Report to promote language learning

INNOVATIVE proposals to improve language proficiency from kindergarten to tertiary level are expected to be listed in the forthcoming Education Commission Report No 6.

The chairman of the commission's working group on language proficiency, Angela Cheung Wong Wan-yiu, said there was no comprehensive guidance on language training.

She said that most kindergartens taught both English and Chinese, and levels of advancement among students varied.

Mrs Cheung declined to give further details but said: ''We believe it is better for students to learn their first language first and then the second language.'' However, she said the commission would not suggest making mother-tongue teaching compulsory at secondary schools, because of strong opposition.

Many secondary schools have refused to change to mother-tongue teaching, although about 60 per cent of entrants at Form One level have been found to be more suited to learning in Chinese.

Mrs Cheung said the commission would suggest ''firm guidance'' for secondary schools on the choice of teaching medium, but declined to say how that would differ from the firm guidance to be given by 1998-99 by the Education Department.

However, she hinted that incentives rather than penalties were recommended to encourage schools to make the ''right choice'' on their teaching language.

The working group's report will be submitted to the entire commission on Monday.

Any endorsed recommendations, together with those from the educational standards and school funding working groups, will go into the report which is expected to be published in September.

A $300 million fund set up to improve language proficiency will be in a position to take applications from July.

The advisory committee held its first meeting yesterday to announce funding criteria and the setting-up of a vetting group.

Projects or activities which contribute to the raising of standard in Chinese (including Putonghua) and English and enhance the use of the two languages will be supported.

Chairman of the committee Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse said teacher training was one of its priorities.