Exit tests to boost English

January 11, 2002

Voluntary English exit tests are to be introduced at Hong Kong's eight universities in response to growing concerns at falling English standards in the workforce. But there are disagreements about how they should be implemented and what form they should take.

The University Grants Committee wanted the English tests to be compulsory for all final-year students as a stamp of their language ability when they entered the labour market.

The universities warned that studying for the test would add to the heavy workload for final-year students. A poll by the students' union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong shows that 80 per cent of the 823 respondents feel the test will not help their English, and more than 70 per cent think it is a waste of money.

The UGC asked for test results to be included in the graduation transcripts. The universities said this was an infringement of their autonomy. "It is bent on going its own way and is threatening to cut funding for language programmes if we do not make students sit the test," Chinese University vice-chancellor Arthur Li said.

Universities receive HK$90 million (£8 million) a year towards their extra curricular language programmes.

The committee favoured an internationally recognised test such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, but to subsidise 14,500 students yearly would cost £3 million. Educators advocated the Graduating Students' Language Proficiency Assessment, a home-grown test devised by Polytechnic University.

A final decision will be made next month.

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