School pupils from ethnic minorities will have the chance to take more advanced overseas examinations in the Chinese language after the government yesterday announced plans to expand a subsidy scheme. Children who do not speak Cantonese or Putonghua as a first language already receive subsidies to take the British GCSE in Chinese language, but the Education Bureau said it would seek funding from the Legislative Council to subsidise pupils taking three more advanced exams. They are the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, and the British General Certificate of Education at AS-level and A-level. Pupils will have to pay HK$540, the same sum local pupils pay for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam, which is designed for native speakers of Chinese. The overseas exams would usually cost between HK$1,100 and about HK$4,000. Such exams test both written and oral skills. More than 10,000 ethnic minority pupils study at mainstream primary and secondary schools, and at schools that cater specifically for them. Concern groups have long argued that such students have difficulty with the local curriculum because the Education Bureau has not made any accommodation for those who are learning Chinese as a second language. Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the extension of subsidies would help ethnic minority pupils achieve better academic results and give them more career opportunities. "We appreciate that students would like to sit for overseas Chinese language examinations to obtain internationally recognised qualifications that closely reflect their language standards," said Ng. Fermi Wong Wai-fun, founder of the minorities support group Unison, believed the subsidy would help several hundred pupils. But she said the government should also provide more support for pupils to help them improve their Chinese. She said pupils with overseas qualifications still found it difficult to win recognition from employers or tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, which preferred recruits with the full diploma.