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  • Apr 21, 2014
  • Updated: 7:45pm
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

We cannot afford to spurn economic dividend from inclusive education

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 1:42am

The appointment of a retired government stalwart as Equal Opportunities Commissioner raised a few eyebrows. Former health minister Dr York Chow Yat-ngok did not endear himself initially to those concerned about a conflict of interest by following the government line against a consultation on legal protection for sexual minorities. He has since backtracked and promised to make such legislation a priority. He has also criticised the government for failing to meet the education needs of ethnic minority children in Hong Kong. These are both challenging issues on which his predecessor, Lam Woon-kwong, also a former government official, took a strong stand. If Chow can help resolve them with his experience in government, that will be an answer to critics of the appointment of retired officials to statutory positions.

Much has been said for and against legislation to protect sexual minorities. By comparison, the educational needs of ethnic minority children in Hong Kong have not got the attention they deserve. It is good that Chow has promised to meet different concern groups to work out his plan of action.

Education is key to economic and social integration. Instead of equal access to high-qulity education, such as English-medium schools, non-white ethnic minorities, especially South Asians, have largely attended non-Chinese schools designated for them, where they have not had the help in learning Chinese they need to pass local examinations. After the EOC sided with lobbyists for ethnic minority rights, the Education Bureau said it would work with the commission to offer more support to non-Chinese students. But an EOC report last year that students from these minorities accounted for 3.2 per cent of primary-school pupils, but only 1.1 per cent of senior secondary students and 0.59 per cent of tertiary education students, shows much remains to be done. Truly multicultural societies reap dividends of social and economic diversity that enhance competitiveness. Hong Kong cannot afford such neglect of human potential.

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johnyuan
There are few good reasons that non-Chinese students are scarcely found in local schools except the special schools that cater to expats’ children. Integration of these non-Chinese ethnic students is a struggle for both their parents and schools. Giving that Chinese language is a difficult to master integrating speaking and writing that without a Chinese mother-tongue environment at home. I am glad there are EK and the like in helping these non-expat non-Chinese students. Government should recognize that integration of these students is next to impossible but assistance financially for these ethnically oriented schools should be extended. It is a government obligation applying to all citizens of Hong Kong.
johnyuan
The resistance in making changes in education is quite apparent also from local parents in Hong Kong. Chinese parents are the majority in Hong Kong. They all strive for the best in education for their children. They accept the bandings for schools as an opportunity for their children to shine – real or imagine. They show no interest in pressuring government for small-class teaching as they believe their children can be privately tutored besides attending the regular schools. They believe therefore that their wealth can buy extra education which gives their children extra edge in a competitive world. While Chinese treasures education even historically that equal opportunity for education is still a foreign concept in Hong Kong. Most think education for the youngsters is solely parents’ business and society and government shouldn’t be involved. For some in the colonial time, they would even go to work for the government – a chance that their children could get a paid for education in England.

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