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  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 6:07am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Teach Chinese to Hong Kong's ethnic minorities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 7:21am

Our government has a wealth of policy goals. But how well they are put into practice is another matter. A huge gap between the objective and the outcome is not uncommon. Schooling for ethnic minorities is an example. Although the Education Bureau has stressed it was never its intention to confine ethnic minorities to designated schools, the mainstream schools are still off-limits to many non-Chinese pupils. It makes a mockery of the so-called integration policy when segregation remains the reality.

The problems were put into perspective in a report in this newspaper earlier. Currently, 15,000 pupils in public schools are being held back in their education because their Chinese language proficiency is too low to compete with their counterparts for places in mainstream schools. Unless there is better support for language learning or a different curriculum is introduced, ethnic minorities have no choice but to study in one of the 31 schools previously designated for them. Officials may continue to shield themselves from criticism with the so-called integration policy. But the voices of those victimised by the education system, as reported in our paper, are strong evidence that the policy is not working.

Educational disadvantage can lead to a life-long inequality. While there are examples of successful figures with ethnic minority backgrounds, they are exceptions rather than the rule. With Chinese language proficiency being a basic requirement for higher education and jobs these days, many non-Chinese are struggling to move up the socio-economic ladder.

Surely the government can do more to help them integrate into mainstream schools at an early stage. The suggestion of a reinforced language curriculum to help them catch up in the first two years of primary school is a good way to start.

The impact of segregation goes beyond deprived education opportunities and limited career development. More misunderstandings, prejudice and tension may arise if ethnic minorities continue to be marginalised.


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The key is to teach children the oral language when they are young. The Education Bureau is institutionally racist. The core problem is that they, like most Chinese people, are completely unaware of their indoctrination by parents, grandparents and peers to be racists, so they adopt a conceit and double standard that says only Chinese are human. When challenged, typically, they deny it vehemently.
It is equally important to support the teaching of English, the world business and social language, but again, racial conceit and prejudice hold Hong Kong back.
Sure, but what about in addition special English language education to all to enable them to integrate better in the modern world? Most school children are not exposed to the English language at home.
Most countries 'discriminate' against non-locals, so HK is hardly the only one.
Though Hong Kong is a great place to live most people are very narrow minded when it comes to racial minorities. Unfortunately this narrowmindedness is to a large extent taught in our schools. I have seen secondary students surveying "tourists" or "foreigners" in T.S.T. on a number of occasions. Their definition of tourist or foreigner is usually white people. In most cases this idea to survey whites, assuming that they are native English speakers, isn't something the students dreampt up on their own but something they were asked to do by there teachers. I even saw an Hong Kong I Ed. publication on task based learning which included a unit of work entitled the T.S.T. project that included such a survey. In the results of the sample survey (in the I Ed. publication) it stated that a certain number of the "foreigners" interviewed were Hong Kong residents. Teaching such a thing or allowing students to state this in their findings without correcting them is teaching or allowing students to racially profile people as foreigners, even though they are locals (Hong Kong residents).
About the language barrier that some racial minorities face, I am sure that if more schools were willing to accept students of low Cantonese proficiency at an early age that they would become proficient very soon. Many schools will not consider children who's parents aren't fluent in Cantonese.


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