Minorities need language support, warn lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong needed to improve its education support for ethnic minorities or it would 'fail to qualify as a world city', lawmakers said.

The Legislative Council education panel called on officials to set up a panel of language experts to produce a 'comprehensive set' of textbooks for second-language learners of Chinese, stretching from primary to secondary schools.

'We are all trying hard to improve education for these students,' said Abraham Razack, legislator for the real estate and construction sector. 'All students have a right to receive a good education and in Hong Kong they should have this chance.'

He said producing high-quality textbooks would boost the learning of pupils from non-Chinese-speaking families.

'If we fail to do that we cannot qualify as a world city,' Mr Razack said. 'We must not rob them of opportunity.'

Principal assistant secretary for education Catherine Chan Ka-ki said the Education Bureau was producing two to three sets of textbooks - based on teaching materials developed by local schools - which were almost ready for publication.

Dr Chan said students from ethnic minorities tended to be at very different Chinese levels within the same class. She pledged that the bureau would also develop assessment tools to help teachers judge what stage pupils had reached.

Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, from the education sector, said the diversity of language skills among ethnic minorities was due to the lack of continuity between primary and secondary schools. He urged the bureau to produce a set of short textbooks to allow schools to group pupils by ability while allowing them to progress at different speeds.

'There needs to be at least six textbooks for each year, so over 12 years of schooling that would be 72 books,' he said. 'It is not too demanding. You can do this.'

Schools, ethnic minorities and human rights groups have been campaigning for a separate Chinese-language curriculum for non-Chinese speakers for several years. They gained the support of legislators on the education panel in 2006.

The bureau says a separate curriculum is not necessary because the central one is flexible enough to make 'appropriate adaptation to cater to diverse learning needs'.

However, in January the bureau published a draft guide to advise teachers on catering for diverse learning needs - a compromise that marked a major change on the issue.

Deputy Secretary for Education Bernadette Linn Hon-ho said the guide would be ready by the end of the year.