More than 60 percent of students who are not fluent in Chinese cannot cope when various subjects are being taught in the language, a survey funded by the Equal Opportunities Commission has found.
The Hong Kong Policy Research Institute interviewed 101 primary 4-6 students and 96 secondary 1-3 students who are not fluent in Chinese at the start of this year.
Sixty-one percent of the primary students said they did not have a clear understanding of non-language subjects taught in Chinese while 77 percent of the secondary respondents also said they struggled.
Students on average scored below 30 marks out of 100 when tested on Chinese reading and writing for vocabularies and passages relating to non-language subjects such as general studies, mathematics, integrated science and history.
The study also showed students did not understand about three out of 10 characters in texts provided.
Institute researcher Fung Chi-ching said a score of 30 marks out of 100 in the test is "not considered an acceptable mark" at an academic level.
And the current language education policy, he added, "cannot offer a complete support to non-Chinese-speaking students in Hong Kong."
He noted that "Chinese language is not just a subject -- it is also a medium of learning.
"The current policy mainly targets Chinese language as the main support subject. In fact, if non-Chinese-speaking students are weak in the language the learning obstacles they encounter are not limited to Chinese language subject. They will likely to have learning difficulties in all other non-language subjects."
He urged the introduction of guidelines on providing ethnic minority students with comprehensive support for learning non-language subjects and also for government authorities to provide non-language teachers with related training.