New scheme to enhance students’ English proficiency

Karen Cheng

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​A new scheme aimed at improving students’ English language skills under the new 4-year curriculum and contributing to a more internationalised environment on campus has been introduced at City University of Hong Kong (CityU). 
 
Up to 100 overseas graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, all of whom are fluent in English, will help CityU’s students develop their English skills through face-to-face classroom and out-of-classroom contact under the new Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Scheme.
 
Those with Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) qualifications will be responsible for classroom work, while others will lead out-of-classroom activities such as conversation clubs and reading circles.
 
Professor Arthur Ellis, Provost of CityU, said one of the challenges in the globalised world is to enhance students’ English proficiency, and creating a natural learning environment in which English is used as a key medium of communication will be an effective way to address this issue.
 
GTAs without TESOL qualifications will be affiliated with academic units and will spend at least 10 hours a week face-to-face with students providing language support. These activities will include running small group sessions, assisting in lectures in their host departments, leading extra-curricular activities, and providing writing and speaking assistance.
 
Professor Ellis said a pilot scheme with five GTAs last year produced very good results in terms of the enthusiastic feedback received from both the GTAs and CityU students who worked with them. This year about 50 GTAs have been recruited with about half taking up out-of-classroom responsibilities.
 
Professor Paul Lam Kwan-sing, Vice-President (Student Affairs), said the English language skills of the students will improve significantly when they are immersed in an English speaking environment. “Students said they wanted to have an environment to learn English after class,” he said.
 
Professor Lam said GTAs attached to academic units will encourage students to learn English in a more lively way as they will be discussing projects or preparing presentations on a daily basis. GTAs who are either graduate research students or postdoctoral fellows can continue to advance their own studies in collaboration with academic staff at CityU, too.
 
“The University is proposing a complementary strategy to our existing internationalisation efforts that will strengthen our teaching and research activities and create a cadre of ambassadors for CityU and for Hong Kong,” Professor Ellis said.
 
He added the GTAs recruited this year are from diverse backgrounds around the world, and will be affiliated with many different academic departments.

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