Local pupils are being encouraged to find pen friends at international schools or institutes on the mainland to improve their foreign language proficiency. The aim is to upgrade their language skills so 60 per cent can be taught in English at university, according to the head of a language policy think-tank. 'At present, the rate is only 10 per cent,' said Michael Tien Pei-sun, chairman of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research. Mr Tien, a businessman, urged local schools to build closer ties with overseas and mainland institutions and organise more student-exchange programmes. 'It would allow local students to use the foreign language in real-life situations without any pressure,' said Mr Tien, speaking yesterday on RTHK's Hong Kong Letter. He said using a foreign language was important and accused most Hong Kong schools of failing to encourage students to do so. Citing the example of a driving school, Mr Tien said: 'You may have studied all the traffic rules by heart and can do very well inside the driving school, but it is totally different when you have to drive on the road.' Earlier this month, Mr Tien said he wanted all secondary school students taught in English and Putonghua after 2010. His committee is expected to submit a report on language education to the Government next year.