A new educational portal site has been launched to promote self-paced English learning. It integrates the CAN-8 virtual lab system with courseware material. 'The English proficiency level of Hong Kong people has declined because of a lack of exposure to the language. Most lessons for schoolchildren are in Chinese. We believe the portal site would help them,' Thomas Ho Chi-tat, managing director of Hoss VirtuaLab, said. Mr Ho said the site would be complementary to traditional classroom learning. The site, iEnglish (www. ienglish.netvigator.com), provides training in different levels ranging from Primary One to Form Five, and each level covers pronunciation, listening and reading practice. There are more than 30 hours of material for users at each level, and the courseware material are designed to fit in with the school curriculum. Students can listen to high- quality recordings to improve their listening and speaking skills. They can also strengthen their English by doing the prescribed exercises. The CAN-8 system helps users to listen, speak and compare themselves with the recording. Users can quickly find a precise word, sentence or dialogue. There is no need to wait for tapes or discs to rewind. Users can learn at their own pace and be individually assisted when necessary. Mr Ho said iEnglish provided three levels of learning. The first level is the Internet service, whereby students can access learning material on their own, with little help from teachers. The second level is the learning centres, where students will receive teachers' help with the learning material and learn grammar and writing skills. Self-paced learning The third level is at school. The system is installed at school and all students can access the learning material with the help of their teachers. Mr Ho said self-paced learning was widely adopted by the teaching profession in North America and Europe and had proved successful. 'With the use of the portal site, students can control their own pace of learning, which makes learning more effective.' Meanwhile, the Singaporean Government is aggressively promoting information technology by introducing a three-year initiative to get Singaporeans on- line. The initiative provides S$25 million (HK$113 million) in funding for improved accessibility, free broadband access, development of on-line shopping malls and a free e-mail address and personal Web site for every citizen over the age of five. The address and Web site will be given through the Government's Network Information Centre. About 30,000 low-income households will be given used computers along with free Internet access and some basic training. The Government is also exploring tax incentives for vendors who donate equipment and services to the community. Community centres will provide free broadband Net access to the public on the nationwide Singapore ONEbroadband network. This will be extended to other public access points, such as Internet kiosks.