Teachers need to use more effective learning strategies in the teaching of Putonghua in secondary schools, an academic said this week. Leung Yin-bing, associate professor of education studies at Baptist University, said teachers should encourage students to watch Putonghua television programmes and practise speaking the language with their classmates. Dr Leung's comments followed the release of results from the study 'Putonghua Learning Strategies of Hong Kong Secondary School Students', in which 510 Form One students from three secondary schools were asked between May 2006 and last April about their Putonghua learning experiences. The study looked at how often students were using six learning strategies known to be effective based on a 1989 University of Maryland measurement tool, the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning. The BaptistU study found about 180, or 35 per cent, out of students polled had 'always' or 'usually' used the strategies. They experienced fewer difficulties and had more interest in Putonghua than the others. Dr Leung said teachers should encourage students to use the six strategies, such as trying to emulate native Putonghua speaker in songs and movies, managing class notes, using pictures to memorise new words and replacing unknown Putonghua expressions with bodily gestures. 'Teachers should also avoid asking students to stand up on their own while reading out passages from textbooks,' Dr Leung said. She added teachers should replace intimidating teaching methods with role-playing and class activities to boost students' confidence. 'If problems can be detected during the learning process, it will be easier to fix them before it's too late.' Anna Hui Na-na, study co-investigator and assistant director of the university's Centre for Child Development, said the study's scope had been limited by research funding.