VOLUNTARY agencies have called for increased education for the elderly following a rush for English and Putonghua courses. The Association for the Rights of the Elderly urged the Government to fund courses for old people. ''English is the most popular course among the elderly with some of them taking it up as a preparation for emigration,'' said chairman Kwok Lit-tung. He said Putonghua was also a favourite among old people who said they wanted to learn it in preparation for 1997. Government Senior Education Officer (Adult Education) Lau Chi-kin said they had no plans to include English and Putonghua in the grant programme because they saw a higher demand for literacy in Chinese. Nor would there be any major expansion in elderly education schemes in the near future in light of limited funding from central Government, he said. Mr Kwok, however, argued that language courses organised by voluntary agencies were often over-subscribed. ''We have to turn away applicants every time when courses are held and we have students coming as far as Tuen Mun and Yuen Long to attend lessons in our centre in Central,'' he said. Mr Kwok said the Government should give due recognition to elderly education by providing assessment and certification, in addition to funding. There are only two voluntary agency-run institutions offering language and special education courses for the elderly in the territory. Mr Shum Chi-ming, 64, who was a student of a private tertiary institution for the elderly, Christian Hong Kong Nam Wah College said: ''Old people should be given more chance to study as the young people do.'' The Government granted about $860,000 for 144 courses mostly offered by the two voluntary agency-run schools this year, compared with last year's $720,000 which supported 131 programmes. The secretary of Hong Kong Association for Continuing Education, Mervyn Cheung Man-ping, said the funding was not enough. According to the Census and Statistics Department, 18 per cent of the 5.8 million population last year were aged 55 or over. But by the year 2002, the elderly community is expected to increase by almost 200,000.