However, many parents do not think this way. Yonne Chan Man-yee, whose daughter has been taught Chinese in Putonghua for three years, thinks that PMI education should be carried out as early as possible so that students can practise the language (Putonghua) more and become more fluent in it.
“I think it should start at Primary One,” Chan says. She believes PMI education provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn Putonghua, which is useful, if not essential, in today’s society. Chan lists examples of famous mainland and Taiwanese writers whose mother tongue is Putonghua. She extrapolates that students’ writing ability may improve if they speak and learn to write Chinese in Putonghua.
Yet, she cannot say whether her daughter’s writing has benefited in this way because she has never read any of her daughter’s compositions since she entered a PMI secondary school.
As for the students themselves, most of those who spoke to Varsity support PMI education in general. May Chow Wing-man, a graduate from Kiangsu-Chekiang College (Shatin), says although she did not notice a significant improvement in her Chinese proficiency after entering a PMI school, she believes PMI education has already given her more opportunities to practise Putonghua.
Tracy Lee Hiu-ying, who also graduated from Kiangsu-Chekiang College (Shatin), recalls her first year in the PMI school. “I did not attend a PMI primary school, but it was okay. The books were still in Chinese, and I had no difficulty understanding what the teacher said, even when it was in Putonghua,” she says.
However, not all students have had pleasant experiences with PMI education. University student Joanna Cheng Yuen-ling says her teachers “spent too much time on pronunciation of words” instead of teaching Chinese culture or grammar when she was at school.
While teaching Chinese in Putonghua provides students with a space where they can practise speaking Putonghua, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the main objective of Chinese language classes is to improve students’ ability and proficiency in the written language.
“It is important that we all keep in mind that PMI education is still about teaching Chinese, but not Putonghua pronunciation,” says Sze Hung-hung, a Chinese teacher from Wai Kiu College. “The increase in Putonghua proficiency is only a sweet bonus.”