PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2005, 12:00am

Q Are the improved examination results related to the mother-tongue policy?

J. Garner called for parental involvement in the choice of teaching medium, 'Schools, parents should set mix of Chinese, English' (August 15), and let their children's education rely solely on the schools. With the relatively better overall performance by English-teaching-medium schools, largely due to the fact that they are the reputable ones and enrolling the cream of the crop, it's predictable that parents will decide on English as the teaching medium. And the whole problem is recycled again.

The crux of the issue is the school curriculum. Does a nine-year-old really need to know the structure of the government and a five-year-old need to write the Chinese character 'Tsim Sha Tsui'? The curriculum of Hong Kong schools from Primary One to Form Four is just too demanding.

I am an advocate of mother-tongue teaching medium. However, I believe using English as a teaching medium can be effective only if a chunk of the current school curriculum is shed. Languages cannot be stuffed into the heads of young minds.

Tony Yuen, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada

For a student being taught in English, the difficulties in learning mostly come from the methods of teaching English, not the subjects taught. If students can overcome the language problems, then I believe students will learn in a more efficient way.

The exam authority is forcing some of the schools to change their medium of teaching to Cantonese. Under this policy, students can learn without this language problem. It comes as no surprise to see the results improved accordingly.

However ... the academic result is not the most essential part of study. Students have to develop skills and get themselves well prepared for working in society. Is it worth improving academic results at the expense of developing skills relevant for life in society? If the government does not pay more attention to students' language problems, it will pay for the problems down the track very soon.

Ho Shuk Ying, Shun Lee

Q How can Open University of Hong Kong attract more students?

I would like to respond to Mr Jason Kitlet, who asked on Monday, August 1, what the Open University of Hong Kong can do to attract more students.

While I appreciate the comments and suggestions made by Mr Kitlet, I must clarify a few points.

The OUHK offers a second chance, not second prize, to whoever has the will to study for a degree. In spite of our open entry policy, the exit is closed. Our programmes are all externally accredited on the same rigorous academic standards of any other institution, and students are strictly assessed through assignments and examinations until graduation.

OUHK qualifications are widely accepted locally and overseas for employment and further study purposes. Most of our students are fully employed. Some of them, naturally, have moved to a higher post following graduation. Those selected to continue their academic pursuits have been admitted to all sorts of institutions locally and overseas and have pursued higher degrees, including PhDs.

Nevertheless, I must recognise that the Hong Kong community might have formed a different view about the OUHK, as it is different from other local tertiary institutions.

First, as a self-financing institution, the OUHK is not under the funding mechanism of the University Grants Committee (UGC). This gives people the wrong impression that the OUHK is a private university and it must be of a lesser quality and standing. This wrong perception has hurt all non-government-funded institutions, including the OUHK.

Second, students and graduates of the OUHK's distance learning programmes possess quite different characteristics from their counterparts in other universities. They are older (the average age of the OUHK graduate is 36) and more experienced.

Having spent an average of six years of studying while at the same time holding a full-time job and taking care of a family, they have learned to manage their time and priorities properly. They are self-disciplined. At the same time, the nature of distance learning puts most of the burdens of learning on the students. OUHK graduates should have mastered the ability to learn new things on their own. However, if we compare them with the young graduates from other institutions, they may not fare as well in other attributes.

Perhaps we have not tried hard enough, but we are aware of the need to offer programmes which take full advantage of our special characteristics. For example, while distance learning programmes are still our main offerings, we are piloting a number of dual-mode programmes which allow our students to take courses either through distance learning or in face-to-face teaching mode. We hope that this can provide more flexibility to our students who, like any other citizens of Hong Kong, are facing more and more uncertainties in planning for their time.

Last, I must thank him for his suggestion for more internships. This might not be for our distance learning courses as over 95 per cent of our students are adults who already have a full-time job during the day. We certainly are working on this for the increasing number of full-time students.

Professor Danny Wong, vice-president (academic), Open University of Hong Kong

On other matters ...

Most of us know that cultural heritage is the evidence of our history, which is invaluable for all of us. I think the government can take other countries' methods of preserving heritage as an example and we should rebuild our cultural heritage into tourist attractions such as coffee shops or hotels. This means we can preserve our heritage for the next generation while earning money for preservation.

Ho Shuk Ying, Shun Lee

Regarding the complaint by Mr Nicholas Millar about the Diesel billboard in Wan Chai: gee, I could have sworn it was a man being whipped by a woman. Kind of puts it in a slightly different light now, doesn't it?

Pat Shea, Shouson Hill

We wish to thank Ms Chan for her support for the West Island Line, and her comments regarding its interchange with the South Island Line (West) in Talkback on July 27.

The MTR Corporation, in the course of deciding the most appropriate interchange station between the two lines, has indeed considered Sheung Wan Station, among other possible options.

Regrettably, being constrained by the current layout of the station, we have not been able to come up with a desirable interchange arrangement at Sheung Wan Station as passengers will have to walk a relatively long distance before they can change trains to the other line, resembling the situation at Quarry Bay Station. Making the new University Station the interchange between the two lines appears to be more preferable, as a cross-platform interchange arrangement is possible.

Ms Chan may rest assured that the current plan regarding the interchange has been made after careful and serious consideration and has taken into account the interests of passengers.

Miranda Leung, MTR Corporation

To face up to the distorted altruism behind family killings, it is urgent to improve the system to prevent any future tragedies. The problem can never be solved solely by depending on police with good intentions. Instead, a step in the right direction should be guided by professional social workers, especially where we are faced with high-risk cases.

Y.K. Mau, Hunghom