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Chinese language proficiency of secondary school leavers and university graduates


Date of sitting: 23 October 2002

Asked by: Ir Dr Hon HO Chung-tai

Replied by: SEM


Members of the public have expressed concerns that the Chinese language proficiency, in particular the Chinese writing skill, of secondary school leavers, matriculants and even university graduates has been declining in recent years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it knows:

  1. the average number of Chinese essays that students taking Chinese subjects at various levels of secondary and matriculation education are required to complete each year, and if the Education Department has issued relevant guidelines to schools;

  2. the respective average scores attained by candidates in the Chinese Language essay-writing papers in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination and the Chinese Language and Culture essay-writing papers in the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination, in each of the past three years; and

  3. the specific measures taken by universities to enhance the Chinese language proficiency of their students?


Madam President:

  1. According to the curriculum requirements set out in the nineties, secondary students are required to work on 12-14 pieces of writing exercises each year while matriculation students have to work on a total of 17 pieces in 2 years. These writing exercises include composition, practical writing, etc. Following the curriculum reform, the Education Department has issued guidelines to schools on quality requirements on top of quantity. Schools may flexibly adjust the quantity of writing exercises according to these guidelines.

    In addition, the Curriculum Development Council has developed a new curriculum guide for Chinese Language which was implemented by schools in September 2002, starting from Secondary 1. This guide sets out clear learning targets and concrete learning objectives for writing, taking both quality and quantity into consideration. Students are provided with more writing opportunities through more balanced, diversified and quality activities such as project learning, creative writing, cross-subject learning, and life-wide learning. There is no requirement on the number of writing exercises, so as to allow room for the teachers to exercise their flexibility and professional autonomy. Teachers may design more different types of writing activities and decide on the most appropriate quantity according to their schools' situation and the learning needs of the students. On the basis of traditional composition exercises, different writing types are added to the new curriculum, which would help students develop their creativity and communication skills. It is believed that following the implementation of the new curriculum, both the quality and quantity of students' writing will be gradually enhanced.

  2. In each of the past three years, the respective average scores attained by candidates in Chinese language composition papers in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination are as follows:

    Examination / Year 2000 2001 2002
    Hong Kong Certificate of Education
    Examination "Chinese language"
    47.5 47.7 47.4
    Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination
    Advanced Supplementary Level 
    "Chinese language and culture"
    48.0 50.8 49.5

  3. The eight higher education institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) has been taking measures to enhance the Chinese language proficiency of their students. The UGC has been providing additional funding support for these programmes through a Language Enhancement Grant since 1991.

    Among the wide variety of language enhancement programmes, some are offered to all students compulsorily to form a basis for more advanced learning and some are designed for specific disciplines to cater for the needs of different professions. There are also courses in Chinese writing and speaking skills to equip students for their future careers, as well as a range of workshops and summer courses to provide them with more flexible and innovative environments to brush up their Chinese. Details of such programmes are set out at Annex.


Chinese Enhancement Programmes Offered by UGC-funded Institutions


The Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics (CTL) of the CityU offers core and elective Chinese language courses and Putonghua courses to the students in various undergraduate and graduate programmes. Some courses, such as Chinese communication skills, are also offered as elective courses to the students in other departments. In the 2001-02 academic year, more than 20 courses on Chinese language and Putonghua were offered by the CTL.


The Language Centre of the HKBU offers courses in Chinese language and Putonghua to improve the students' Chinese writing and speaking skills and to equip them with the necessary communication skills for their studies and future careers. In the 2001-02 academic year, the relevant courses were provided to over 1,800 students from various disciplines.


LU, through its Language Institute, provides language training throughout the University, offering course in, inter alia, Putonghua and written Chinese. It also organizes extracurricular activities to promote interest and foster excellence in language ability. A number of practical Chinese language courses have been provided to enhance students' linguistic ability, and to equip them with knowledge of office and business Chinese writing, etc. All students, regardless of their majors, are required to take such courses.


CUHK offers language programmes through a "four-tier structure" to enhance students' Chinese language proficiency. The first tier is a compulsory programme in Cantonese and Putonghua for first-year undergraduate students, which forms a basis for more advanced Chinese language courses. The second tier is a Faculty Language Enhancement Programme, under which students are required to take Chinese language courses as specified in individual curricula. The third tier is elective Chinese language courses, which are open to students from all disciplines. The fourth tier is "non-formal" language enhancement activities offered by the four Colleges.


Since 1997, HKIEd has implemented an institution-wide Enhancement Programme focusing on the development of Cantonese and Putonghua and writing skills in Chinese language with the aim of enhancing Chinese language proficiency and cultivating interest in Chinese culture through core modules and a range of language activities. The Institute also organizes workshops for students on various Chinese language topics, such as modern fiction and practical classroom language, and operates an open access language learning facility.


PolyU provides mandatory Chinese language courses (e.g College Chinese and Elementary Putonghua) to enhance students' ability to write and speak in Chinese. In the 2001-02 academic year, mandatory Chinese courses were offered to over 7,000 students. The University also provides an elective Chinese Language Enhancement Programme. Courses under the Programme are pitched at different levels to cater for the different needs of students, from fundamental language skills training to literature appreciation and creative writing.


HKUST provides general and discipline-specific Putonghua courses and also classes to enhance writing skills in Chinese language for students from specific disciplines. The University will continue to develop more new courses in the integrated use of the four language skills in Chinese language, namely, listening, speaking, reading and writing.


HKU provides 30 courses under the Chinese Language Enhancement Programme of the Department of Chinese for students from all the ten faculties of the University. The Programme includes a number of summer courses to enable students to brush up their Chinese language skills in a more flexible mode. A series of workshops have also been introduced to provide students with an interactive and innovative environment to learn the Chinese language.

Note :
CityU : City University of Hong Kong
HKBU : Hong Kong Baptist University
LU : Lingnan University
CUHK : The Chinese University of Hong Kong
HKIEd : The Hong Kong Institute of Education
PolyU : The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
HKUST : The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
HKU : The University of Hong Kong
Last revision date: 23 October 2002
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