We have an apartheid education for ethnic minorities that is truly a disgrace. We didn't deliberately design and maintain it. We inherited it from the colonial period. But by ignoring it, we simply make it worse and relegate a whole generation of children to privation and poverty. Senior Education Bureau officials who allow this scandalous state of affairs to continue are borderline criminals. They should be sued and hauled before international human rights courts.
Of course, we have always known this. So in that sense, we have all been complicit. But Equal Opportunities Commission chief Dr York Chow Yat-Ngok has given the government an ultimatum to change the system before taking it to court. A new study by a Hong Kong Institute of Education researcher has given us a more quantitative picture of discrimination at every level of education. Until now, we have had one set of luxury, subsidised schools for privileged minorities called ESF schools (direct subsidy) and international schools (free land and interest-free loans); and another no-frills set of government schools for underprivileged minorities who are mostly South Asians. In between, we have the local schools for Chinese-speaking families.
But HKIEd's Celeste Yuen Yuet-mui finds Pakistani, Nepali and Filipino residents are being placed at an educational disadvantage from the beginning of public education. In kindergarten, they do worse because of language barriers. Unsurprisingly, between 16 and 19 per cent of South Asians aged three to five simply skipped school, compared to 8.5 per cent of Chinese. By secondary Form Five, up to one in five are out of school, compared with just 6.4 per cent of local Chinese. Because of their poor training in the Chinese language, most are penalised when they apply to local universities.
Since we are now phasing out subsidies for ESF schools, we must completely overhaul the local system to integrate minorities into the mainstream education system. A first priority, as Yuen said, would be to introduce a Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum for minorities. Yuen said our government has a Chinese-dominated mindset. It's time we kicked out those racist bureaucrats and replaced them with competent educators.