The Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has decided to keep a controversial Mandarin proficiency test as a requirement for graduation, rebuffing calls by students to do away with the rule.
Members of the university’s senate in charge of academic matters voted on Wednesday, by a clear majority, to retain the Mandarin test, in line with the recommendation of two working groups that had been set up to look into matter, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
HKBU’s Language Centre states that undergraduate students must reach “foundation Putonghua proficiency” in order to graduate.
The “foundation Putonghua proficiency” can be met by either passing a three-unit Mandarin course offered by the Language Centre or attending a 25-hour non-credit bearing course together with passing a proficiency test conducted by the Language Centre.
This Mandarin graduation requirement can be exempted by meeting one of a list of criteria including passing a Mandarin exemption test.
The rule sparked protests on the campus, with students decrying the mandatory requirement.
On Jan. 17 this year, former student union president Lau Tsz-kei and Andrew Chan Lok-hang, a fifth-year student at the HKBU School of Chinese Medicine, stormed into the university’s language center to protest the alleged lack of transparency in relation to the test.
Video footage showed Lau and Chan shouting agitatedly at some female staff during an eight-hour occupation of the facility, with Lau even heard using abusive language.
A disciplinary committee of the university decided in late March to discipline the two. Lau was suspended for one semester, while Chan was given eight days suspension plus 40 hours of community service on campus.
In a report submitted to the university’s senate by two working groups that were formed afterwards, the groups said the course and the test should stay, and they also came up with two more recommendations, which were also approved.
One is that the course results will not be included in student’ cumulative grade point average starting from the next academic year that begins in September.
The other is the university will fully subsidize students who take the national Putonghua proficiency test, and those who pass it with third class upper grade or above can be exempted from the required three-part course.
The working groups will continue functioning and promised to review the two measures on a regular basis, although authorities did not specify the frequency of such gatherings.
Expressing opposition to the decision to retain the graduation requirement and calling the two newly proposed measures unacceptable, Ken Lui Lok-hei, acting president of the HKBU student union and a student representative on the senate, slammed the working groups, accusing them of wasting time as they failed to respond to the students’ demand for canceling the requirement concerned.
Students have data to prove that the requirement to pass the proficiency test is unnecessary, but have never received any positive response from management of the school, Lui said.
While hoping the school can provide clear reasons and figures to justify the importance of such requirement, Lui claimed the student union and other student organizations on campus will meet to discuss the next move.
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