Putonghua scheme confirmed
Mimi Lau and Agnes Lam
The government's advisory body on language education formally launched a HK$200 million campaign yesterday to help schools use Putonghua as the medium of instruction for Chinese language.
Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (Scolar), said the scheme would invest HK$100 million in hiring extra teachers and the rest of the money to bring in mainland teaching experts.
'We can't just write cheques to schools, we also need to send expert teams to the schools,' Mr Tien said after Scolar met yesterday. 'If there isn't enough support ... it will be worse than teaching in Cantonese.'
Thirty primary and 10 secondary schools will be approved each year to join the scheme, Using Putonghua to Teach Chinese Language Subjects.
Each school will receive three years of financial support and expert assistance to kick-start their use of Putonghua instruction.
'The committee has agreed that Putonghua should be used as a medium of instruction for Chinese language subjects in the long term,' Mr Tien said. 'In fact, Chinese language subjects don't have to be strictly taught with Putonghua. Using some Cantonese is better for learning ancient Chinese literature.'
The scheme would not apply to all schools because Hong Kong still lacked Chinese teachers experienced in teaching with Putonghua.
To qualify for the scheme, schools had to demonstrate teachers' competence and determination to make Putonghua teaching work, Mr Tien said. 'They must be convincingly determined to adopt Putonghua as a new medium of instruction and committed enough to sustain Putonghua teaching even after our three-year subsidy.'
A committee would be set up to monitor subsidised schools to ensure they used the resources properly, he said.
'We will terminate subsidies to those who grossly breach the subsidy agreement.'
Scolar senior research officer Poon Wai-yu said publishers would see opportunities in publishing teaching materials in Putonghua.
Frontline teachers have expressed concern about the proposal, saying that without adequate teaching materials and support it could pose problems.
Mary Chan, who has been teaching Chinese in a Band Three school in Tin Shui Wai for nearly 10 years, said using Putonghua as the medium of instruction for Chinese language would confuse some students.