A leading academic has criticised government plans to use Putonghua to teach Chinese in secondary schools, saying the move would be ineffective as students were unreceptive to learning in the language. Ho Wai-kit, co-director of the Centre for Research and Development of Putonghua Education in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, described the introduction of Putonghua as a medium of instruction for Chinese language in secondary schools as 'very difficult with little success'. A 2000 study by the CUHK centre showed 57 per cent of 177 Form Two students studying Chinese and Chinese history in Putonghua disliked learning in the language. Of the disgruntled students, 74 per cent said they had difficulty understanding their teachers and 72 per cent said it made learning more difficult. The students were also far less likely to raise questions or take part in discussions, with 14.3 per cent of the total saying they did so regularly in Putonghua compared to 86.3 per cent in Cantonese lessons. 'Though most secondary students understood using Putonghua to learn Chinese should help promote their language awareness in written Chinese, most of them did not like the idea,' Professor Ho said. The government's language think-tank, the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research, last month unveiled a HK$200 million scheme to promote Putonghua as the medium of instruction for Chinese language classes. The scheme is to be introduced in 160 schools over the next seven years, a quarter of which are to be secondary schools. However, Professor Ho said he had carried out two research studies for Scolar and had told the think-tank the use of Putonghua should be introduced to younger students first, and only gradually extended to upper forms. He said young children had proven to be very receptive in languages, making Primary One a good year to start using Putonghua as a medium of instruction before Cantonese became dominant. 'It's very clear that secondary school students were not receiving Putonghua as a medium of instruction well at all. The contrast of the results among secondary students and primary pupils was extreme,' Professor Ho said.