An expert in the Chinese language on Monday rebuffed Education Secretary Kevin Yeung's suggestion that continuing to use Cantonese rather than Putonghua to teach Chinese in the city's schools could mean the SAR will lose its competitive edge in the future.
Professor Tse Shek-kam, who heads the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research Faculty, said it makes sense to keep Cantonese alive, not only because it gives the city its distinct culture, but because it actually helps students learn Chinese better.
Tse said there is ample evidence to show that using Putonghua as a medium of instruction hinders students' ability to understand the language as well as their critical thinking.
"In fact in Hong Kong we all understand that we have to learn English, Cantonese and Putonghua well. The matter is whether we use Putonghua as the medium of instruction, whether it is really effective. We found that is not very," Tse said.
"For instance, in Hong Kong in some primary schools when they teach Chinese in Putonghua, they just keep reading and reading, correcting the pronunciation. So it's a really low level of teaching instead of a high level of comprehension."
The Education Secretary made his controversial remark on Cantonese in an RTHK programme broadcast on Sunday, where he also said it could be a good idea for Hong Kong people to use more Putonghua in their daily lives.