Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service

Meeting on 27 October 1997

Progress Reports on Putonghua Training Activities Putonghua training for the civil service is mainly organised and provided by the Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI). In addition, individual grades and departments provide also job-related Putonghua courses for their staff using their own resources. The objective of the training is to prepare a nucleus of officers who could use Putonghua in their official contacts with their counterparts in the Mainland and to enable officers to operate effectively in Putonghua in their daily work where necessary.

Courses Available

2.At present, Putonghua training courses are provided by both CSTDI and individual departments/grades. CSTDI organises four types of courses :

  1. Job-related Courses

    These courses are specially designed for frontline departmental groups. Course materials are specially designed to meet job needs of the groups. The level of these courses is similar to that of the standard Elementary course (Paragraph 2(iii) below).

  2. Short Skill-based Modules

    These courses are designed to meet job-required techniques. They are short and their contents specific. They help participants acquire certain skills (e.g. techniques in handling telephone calls). Participants come from different departments but usually from the same grades.

  3. Standard Courses

    These include the Elementary course (42 hours), the Intermediate (42 hours) and Advanced (60 hours) courses . On completion of the Advanced course, participants should be able to converse in Putonghua fluently on all occasions. In selecting candidates for standard courses, CSTDI would have due regard to the requirements for the applicants to use Putonghua in their work as provided by departments.

  4. Basic Putonghua for Expatriate Officers

    A 100-hour course is designed for non-Chinese speaking officers. It provides participants with knowledge of Putonghua so that they can use it in simple conversation on everyday topics.

3.In addition, individual grades and departments have organised Putonghua courses for their staff with a view to meeting job-related needs. From 1994/95 onwards, in spirit of greater delegation of authority to heads of departments, departments have greater flexibility in deploying training resources. Some departments have started organising Putonghua training courses for staff with their own resources.

4.Furthermore, some discipline grades have incorporated Putonghua training in their induction training programmes. Correctional Services Department has introduced since August 1995 and Customs & Excise Department since September 1997 a 42-hour elementary Putonghua training in their induction training programmes for new recruits. Immigration Department and Hong Kong Police Force will similarly introduce Putonghua training, starting from November 1997 and April 1998 respectively, in their induction programmes.

5.Statistics on trainees on Putonghua courses is at Annex I.

Number of Officers Trained

6.The first Putonghua course was launched in 1982. Thirty-nine officers attended the courses in that year. Since then, the number of trainees has increased annually. In 1994/95, 2,945 trainees attended Putonghua courses.

7.In September 1995, the Civil Service Bureau (formerly known as Civil Service Branch) promulgated the Report of the Working Group on the Use of Chinese in the Civil Service. The Report provided guidelines on the use of Chinese in the Civil Service. To facilitate implementation of recommendations in the Report, CSTDI strengthened all of its Chinese language training activities, including Putonghua training. The number of Putonghua trainees rose to 7,192 in 1995/96. Up to March 1997, a total of 23,573 trainees have received Putonghua training. This number includes 5,704 frontline officers who attended the 276 customised courses organised for 27 departments.

8.Moreover, in 1995/96 and 1996/97, 1,953 trainees participated in Putonghua courses organised by their respective departments/grades.

9.In 1995/96, CSTDI produced two sets of Putonghua self-learning packages, at Elementary and Intermediate levels. This was to provide an additional training option for officers, especially those who were unable to attend courses in view of work commitment, or those who were waiting for allocation of training places. Up to July 1997, CSTDI has issued 29,011 sets of Putonghua self-learning packages.

10.In 1996/97, CSTDI produced ten reference booklets with tapes on Hanyu Pinyin glossary for ten departmental/grades in response to their requests. Altogether, 2,600 sets of the booklets and tapes were distributed. Details of Putonghua courses, self-learning packages and reference materials are at Annex II.

Trainers' Background

11.CSTDI has been very careful in choosing Putonghua trainers. Trainers must be able to meet the following requirements :

  1. be a native speaker;

  2. have received formal training in Hanyu Pinyin;

  3. have previous teaching experience in Putonghua; and

  4. preferably be a university graduate.

12.At present, CSTDI has some 30 Putonghua trainers, 96% of whom are degree-holders. 34% of them have taught Putonghua for more than 10 years and half of them have 4 to 9 years' experience in teaching Putonghua. Only 16% of them have less than 3 years' experience in teaching Putonghua.

13.Starting from 1994/95, some standard Putonghua courses have been commissioned to The University of Hong Kong, The Baptist University and City University.

Evaluation of Training Effectiveness

14.On completion of each level of standard courses, trainees are required to go through an assessment test. The test comprises two parts : written and oral. The written test aims at assessing trainees' ability in aural comprehension and in Hanyu Pinyin. The oral examination is to assess candidates' fluency and accuracy in Putonghua conversation. For Elementary and Intermediate courses, the trainer of the class will pose as the examiner. For Advanced courses, candidates will be assessed by an examiner who is the trainer of another class. So far, the average passing rate is well over 90%.

15.For those trainees who have passed the requisite assessment test, they are expected to attain the following levels of proficiency in Putonghua :

Elementary Level

-master basic communication skills on simple everyday topics;
-master the Hanyu pronunciation system; and
-pronounce Hanyu Pinyin transcription on Chinese characters.
Intermediate Level

-introduce the work of the department or grade; and
-communicate effectively on everyday topics.

Advanced Level

-deliver speeches;
-chair or participate in meetings; and
-explain and discuss fluently the work of the department and the government.

16.For those trainees who have participated in customised Putonghua courses organised by CSTDI or participated in departmental Putonghua training courses, they are expected to operate effectively in Putonghua in specific situations.

Way Forward

17.CSTDI will continue to closely monitor the need for Putonghua training and adjust the number of courses accordingly where resources so permit. There remains a keen demand for Putonghua training notwithstanding the rapid expansion in Putonghua courses over the past two years. CSTDI would make use of available resources to maintain an annual output of no less than 7,000 trainees.

18.We would deploy more resources to provide customised Putonghua training and increase trainee places for departments on a need basis. We would also encourage departments to be more actively involved in organising Putonghua training activities for their staff by, for example, securing additional resources and organising own Putonghua courses. CSTDI would continue to strengthen its advisory role in compiling materials, selecting trainers, and assisting departments in organising Putonghua courses.

19.Furthermore, we would also hope to develop or adopt an objective assessment of Putonghua proficiency, in order to assess the Putonghua proficiency of the civil service in a more systematic and objective manner.

Civil Service Bureau
21 October 1997

Annex I

Putonghua Training Statistics -Number of Trainees (1995 - 1998)

Standard Course provided by CSTDI

Customised Course provided by CSTDI

Sub-total7,192 7,0027,362
Self-learning Packages (Copies Distributed)

Reference Glossary(Copies Distributed)

Training CourseOrganised by Departments/Grades


Annex II

Putonghua Courses, Self-learning Packages and Reference Materials


  1. Elementary Putonghua (42 hours)
  2. Intermediate Putonghua (42 hours)
  3. Advanced Putonghua (60 hours)
  4. Basic Putonghua for Non-Chinese Speaking Officers (100 hours)
  5. Hanyu Pinyin (18 hours)
  6. Techniques in Handing Telephone Calls in Putonghua (1 day)
  7. Putonghua Organised by Departments/Grades (42 hours)


  1. Elementary Putonghua (20,646 sets distributed) ) As at 31 July 1997
  2. Intermediate Putonghua (8,365 sets distributed) )

  1. Students' Guidance and Psychological Services Sections, Education Department
  2. Immigration Department
  3. Marine Department
  4. Planning Department
  5. Civil Service Training & Development Institute
  6. Customs and Excise Department
  7. Correctional Services Department
  8. Census and Statistics Department
  9. Social Welfare Department
  10. Independent Commission Against Corruption