Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The absurd situation of Chinese vs English

All universities in Hong Kong require applicants to achieve level 3 in both Chinese and English as a minimum qualification for admission.  On paper, that sounds like fair and equal treatment to both official languages in Hong Kong.

For some reason, however, it is much harder to achieve level 3 in Chinese compared to English.  Many students whose first language is Chinese, who can speak, understand and read Chinese perfectly nonetheless fail to achieve level 3.  In fact, it is quite evident that the Chinese subject is harder than most other subjects.  Many students who achieved 4s and 5s in other subjects in the first HKDSE this year could not get in a university because they could not achieve level 3 in Chinese.

On the other hand, many students who achieved level 3 or even 4 in English cannot fully understand spoken English and read English text with difficulty.  Many of them speak English haltingly and cannot write a grammatically correct sentence in English.   These students are having great problems in their classes in their first year university studies right this moment because all classes are supposed to be taught in English.

How about Chinese?  It is not needed in most classes in most programs.  Simply witness the hundreds of foreign students and exchange students studying in the universities in Hong Kong alongside the Hong Kong students.  They don’t seem to have any problems not knowing a word of Chinese.

So, why is the bar for proficiency in Chinese set so high, if it is really not needed in the university?  And why is the bar for English set so low, when it is so critical for study in the university?  Is it because of political correctness?  (Just imagine the potential uproar if the requirement for English is set at 4 while Chinese is set at 2.)

This is an absurd situation which deserves our attention, but few people seem to care.


Joey said...

Just come across your webpage and found your articles interesting and easy to read for most students of Hong Kong. Regarding the problem you mention, in addition to having a different standard for chinese and english as the university entry requirement, another question that comes into my mind is why the level of difficulty for chinese and english public exam is so different. For Chinese, it is not unusual to see students with a wide range of grades in the individual papers though all papers should be all designed to assess students' proficiency in chinese language. Another interesting thing that I notice is that many people regard meeting the "basic entry requirement" as having the "ability" to complete the course and that the society is at fault if there are not enough unversity school places to accommodate all students who possess the ability (which is now set as 3322 + 1X) to complete such an education.

Psychotherapist said...

I agree.It is much harder to achieve level 3 in Chinese compared to English.Your post is impressive and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head.The issue is something which too few people are speaking intelligently about.I learned a lot.Thanks for sharing.

StephenC said...

Yes. This issue really reserves a lot more discussions. There really is no need for the Chinese subject to be so difficult. In fact, there is no need for other subjects to be so difficult either. It might have made sense 30 years ago when the purpose of the public exams was to select the top 2% of students who can enter university. But they serve a different purpose now.

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