CityU mentors to raise English levels on campus

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2012, 12:00am


A local university is recruiting up to 100 postgraduates from around the world in a bid to improve the falling standard of English among incoming students.

City University, which was just named one of the top 10 universities less than 50 years old by QS World University Rankings, plans to spend at least HK$10 million annually to encourage students to speak English outside the classroom. It comes as the city recorded a 5 per cent drop in the use of English among senior school students.

'We want to recreate the English-speaking environment on campus, which will be of great benefit to students,' said Dr Paul Lam Kwan-sing, university vice-president of student affairs. He added it was part of the CityU's efforts to internationalise.

Even though most university classes are taught in English, Lam said it was important to get students to speak English in day-to-day life, otherwise 'when students get out of class, within two nanoseconds they switch back to Cantonese'.

Depending on the remuneration packages - which range between HK$15,000 and HK$27,000 per month - some of the mentors would be allowed to work on their own research and doctoral work.

University provost Dr Arthur Ellis said the 100 mentors would be spread around different departments.

'They may discuss with students in groups in the language centre news reports that have just came out, but often the setting will be informal,' Ellis said. 'Students may have a writing assignment and consult them for input, likewise when they are putting together a Powerpoint presentation.'

Of the 50 mentors brought in so far for the 'International Transition Team Scheme', the majority are native English speakers who come from Europe and North America, and have postgraduate qualifications.

The English proficiency of students has been a concern since the city's handover from British rule in 1997, particularly since government education reforms including a mother-tongue policy that ensured the majority of public schools use Cantonese in the classroom.

The pass rate for AS-level Use of English Exam dropped to 75 per cent last year from about 80 per cent in 2000. The English pass rate has also been lower than that of the Chinese Language and Culture Exam, which has hovered above 90 per cent for the past 10 years.