From the editor
From the editor

$200,000 for tertiary education

Last November the government announced that in 1998 it will not subsidize students who fail in Chinese and English language admissions tests. That is, students who are not up to standard in language will have to pay $200,000 yearly for tertiary education.

This policy would seem to have little effect on students with excellent results in languages and on those who don't mind paying a huge sum of money for tertiary education. However, what about those who cannot afford such fees and have poor results in language? Should they be deprived of the opportunity to receiving tertiary education?

Of course, it is a good idea for the government to stimulate students to realize the importance of languages. With the aim of entering universities, students are likely to have greater incentive to improve their language ability. However, is it appropriate to use the grades in languages as an additional tool to decide who should receive seats in tertiary institutions?

With $200,000 as the trade-off, will the students be able to improve their language skills drastically within the few university years? If not, what is the use of such a policy? Is it only a penalty imposed on students with poor results in language? Or is it only a means for the government to cut costs in tertiary education?

Besides, the scheme will be implemented in 1998. Can secondary students upgrade themselves within a short period? No matter if successful or not, this policy is likely to create great pressure on secondary school students.

Instead of imposing the language restrictions on admissions, why doesn't the government build up better means to improve the language skills of students in primary and secondary schools? Under the present examination-oriented education system, students are encouraged to memorize their books most of the time; they have to if they would like to get good results. The examinations on different courses, even Chinese language, seems to be a test of memorization instead of usage or communication ability. It is meaningless to make the secondary schools students frightened unless measures can be implemented to improve their language.

If the students cannot build up a good language foundation in their early years of study, how can they improve dramatically in the few years of tertiary education? By what mean is it useful to ask them to pay a huge sum in university fees, without seeing an improvement in their language skills?

Fung Po Yan

January 1997

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