My Take

Hong Kong government should redirect ESF subsidy to 'ethnic-minority' schools

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 4:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 11:14am

I am not one for political correctness. But we should stop labelling non-Chinese students born in Hong Kong as ethnic-minority students because it distorts our perceptions and warps the way we administer education policy and run local schools. They are as local as any Cantonese-speaking Chinese students born in Hong Kong and speak the language as well as the latter.

Their families often date back several generations in Hong Kong, so some are more local than local Chinese whose grandparents, like mine, might well have been from elsewhere, say mainland China, Malaysia or Indonesia.

The Education Bureau made a small step towards improvement when it stopped calling 31 institutions "designated schools" for mostly ethnic-minority students. But they remain so even if you drop the name. It has also earmarked HK$200 million to support teaching Chinese as a second language to such students.

Here is an idea to revamp our whole education system that will harness our multi-ethnic heritage, not as a problem, but something to celebrate for our self-styled international city. The annual HK$283 million the government will save when it cuts funding to the English Schools Foundation should be redirected to those 31 schools. Massive resources will then go to those schools with a multi-ethnic/international outlook, yet follow the local curriculum and exam system.

Why? Call me crazy but this is not about being nice. There has been a mass exodus of local Chinese children of better-off to families international and ESF schools. The migration has caused much social discontent and resource mismatch and dislocation. There are also accusations that to get a good education in Hong Kong, you have to buy it at an inflated price. As for the poor, well, good luck.

It's time for radical change. The only way you can restore balance is to make the local system attractive enough to retain the locals. But clearly many parents want international-style education, the better if it can retain the local curriculum or content. What better way than to start with those 31 "local" schools, making them world-class, cutting-edge institutions? And if it works, expand the model to more local schools.