SCMP Saturday, December 9, 2000
Testing levels of English
Recently, people have been criticising undergraduates and postgraduates for their standard of English. As a result, a university task force has suggested that undergraduates take an English exam before they leave university. According to the proposed scheme, assignments would be given to students to rate them according to different scales. Will this really be useful in raising the standard of English among students?.
There are several reasons for the poor standard of English among Hong Kong students. Firstly, the quality of teachers. Not all the teachers who teach English have a degree in the subject, especially at primary and secondary school levels. Some are forced to teach English because the schools lack qualified teachers. If the Government really wants to raise English standards, it should raise the standard of English teachers.
Also, the policy of using the mother tongue - Cantonese - as the medium of instruction should be revised. How can we expect students to achieve good levels of English when most of their lessons are in Cantonese?
We can't expect university students to have good English skills if they don't receive good-quality English lessons during their primary and secondary schooling. Instead of reducing the amount of funding for universities, the Government should increase spending on primary and secondary education.
If the Government really wants to make Hong Kong a world-class city similar to New York and London, it should try to raise the average standard of English among students at all costs as this will increase the competitive power of Hong Kong.