The English Schools Foundation (ESF) is developing a new international exam for Putonghua learners that could appeal to students worldwide.
With 70 per cent of its secondary students now learning Putonghua and English, and in some cases other languages, the ESF has developed the IGCSE Chinese as a Second Language test for Cambridge International Examinations, aimed at Year 11 students. It has both oral and written components.
Samples of the oral tests held earlier have been sent to Cambridge for moderation, while the written test, focusing on daily use of the language, will be held next month.
Wang Xiaoping, an ESF Chinese adviser, says the new test, and a course specially developed for it, will be useful for the rising number of international school students with Chinese backgrounds that lose out on the two current IGCSE Chinese exams - for those learning Putonghua as a first or foreign language.
'All our secondary school teachers, school management and parents believe there is something missing in the middle,' Wang says. 'We've a large number of students with a Hong Kong or Chinese background. For them, Chinese isn't really a foreign language, but not a native language either, as everything in school is taught in English. They don't use Chinese that much, but the foreign language option is too easy for them.'
Wang believes the new ESF exam will be useful for students not only in Hong Kong, but also Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia.
'Chinese is terribly important for the local community. With the growth of the mainland market, if our graduates have some Chinese language skills, that will add to their employment prospects.'