TSOI KA-LING, nine, hardly knew the alphabet a few months ago but is now scoring close to top marks thanks to a new English course for mainland immigrant children. The Primary Two student is one of hundreds attending an extended English programme introduced last month to supplement government-funded induction courses on Hong Kong. The programme, run by voluntary agencies for children between nine and 15, was made possible with a government grant of $4.3 million. A total of 62 of the English courses have been approved in the last three months. Ka-ling, who came from Fujian last year, scored only 10 out of 100 in his first English test in a Hong Kong school. 'But now I can score up to 95. My mother said if I did not work harder on English, it would be difficult to find a job,' he said. Classmate Wong Ling-kid, 13, was one of the top students in English in his Guangzhou school. But he also failed his first test in Hong Kong. 'I was a bit unhappy about this. I have learned only short sentences in Guangzhou, but I have to study passages here. I need to look for definitions of almost every word in a passage. 'This English class is very helpful. I have made more obvious progress after attending the course,' the first former said. Cecilia Lam Siu-ling, who is in charge of one of the 60-hour courses run by the Po Leung Kuk, hopes the Government will pay to extend the English classes to younger children. 'Hong Kong children have to learn English from the age of three while most mainland students do not study the language until Primary Four,' Ms Lam said. 'It is difficult for the younger immigrants to pick up the language when they come to Hong Kong.' The $15,000 grant for each class was not enough to pay teachers the minimum rate. Senior education officer Wong Yuk-ha said officials would seek feedback from organisers when the courses were completed.