Resource we can't afford to waste
The government has found itself under pressure over both privileged and under-privileged education. On the one hand there is the future of the public subsidy to the English Schools Foundation and business leaders' fears that a lack of international school places is diminishing the city's appeal as a regional centre. That debate has been well publicised and the business sector does tend to have the ear of the government.
On the other hand, the Equal Opportunities Commission has spoken out for students from ethnic minorities and accused the Education Bureau of failing to implement the government's integrated education policy. As a result, instead of equal access to quality education, such as English-medium primary and secondary schools, many ethnic minority students find themselves in a disadvantaged majority in schools designated for them.
Socio-economically, the two issues could not be further apart. But they both touch on the city's future as an international finance and services hub. There is no argument about the importance of attracting foreign business and professional talent and meeting their expectations of educational opportunities for their children. But it is also important to integrate our 10,000-odd ethnic minority students through effective teaching in the Chinese language, in which low scores drag down their overall results and limit their opportunities for advancement in their education or career. Otherwise they are at serious risk of becoming a wasted human resource that we can ill afford. The EOC has called for pre-primary language programmes for minority students and a separate curriculum and assessment for non-Chinese speakers for educational advancement and employment. Since EOC chairman Lam Woon-kwong is a former top civil servant who ran education, home affairs, the civil service and the chief executive's office at different times before the government put him in his present job, we trust it will take his recommendations on board.