There is a pressing need for intensive research into the effectiveness of English immersion programmes for student language teachers, two Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) academics claim. English lecturers Dr Vernon Crew and Dr Peter Bodycott are lobbying the Education and Manpower Bureau to approve an investigation into the programmes. The pair say they support immersion schemes - in which language students stay in the host country for anything between several weeks and a year to be exposed to the language daily - but they believe a comprehensive study is needed given the Government's decision to pay for the programmes from September. 'We have to make sure that taxpayers' money is well used,' said Dr Crew, who is also head of the English department. 'We need to clarify the benefits of the programme. not just immediately after the programme but more importantly, in the longer term after return to Hong Kong and taking up a career as a language teacher. We have to find out what impact differences in these programmes have on the participants.' He expects to submit the proposal - which will also call for involvement by researchers in other tertiary institutions - within two months. Such involvement was needed, he said, to allow for an exchange of information on various schemes. The proposed study will span three years and cover the design and delivery of programmes offered by various institutions. The pair have been co-ordinating and monitoring immersion programmes for HKIEd students for the past five years. Students currently join schemes on a voluntary basis, but the institute intends to make it compulsory for Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) and Bachelor of Education in languages (primary) students. Students of the Bachelor of Education in language (secondary) programme are currently required to spend one semester abroad. The University of Hong Kong, Chinese University and Baptist University also offer immersion programmes for student teachers, through arrangements with overseas educational institutions. Dr Crew and Dr Bodycott edited the HKIEd book, Language and Cultural Immersion, published last year. It comprises a collection of research studies on the effects of short-term immersion schemes. Among their findings were that returnees became pro-active communicators in English, and showed improved maturity and self-confidence upon their return, especially after staying with host families.