LCQ2: Using Putonghua as medium of instruction for teaching Chinese Language subject

     Following is a question by the Hon Lillian Kwok and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):


     The Education Bureau (EDB) mentioned, in a curriculum development document published in 2000, that using Putonghua as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language subject (PMIC) be adopted as a long-term goal. On the other hand, there are views pointing out that in order to tie in with the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, PMIC should be promoted in Hong Kong to enable students to acquire proficiency in Putonghua as early as possible, so as to prepare them for future studies or employment on the Mainland. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) how the current implementation situation of PMIC in Hong Kong compares with that 10 years ago; whether the current number of publicly-funded primary and secondary schools (including government and aided schools as well as schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme) implementing PMIC has increased, and of the difficulties encountered when implementing PMIC;

(2) of the current number of teachers in Hong Kong who possess qualifications for teaching Putonghua; among such teachers, the number of those who have passed the Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers (Putonghua), and the number of those who have obtained the result of Grade B, Level 2 or above in the Test of Proficiency in Putonghua conducted by the State Language Commission; and

(3) whether the EDB has reviewed the implementation situation of PMIC and formulated plans to step up the promotion of PMIC; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Putonghua is the standard Chinese language of our country and it is also a symbol of our nation. A good mastery of Putonghua is not only conducive to better expression and communication as well as integration into the overall development of the country, but it is also beneficial to boosting national pride and national confidence. Therefore, the Education Bureau (EDB) has been actively promoting the teaching and learning of Putonghua. 

     Under "one country, two systems", Hong Kong's language education policy is to cultivate students' biliterate and trilingual abilities, and to be able to express and communicate fluently in Putonghua, English and Cantonese. In order to dovetail with the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and to seize the opportunities of national development, we have the responsibility to nurture students' ability to use Putonghua.

     Since 1998, Putonghua has been officially included as a core subject at the primary and junior secondary levels with the aim to ensure that all primary and secondary students can master Putonghua. Using Putonghua as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language subject (i.e. PMIC) is one of the ways to promote the learning of Putonghua, and the Government has been striving to develop favourable conditions for implementing PMIC while setting PMIC as a long-term vision.  Schools are encouraged to take into account their school-based circumstances to adopt appropriate strategies to enhance the effectiveness of the teaching and learning of Putonghua. 

     My reply to the question raised by Hon Lillian Kwok is as follows:

(1) The Curriculum Development Council published "A Holistic Review of the Hong Kong School Curriculum Proposed Reforms" in 1999. The review proposed setting PMIC as a long-term vision. The EDB has implemented different school-based programmes to support schools in the implementation of PMIC. Moreover, a study called "Factors Affecting the Use of Putonghua to Teach Chinese Language in Hong Kong Primary and Secondary Schools" was conducted in 2006 to probe on the key factors of PMIC. In particular, some factors were found crucial in affecting the effectiveness of PMIC, namely "capacity of teachers", "arrangements for curriculum, teaching methods and teaching materials", "teaching and learning support", "students' learning ability", "language environment" and "attitudes and strategies of the school management". Given the different circumstances of schools, it is not advisable to rigidly adopt a single approach to the implementation of PMIC. Therefore, the EDB encourages schools to continue making professional school-based decisions on the PMIC arrangements according to their school-based circumstances and conditions. As the arrangements of PMIC vary among schools and the implementation progress of PMIC will be subject to teachers' mobility, the EDB did not collect the number of schools adopting PMIC. 

     According to schools' implementation experience, the key challenges of taking forward PMIC are namely the stability of teachers' capacity and the curriculum planning on how to organically integrate the Chinese Language subject with the Putonghua subject with good use of lesson time and appropriate teaching designs as well as assessment strategies. This ensures the realisation of the curriculum objectives and learning targets of both subjects, and together with the language environment at schools, students' language competence and Putonghua proficiency can be enhanced. In short, to ensure the effectiveness of PMIC, language teachers' language proficiency as well as language teaching abilities need to be strengthened.

(2) Since the 2000/01 school year, all new or newly deployed teachers of the Putonghua subject holding a regular post in publicly-funded schools and private primary/secondary day schools offering a full curriculum have to fulfill the language proficiency requirements, i.e. to fulfill the relevant requirements in the papers of "Listening and Recognition", "Pinyin" and "Speaking" of the Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers (Putonghua). They also have to meet the requirements for "Classroom Language Assessment" within the first year upon taking up the teaching post. As at the 2021/22 school year, a total of 6 230 Putonghua teachers who hold a regular post as aforementioned have met the relevant language proficiency requirements.

     As for whether teachers obtained the Certificate for the Test of Proficiency in Putonghua awarded by the State Language Commission (SLC), the EDB did not gather the relevant figures, which are hence not available.

(3) The EDB has been keeping in view students' learning of Putonghua. As observed from school inspections, schools would take into account their school-based circumstances and adopt diversified approaches to encourage students' learning of Putonghua through application. For instance, elements of learning and usage of Putonghua were integrated into the Chinese Language subject, or the curricula of the Chinese Language and Putonghua subjects were integrated in an organic manner. In addition, schools also arranged students to participate in Putonghua-related activities both within and outside the school, so as to arouse students' interests and enhance their abilities in using Putonghua. According to the results of the 2021 Thematic Household Survey published by the Census and Statistics Department, 85.7 per cent of the responding students perceived their language competence in Putonghua for daily use as totally sufficient, sufficient or average. The percentage has been rising steadily over the past ten years.

     Looking ahead, the EDB will develop conditions conducive to schools' implementation of PMIC from three perspectives:

(i) Stepping up teachers' professional development:
The EDB will support teachers' enhancement in Putonghua proficiency so as to build up teacher capacity for PMIC. Making reference to the recommendations of the Report on the Language Situation in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (2021) issued by the SLC and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Language Research Institute, we will continue to strengthen Guangdong-Hong Kong co-operation to promote the teaching and learning of Putonghua by exchanges with experts and teachers in Cantonese-speaking regions on Putonghua teaching strategies and experience; co-operation with the Department of Education of Guangdong Province to organise the "Advanced Course on Teaching of Putonghua"; implementation of the "Mainland-Hong Kong Teachers Exchange and Collaboration Programme"; and conducting co-teaching with Mainland expert teachers.

(ii) Enhancing students' Putonghua listening and speaking abilities: 
The EDB encourages schools, the school sector and community organisations to concertedly provide diversified and interesting Putonghua learning activities for students. The Standing Committee on Language Education and Research will continue to fund different sectors of the community to organise Putonghua activities through the Language Fund, such as speaking competitions and interactive theatres. In addition, the EDB will encourage students' more usage of Putonghua through Mainland exchange programmes.

(iii) Further refining the curriculum of the Putonghua subject:
The Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China and the SLC recently promulgated the grading standards and testing outline of the Putonghua Proficiency Test for secondary and primary school students (pilot version), which will be launched on a trial basis within the year. We will closely keep in view the latest development and timely review the curriculum of the Putonghua subject for secondary and primary schools in Hong Kong so as to align with the national standards and to further refine the assessment on Putonghua learning and outcomes to enhance the effectiveness of Putonghua teaching.

     In conclusion, the EDB will create more opportunities for teachers and students to use Putonghua, such as exchanges through the "Sister School Scheme", etc, and continue to provide school-based support services for primary and secondary schools in respect of collaborating with teachers and enriching the Putonghua learning environment for creating more favourable conditions for PMIC. 

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:12