My Take

An obvious way to integrate schools

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 2:39am

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 The local exam system is outdated and has been an atrocious and sustained assault on young minds.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.