The poor standard of English among students in Hong Kong will continue to cause concern until the right questions are asked. Years of English-language education has failed to produce a bilingual society. Pupils often leave secondary education with only rudimentary knowledge of the tongue in which they were taught. It is surprising that so many go on to higher education with English as the medium of instruction, and emerge with a degree. That poses the uncomfortable question of educational standards in tertiary institutions. While it is true that a gift for physics or most other disciplines is not dependent on language skills, that is hardly a valid argument when courses are taught in English. In such cases, the Chief Executive's proposal that degrees should be awarded only if graduates pass an exit language test is eminently reasonable. Still, in rejecting the idea, the University Grants Committee has put forward an equally acceptable proposal. Both could be implemented. Students who opt for courses in English should conform to a required standard on entry, and be tested at regular intervals and graduation. Of course, more exams add to a student's workload - but there is nothing wrong in making sure that they derive maximum benefit from their education. Regular language testing would assess that. Some universities now offer a choice of languages as a medium of instruction, which would seem the way to go in future. But, after the outcry at the move to teach schoolchildren in Cantonese, the resistance to similar moves at university level is easy to predict. The importance of bilingualism in an international city should not be underestimated. In that respect, Hong Kong's educational institutions are failing to produce the goods. The real task facing the Government is to assess what advantages there are in continuing to place the emphasis on English at university level. The SAR has seven universities. There is no reason why some of them should not teach in Cantonese. The important goal should be high quality education. Hong Kong should set itself standards of excellence to attract students from overseas, rather than producing a glut of local graduates with letters after their names who are still unable to construct a job application in grammatical English. Each student is estimated to cost the taxpayer in the region of $26,000. The community may rightly ask if it is getting a proper return for its money.