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  • Apr 19, 2014
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My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 2:39am

An obvious way to integrate schools

Hong Kong's equality chief wants to end schools for minorities. But hasn't our archaic and racist Education Bureau done so already with its treatment of the English Schools Foundation? The bureau has recently announced it will phase out subsidies to ESF schools, in effect privatising them.

These subsidised schools, relics from the colonial era, used to take in mostly expatriate British children while other government schools catered to ethnic minorities. But the colonial policy was the same: they were all schools for minorities; just that the white kids got the schools in the best locations with the best facilities while those with darker skins got their own minority schools. It's these minority schools that Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Dr York Chow Yat-ngok is critical of.

After the handover, ESF schools opened up. More locals, unhappy with public schools, sent their children there, at the risk of degrading their Chinese-language skills or losing them altogether. The funny thing is no local parents ever think of sending their children to those other ethnic minority schools, which also teach subpar Chinese, thus making sure their already disadvantaged graduates have difficulty getting into local universities and finding good jobs.

Our colonial apartheid school system has moderated and cleaned up a bit. But it remains an apartheid system. Chow wants minority students to be integrated into mainstream local schools. That's one way of going about it, and I respect his position. Another is surely to create an ESF-like subsidised system for all minority students who, for whatever reason, have trouble following full Chinese-language instructions. In other words, why not integrate ethnic minority students into the ESF system. Instead of cutting off ESF subsidies, increase them.

Some idiots have repeated the bureau's absurd argument that Hong Kong shouldn't finance ESF or any other systems that don't follow the local curriculums and their exams. The local exam system is outdated and has been an atrocious and sustained assault on young minds. If permanent-resident parents - Chinese, expatriate or minority - reject the local system and opt for other systems such as the international baccalaureate for their children, it should not disqualify them from receiving public financial support. It's just a matter of switching to funding students instead of funding schools. Such a voucher system already exists for kindergartens; it is financially more efficient and will increase competition between schools.

This can be done, but it won't be done so long as the bureau is run by stick-in-the-mud bureaucrats.



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'The local exam system is outdated...' Here we go again. You should try getting a policy making position Alex, after all the curriculum hasn't changed substantially for at least 2 years. As to increasing subsidies to the ESF, mmm... People may be born with darker skin, have different cultural and ethnic heritages but your proposal will simply continue the apartheid system that you seem so appalled by. HK is a Chinese city and unless you have some special skill that HK needs that does not require the use of written Chinese (traditional or simplified) then our future workforce needs to be educated in an integrated system.
The key is not actually ethnic or cultural heritage it is economic. Students from less prosperous minority families will still face problems gaining access to local universities if they attend ESF schools and their families will not be able to afford the alternative of sending them overseas. Hence the cycle of poverty will continue. Remember there are numerous examples of minorities from prosperous families in Hong Kong who are able to enjoy a university education overseas.
Are you proposing to do away with ESF and similar alternatives, leaving all local students with no choice but to attend the local system with its hideous track record of developing English language ability? If so, this seems to be a case of dumbing everyone down to the local system which, while leveling the local playing field, will make Hong Kong as a whole less competitive globally. English is the lingua franca and our younger generation must be afforded the best possible language education to ensure they have the best opportunities available to them. To do otherwise would be egregious ineptitude and willful negligence on the part of the Education Bureau.
Agreed standards need to be improved in local schools.
You propose simply abandoning the majority of students to poor education.
ESF is actually not relevant.
All ESF funding will be cut in the near future.
ESF proposal is simply one of Alex's pipe dreams.
Integration not separation will level the playing field, allowing minorities equal access to affordable education.
Then we need to demand improved standards in local schools.
Or as you propose lets maintain the status quo. Students from; elite schools (entry requirements usually already require connections and/or an ability of the parents to pay for after school classes to master two musical instruments and English before they are admitted), the ESF and a select few band 1 local schools can be given the chance of a real university education (not Associate degrees). The minorities from poor families and the vast majority of local students can simply be fobbed off with a substandard education and as much chance of entering university as winning Mark Six.
It is strange that you propose abandoning our students and accuse others of proposing wilful neglect!
To be certain, I do not support elitism in education from K to 12. I was schooled in Canada where practically every public school was more or less the same (private schools notwithstanding)--similar facilities, similar teaching ability, similar student ability, etc. Public schools would have the whole range of students from straight As to straight Fs. Segregation by ability is key to elitism, and I wrote once that one way to mitigate this is to force every publicly funded school to admit students by random ballot and/or by geographic area. This will spread student/teacher talent around, defeating elitism and promoting equal opportunity.

Secondly, one's academic record prior to university must cease to matter for all things after university. By that, I mean employers and other determination bodies must cease to care about and look at a prospective applicant's academic history prior to university. By making K to 12 education irrelevant after university, there will be less incentive to fight to attend the "best" schools. Making something irrelevant is the best way to fight elitism.

To further clarify, I do not believe my prior post above makes any proposal. Since we're on the topic, I would outline my proposal as simultaneously:

a) introducing a universal voucher system without requirements for teaching the local curriculum.
b) improving the English language ability of the local curriculum.
Part 3 of amended draft letter
to localise expatriates from the civil service after the colonial localisation test failed the Bill of Rights. Now it is an unconstitutional barrier against linguistic minorities entering the civil service and against promotion of the few remaining there.
Michael Scott
Very well written!
Part 2 of amended draft letter
This systemic axing of opportunity seems against Article 137 of the Basic Law (“students shall enjoy freedom of choice of educational institutions”) and Articles 1 (non-discrimination), 15(4) (liberty of parents regarding children’s education), 20(1) (rights of children) and 22 (equal protection of the law) of the Bill of Rights.
International schools cannot meet the shortfall in English teaching linked to the government’s policy that schools and the civil service be biliterate in Chinese and English and trilingual in Cantonese, Putonghua and English. Being absolute, the policy is authoritarian and discriminatory and not objectively justified in either schools or the civil service. Undeniably, increasing use of both Chinese and English according to parental demand and job need respectively worked well from the 1970s without any basis for exclusionary policies. Both Chinese and English are official languages, flexibly meaning either-or, or both, not rigidly requiring both.
Lu Ping, director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, assured expatriate officers they could remain in the civil service and use English as their working language. This Mandela-like “rainbow nation” statesmanship was not adopted by the Hong Kong government. We instead have policies that look elitist, monocultural and provincial rather than Hong Kong, China as “Asia’s World City”. “Biliterate-trilingual” was the government’s trump card
Part 1 of amended draft letter to the editor (unpublished)
Language policies creating a monocultural provincial city
Elizabeth Bosher notes that funding policy for local (public money) and international schools (fees only) discriminates against non-Chinese (Cantonese) speaking minorities (“Government squandering human capital”, July 9). Those minorities include mainlanders and overseas Chinese speaking Putonghua (or other Chinese than Cantonese) or English. There is also colossal discrimination against Cantonese speakers, from all but an elite of whom the government undemocratically withdrew access to English-medium schools in 1998 despite the strong objections and aspirations of parents and children.
In 1842, Britain introduced Anglo-Chinese education for Hong Kong’s 4,000 indigenous Chinese inhabitants. By 1997, with a population swollen to 7,000,000 by refugees and immigrants, 90 percent of schools were English-medium because that was the overwhelming preference of local parents. In 1998, the government slashed that proportion to 25 percent, claiming difficulties with English-medium teaching that were known but never considered by the community to outweigh the precious life possibilities which English proficiency gives to children in a modern, internationalised world. (Part 2 follows)
Interesting idea. I agree with Mr. Lo that other minorities should be given a voucher or subsidy to attend ESF schools. I suppose one reason it never happened was that the local Chinese parents who want to send their children to ESF might have found that there were few places left at ESF schools. Agree with other comments that the government should have encouraged ESF to expand to meet the desires of local parents for a quality English language education. It is a shame the ESF hasn't been able to create a stronger Chinese programme. Why couldn't ESF schools teach 2-3 subjects a day in Chinese?
Anyway, the government's idea to try to force minorities to attend regular Chinese schools where, from what I have read, they had difficulty keeping up with the level of Chinese required, is a terrible one. Mr. Lo's suggestion is far superior. Maybe give the minority schools to the ESF to run and subsidize only these students within ESF?
AL, is your mind still on vacation?
Why has prejudice trumped reasons?
You argued for equality and progress
while praising inequality and regress
and disparaging equalization and development
jve has ably countered your ludicrously unrealistic sophism
which requires no conjectural attribution to your self-interest
I’d repeat just one obvious difference
between IB which you worship and our new HKDSE
that you’ve foolishly outdated
The former is exclusive and qualifies schools
The latter is open and qualifies students
Which represents progress and is more equal?
The world is much bigger
than your Anglo American mental cocoon
where national languages must concede to English
For contextual equality, consider Germany where
the same public education is free K to U for
all to achieve the same standards
based on the host’s national language
Those who insist on living only in their own national tongues and
studying for exams other than those taken by local students in the host countries
should stay and live their parochial lives in their own mother countries



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