Fifty students at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) will spend the summer in English-speaking countries under a 10-week immersion programme designed to improve their English and teaching skills. 'English is an important international language that we all want to see young people in Hong Kong master,' HKIEd director Professor Ruth Hayhoe said. 'We are out to prove that we can have students who are proficient in both English and Chinese.' The 10-week programme has been made possible through the support of British Airways, the Hongkong Telecom Foundation, the Rotary Club of Kowloon, the British Council, the Lee Hysan Foundation and the South China Morning Post. Their combined support will account for 50 per cent of the programme's total funding requirements. The participants are from HKIEd's first group of Bachelor of Education (Honours) (Primary) Programme students. The four-year programme was launched at the beginning of this academic year. Primary school teacher-trainees formerly received two years of formal training. One of the main benefits of spending several weeks abroad was psychological, an institute spokesman said. 'The problem Hong Kong students have with spoken English boils down to confidence,' said Dr Vernon Crew, senior lecturer and head of the Department of English. 'Their spoken English is much better than they think it is.' Kris Leung Chun-wai is one of 20 students heading for Canada, where she will live with a Canadian family and study at York University in Toronto. 'I am looking forward to experiencing Western lifestyle. It will be very interesting to stay with a group of foreigners,' Ms Leung said. Emma Leung See-wan, who is studying English, will also go to Toronto. 'I think [this programme is] an efficient way to learn English. In Canada, we will be using English in daily life. We will hear people speak English and we'll have to respond in English. Education in Canada is very different. It will give us new experiences,' she said. Mandy Lau Tse-yan, who is also studying English, is one of the 30 students who will study in Britain. Half of them will study at the University College of Chichester and half at the University College of Christ Church Canterbury. 'This programme is important for English teachers because they can learn correct pronunciation,' Ms Lau said. 'We will have to communicate with people in English. We will also be reading English books and magazines and writing our reports in English. Our English skills will improve greatly.' Another 40 students will spend their summer in Beijing, where they will take part in an immersion programme to brush up their Putonghua skills.