'More help is needed for ethnic minorities'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am

Supporters welcome new policy to allow them into mainstream schools but fear they will be given insufficient support

Calls have been made for back-up measures to help ethnic minority students studying in mainstream schools following the introduction of a new policy that allows them to apply to any primary and secondary school under the government's central allocation system.

Until the change, which comes into effect this year, they were confined to 11 schools, eight of them secondaries.

Chan Kui-pui, principal of one of the schools, Delia Memorial School in Mei Foo, welcomed the new policy but said he feared it had been rushed through without sufficient back-up.

'Placing pupils who cannot speak Cantonese in a mainstream school may, optimistically, force them to learn better Chinese. But it is also very likely they will become withdrawn because they cannot communicate, and may eventually hate going to school,' he said.

Fermi Wong Wai-fun, a social worker promoting ethnic equality, said the lack of supportive measures would deter parents from sending their children to mainstream schools.

'The teachers might not be well equipped to teach ethnic minority students, and those children may find it hard to adjust in a Cantonese-speaking environment. Issues like this need to be addressed,' Ms Wong said.

She urged the government to provide more resources on teacher training and hiring ethnic minority teaching assistants. 'Extra tuition in Chinese should also be available to help the students catch up,' she said.

Parent Mohammad Amjad, 29, has applied to place his son in a mainstream primary school but is considering letting him study in kindergarten for one more year - at a cost of $1,000 a month - so he will have a better grasp of Cantonese when he moves.

'This will make it easier for him when he goes to primary school later,' said Mr Amjad, a Pakistani construction worker.

In September, Mr Chan's school and its sister school in Kwun Tong will launch a new Chinese language curriculum to allow their students to take the General Certificate of Education examination, a qualification recognised by British universities and colleges.

Mr Chan said the course was necessary although it was not clear whether the government and local universities would recognise the examination results.

'We should at least teach the students Chinese to help them cope with their daily lives in Hong Kong,' he said.

He called on the government to come up with a tailor-made curriculum for non-Chinese speakers in schools like his so they could learn Chinese at their own pace.