Straight from horse's mouth

AREPORT on how employers, parents, teachers, principals and students view language proficiency of youngsters will be ready by the end of the school year.

The Education Commission Working Group on Language Proficiency is conducting a territory-wide survey which will cover views on student abilities in both written and spoken English, Chinese and Putonghua.

Working group chairman Angela Cheung Wong Wan-yiu said Hong Kong lacked data on the topic and her survey, costing about $1.5 million, would be the first of its kind in the territory.

''The survey will cover nearly all kinds of people, including employers, parents, principals, teachers and students of all levels and different kinds of schools,'' said Mrs Cheung.

''We hope the survey, to be conducted on such a large-scale, will give us a clear picture of the language standards and problems young people have nowadays.'' She expects an initial report to be out in May and the final one to be ready in June for her working group and other related bodies to study.

''We believe the results will serve as an indicator and guideline to help the Government devise a suitable approach and measures to raise standard.'' More than 8,000 primary, secondary and tertiary students, and their parents, teachers and principals, as well as employers of some graduates, will be interviewed.

The biggest part of the survey will include students from Primary 5, Forms 1 and 6, and first year students in tertiary institutions.

Over 300 employers of different industries will also be approached as ''they know well if school-leavers meet the requirements, reach the language standards the companies require, and whether they are proficient in these languages after years of trainingin schools''.

A research team, led by lecturers of Hong Kong Polytechnic, is finalising the questionnaires. Separate sets of questionnaires will be prepared for different target groups.

Letters have been sent to schools urging principals and teachers to assist in the survey. The selection of the sampling schools is now underway.

''Besides sending questionnaires, we will send researchers and helpers, most of whom are post-graduate students of Hong Kong Polytechnic and City Polytechnic, to schools and work places to talk to the interviewees.

''We expect more than 500 in-depth interviews and group discussions. We hope these interviews will enrich our database and increase the reliability of our findings,'' said Mrs Cheung.