Contest opens debate over English standards

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2005, 12:00am

Students are keen to learn English but need more opportunities to speak it, Education Commission chairwoman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming said yesterday.

Their eagerness was evident in more than 800 students who signed up for one of this year's main language events, the Hong Kong English Public Speaking Contest, said Dr Wong. 'But they do not have enough opportunities to speak English, so we want to provide a platform for them to use the language and train their public-speaking skills,' she said.

Dr Wong, who is also executive director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, made the comments on the sidelines of a training session for more than 600 students in the contest next month.

The contest, jointly organised by the federation and the English-Speaking Union, was launched last year and attracted 600 entries. The South China Morning Post is the media sponsor for this year's event.

Dr Wong said holding more public-speaking contests would help students develop their skills.

'Participants are from 136 secondary schools and 11 tertiary institutions this year. I believe the more they use the language, the more confident they will become,' she said. Dr Wong said there was no evidence to support claims that language standards had declined.

'Though some say Hong Kong students' English standards are falling, there is no clear evidence to prove that. I was a judge of last year's competition and they were actually very good,' Dr Wong said.

Ricky Tsang Wing-kiu, 18, believes the competition will help him learn communication skills vital to his career.

'I want to pursue my career in business, and English-speaking skills will be useful as I will have to conduct presentations and deal with many clients and report to my superiors,' he said.

The King's College science student also reveals his tips on learning English: 'I read an English novel every week and read the South China Morning Post every day.'

Another participant Joey Lee Cho-yi, who is on the debating team at St Paul's Secondary School, said her English teacher would help her practise for the contest. 'I want to master my English-speaking skills as I am very interested in politics and would like to be a government official,' she said.

The winner will receive a scholarship to take part in the union's International Public-Speaking Competition in London in May.