The teaching of Chinese to ethnic minorities students needs to focus on function and building their confidence and motivation, a University of Hong Kong language expert has said. Tse Shek-kam, director of the Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research, said teachers needed to change their approach from simply teaching coursework to actively assessing students' needs and learning patterns. 'Most teachers really don't know how to deal with these students,' Professor Tse said. 'We don't know how they best learn Chinese yet.' However, he suggested classes should start with practical language from daily life rather than bogging students down with grammar. 'Motivation and interest are very important,' he said. 'Teachers should focus on functional language and not worry about getting everything perfect from the beginning. If you don't motivate the students they will never be able to learn.' The Education Bureau is conducting a public consultation on its proposals for a supplementary guide on how schools can adapt the standard Chinese curriculum to teach non-Chinese-speaking students. The draft guide was published in January after a long-running campaign for an alternative curriculum for non-native speakers, something the bureau considers unnecessary. Professor Tse, who has been conducting research on the subject for the bureau for the past two years, said he felt the guide would be 'a good start', but that schools should not expect it to tell them exactly what to do. 'More than just a problem with the curriculum, the whole learning environment is at fault,' he said. 'But with the guide at least schools won't go too far wrong.' But Professor Tse said he felt strongly that ethnic minorities students should be taught Cantonese, and local schools should not view Putonghua as being 'more correct' or better for long-term career goals. 'The language most spoken in Hong Kong is Cantonese so it is the language they should learn. It is difficult to find an opportunity to speak Putonghua in Hong Kong, and there are very few television programmes in Putonghua.'