Hong Kong's ethnic minority students ill-served by Chinese-language courses
If a policy is snubbed by nine in 10 of those it intends to serve, commonsense would say that it is probably worthless. In the case of the Chinese-language courses for ethnic minorities in local high schools, they risk degenerating into something futile if no improvements are made.
Designed explicitly for ethnic minority pupils, the two courses - Chinese language for service industries and Chinese for hospitality professions - were to offer them an alternative route to qualifying for university admission and civil service recruitment. But enrolment has been low, with only 150 pupils from 15 schools signed up, representing just 12.5 per cent of the 1,200 eligible.
Scepticism was rife when officials announced the much-needed reform last year. While the new courses will free ethnic minority pupils of the pressures to compete with native speakers in the more difficult Chinese-language curriculum under the Diploma of Secondary Education Examination, they were criticised as preparing those who fail to move up to universities to do low-end jobs in service industries.
As reported in this newspaper earlier, local schools generally lack confidence in the new courses. Some schools stayed away due to concerns over the instructors' qualifications. Many teachers were said to be part-time instructors, with only one or two years of experience. Whether this is the case has yet to be verified. But scepticism does little to promote wider acceptance among the 267 secondary schools with ethnic minority pupils.
The government's policy is to integrate these pupils into the mainstream education system. But the policy is often clouded by measures seen as either ineffective or counterproductive. Well intentioned as they are, the new courses are yet another piecemeal step to improving the much-criticised education policy for ethnic minorities. The promise of equal opportunities will remain an empty one if pupils are still left in a disadvantaged position. Officials should closely monitor the progress of the curriculum and improve the courses according to the feedback from schools.