Two top university officials have expressed concerns about the English-language standards under the new six-year secondary-school and four-year university system.
They expect university applicants holding the new Diploma of Secondary Education will have English scores comparable to those of the traditional A-level graduates.
But Andy Curtis, director of Chinese University's English Language Teaching Unit, said the new so-called 3-3-4 system would inevitably reduce the amount of time dedicated to English study because the number of schooling years was reduced from seven to six.
'The fact that they have one year less of schooling and the fact that the curriculum is going to reduce the amount [of time for language learning] must have some kind of impact,' he said as he introduced CU's expanded compulsory English- language courses.
'The level of English will not necessarily go down upon entry ...We are making the best use of their fourth year. We hope that after four years, the exit level of English might be higher.'
Hong Kong's universities will receive the first batch of students who graduate from the new secondary-school curriculum next year.
Curtis' views are echoed by Kenneth Young, pro-vice-chancellor of the university, who said the number of hours dedicated to language study at secondary schools had not been drastically reduced.
Young said Hong Kong students generally had difficulties writing good English.
He hoped that the enhanced curriculum could raise the standard to a level that students could write English papers that were good enough to be published in international journals.
Under the new high-school curriculum, English is one of the four compulsory subjects.
Chinese University has raised the number of units required to pass to graduate from 99 to 123 and from the 2012 academic year the amount of compulsory English learning will be tripled. The new syllabus will comprise nine units and students have to complete four units in Year 1, three units in Year 2 and two in Year 3.
Year 1's units come from a foundation course that aims to improve students' ability to learn and study in English, while the course in the second year will be designed in accordance with the student's majors. In Year 3, students will be taught English related to the workplace, such as r?sum? writing and how to do well in an interview conducted in English.
'They can't get their degree without it. Students in Hong Kong are very practical and they are pragmatic. If they think they are going to get 15 good units of English and Chinese, they will find a way to get them,' Curtis said, adding that the amount of units for Chinese would also be doubled from three to six.