified Putonghua learning environment for students outside the classroom. For instance, the "Promotion of Putonghua" programme invites applications and provides funding for projects as initiated by the community, including roving education theatres, public speaking contests, video production and quiz competitions, as well as radio drama competitions. Since the 2017/18 school year, a total grant of over $30 million has been approved by SCOLAR to fund projects initiated by the community under the "Promotion of Putonghua" programme and the attendance of beneficiary students has exceeded 300 000. In addition, the "Sponsorship Projects" have been established under the Language Fund with the aim to promote biliteracy and trilingualism. The nature, scale, target participants and types of the activities involved are diverse. Since the 2017/18 school year, the "Sponsorship Projects" which covered elements of promotion of Putonghua have been funded with over $7 million, benefiting students with an attendance of more than 30 000 in total. According to the feedback gathered by the organisers and the observations by the SCOLAR Secretariat, participating students were able to speak Putonghua with enthusiasm and they demonstrated good Putonghua proficiency in general. This is a positive outcome of the promotion of Putonghua learning in schools.
 
     The EDB also provides school-based support services for primary and secondary schools and collaborates with schools in optimising the implementation of the school curriculum, including, among others, assisting teachers in creating a language environment conducive to Putonghua learning. Schools are now generally able to provide students with rich language learning experiences both within and beyond the classroom so as to enhance their opportunities, interests and abilities in using Putonghua.
      
     In addition to various grants offered by the EDB, public sector and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools can flexibly make use of the Life-wide Learning Grant to organise different learning activities (including Putonghua-related learning activities) so as to enrich students' learning experiences. Since relevant learning activities are organised with the school-based approach, the EDB does not collect any data in this regard.
 
(3) With the advancement of information technology, the EDB has also developed different types of learning and teaching aids (Note 2) for reference and use by students and teachers online and offline, including enhancing the content and the functions of the "Tong Da Xue Pu" self-learning website (Note 3), as well as producing a Glossary of Easily-mispronounced Terms, the "Great Fun in b p m f" interactive e-learning resource pack, a game booklet on the Correct Pronunciation and Application of Putonghua and the "Voice and Expression: Learning Materials for Reading Aloud in Putonghua with Background Music for Primary and Secondary Schools". Besides, the EDB also prepares school exemplars and invites university and secondary students to produce short videos on the theme "Mispronunciation and Misunderstanding" (Note 4) so that students can extend their classroom learning and gain exposure to Putonghua anytime and anywhere. As the above expenditure has been subsumed under the recurrent expenditure of the EDB, a breakdown is not available. The EDB will continue reviewing the policy and schools' support needs, thereby enabling students to continue improving their Putonghua communication skills.
 
(4) Chinese and English are both the official languages of Hong Kong. It is the Government's policy to maintain a fully biliterate and trilingual civil service to ensure effective communication with the public in discharging their official duties.
 
     Heads of Department/Grade would, having regard to the job requirements of the grades under their purview, specify appropriate language proficiency requirements as part of the entry requirements of the grades concerned. In assessing whether candidates meet the Putonghua proficiency required by the grade concerned, the recruiting department/grade may, having regard to its operational needs, decide on the appropriate assessment method(s), such as requiring candidates to answer questions in Putonghua during selection interviews, or requiring candidates to attain specific results in designated Putonghua proficiency tests.
      
     While maintaining the standard of public services, the Government will from time to time review the language proficiency requirements of various civil service grades to ensure that they commensurate with the job requirements and allow people of different backgrounds to join the civil service. The CSB will also continue to strengthen Putonghua training for civil servants, with a view to enhancing the overall ability of the civil service in using Putonghua.
 
(5) Around 60 Putonghua proficiency courses currently under the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) have adopted the Putonghua Proficiency Test (or Putonghua Shuiping Ceshi (PSC)) jointly promulgated by the State Language Commission, the State Education Commission and the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television as the specified benchmark test. PSC results are classified into 3 levels and 6 grades, namely levels 1, 2 and 3, each of which is subdivided into grade A or B. The highest grading is Level 1-A, while Level 3-B is the passing grading. Candidates not attaining any grading will not be awarded any graded certificate. The CEF threshold for applicants to reimburse the course and test/examination fees only requires a passing grading, aiming to encourage learners to obtain relevant qualification by passing the formal assessment to certify their language proficiency. The CEF authority currently has no plan to lower the threshold to apply for reimbursement of course and test/examination fees.
 
Note 1: For details of the competitions, please visit the EDB website:
www.edb.gov.hk/tc/curriculum-development/kla/chi-edu/resources/pri-pth_competition.html
(Details of the competitions) (Chinese only)
www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/tc/curriculum-development/kla/chi-edu/resources/pri-pth_competition/2122PTH%20Comp.mp4
(Footage of secondary section)
www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/tc/curriculum-development/kla/chi-edu/resources/pri-pth_competition/2021PTH%20Comp.mp4
(Footage of primary section)
 
Note 2: Please refer to the following EDB websites for learning and teaching aids of Putonghua: www.edb.gov.hk/tc/curriculum-development/kla/chi-edu/resources/pth-pri/pri-reference-materials.html (for primary schools) (Chinese only)
www.edb.gov.hk/tc/curriculum-development/kla/chi-edu/resources/pth-sec/sec-reference-materials.html (for secondary schools) (Chinese only)
 
Note 3: The "Tong Da Xue Pu" self-learning software website for Putonghua at the primary and secondary levels was revamped in the 2021/22 school year with improved content and enhanced functions (Chinese only): www.edbchinese.hk/pth
 
Note 4: Short videos on the theme of "Mispronunciation and Misunderstanding": emm.edcity.hk/channel/%E8%AA%A4%E8%AE%80%E8%88%87%E8%AA%A4%E6%9C%83/256479243

Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:35

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