For discussion on 19 April 1999

LegCo Panel on Education
Teaching of Putonghua in Schools


The aim of this paper is to report the progress on the teaching of Putonghua in primary and secondary schools.

Offered as an elective subject

2. Putonghua was offered as an elective subject for P.4 to P.6 classes in September 1986 and for S.1 to S.3 classes in September 1988.

Related recommendations in the Education Commission Report No.6 (ECR6)

3. As recommended in the ECR6, Putonghua has been included in the core curriculum in primary and secondary schools since September 1998 and will become a subject for examination in the HKCEE in the year 2000. There are 411 secondary schools (94%) and 785 primary schools (97%) offering Putonghua in the 1998/99 school year.

4. ECR6 recommended a study of the relationship between Putonghua and Chinese Language be conducted. In July 1998, funding from the Language Fund was allocated for the Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct a study called "To examine the effectiveness of using Putonghua as medium of instruction in Chinese Language Teaching". The study will be completed by the end of year 2001.

5. The Report also recommended that Putonghua teachers should meet the Language Benchmark for Putonghua teachers. The Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications has initially drawn up the language benchmark for Putonghua teachers in primary schools. The Language Benchmark Section of the Education Department had also completed classroom observation work for the "Language Benchmark Pilot Project" at the end of February 1999 and is now compiling the related report. The Education Department plans to commission tertiary institutions to organise courses for Putonghua teachers in primary schools in the 1999/2000 financial year, so as to help Putonghua teachers to attain the stipulated standard in Putonghua.

6. The ECR6 recommended to encourage schools to employ native Putonghua speakers who are also qualified teachers to teach the subject. At present, Putonghua speakers who fall within any one of the following three categories can become a Putonghua teacher in Government or aided schools:-

  • those who have received professional teacher training in Hong Kong

  • non-local university graduates who possess a degree equivalent to a local Bachelor degree or hold a Diploma in Education awarded by a local university

  • holders of the Non-graduate Teacher Qualifications Assessment Certificate
The number of serving Putonghua teachers

7. According to the Teacher Survey 1997 published by the Education Department, there were 698 serving Putonghua teachers in secondary schools and 2,142 in primary schools, plus another 7 part-time teachers. Our statistics also showed that a total of 5,729 teachers had received training either in Putonghua phonetics or in Putonghua teaching methodology up to the 1998/99 school year.

Support provided in the teaching of Putonghua

8. A recurrent grant of $1,625 and $1,250 per annum is provided by the Education Department for each secondary and primary school respectively to support the teaching of Putonghua. A special grant for Putonghua courses is also provided for schools, which are unable to offer Putonghua during lessons, to organise Putonghua special courses outside school hours. The amount of grant is $6,200 per class and a maximum of 9 classes is allowed for each school. Schools which were built before 1989 can apply for a one-off grant of $620 to purchase a tape recorder for the purpose of teaching Putonghua.

9. Putonghua subject inspectors of the Advisory Inspectorate Division (AID), Education Department regularly organise short-term training courses/programmes for Putonghua teachers, e.g. seminars for new primary and secondary school Putonghua teachers, talks by guest speakers, etc. Seminars to promote the new Putonghua curriculum have also been organised for both primary and secondary schools by the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) since June 1998. Starting from 1997/98 school year, the CDI has commissioned local tertiary institutes to run Certificate Courses on the Teaching of Putonghua consecutively for 3 years to train up a total of 2 800 primary and secondary school Putonghua teachers. 905 teachers completed the course in 1997/98 school year and 1 050 teachers are attending the course in the 1998/99 school year.

10. Reference materials on Putonghua teaching such as information booklets, teaching kits, teaching guides etc. are regularly produced by the AID and CDI to cater for teachers' needs. In addition, the Language Fund has so far supported over 20 projects on Putonghua, such as research on primary students' acquisition of Putonghua, training for Putonghua teachers, Putonghua multi-media learning software, reference materials, Putonghua radio and TV programmes and Putonghua activities.

11. A list of recommended textbooks has been published for schools' reference. As at February 1999, the number of textbooks having been reviewed and found suitable for the new curriculum by the Textbook Committee were: 10 sets for P1-P3, 11 sets for S1-S3 and 9 sets for S4-S5.

12. Regular visits and inspections are conducted by subject inspectors to primary and secondary schools to obtain a full picture of the teaching and learning of Putonghua in schools. Professional advice and support are also given during the inspections. Generally speaking, most of the teachers can follow the recommendations of the syllabus to help students develop their ability in speaking and listening by making use of daily life situations. The result is satisfactory. However, some of the schools can only allocate one period per week for the subject and hence, fail to meet the requirements of the curriculum.


13. The Department will continue the promotion of Putonghua in schools. More collaboration with relevant professional bodies will be sought so as to enhance the standard of teaching Putonghua in Hong Kong.

Education Department
April 1999