• Sun
  • Oct 19, 2014
  • Updated: 6:27am
NewsHong Kong

For new Chinese-language curriculum to work, teachers have to show us respect, say ethnic minority pupils

Ethnic minority pupils offer views on scheme to teach Chinese as a second language

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 2014, 5:41am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 2014, 5:41am

A Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum will work only when teachers learn to respect the unique identities of non-Chinese-speaking children, a group of ethnic minority pupils and parents has said.

At a meeting organised by ethnic minority advocacy group Unison, the 20 or so people were invited to join the discussions.

Suleman Siddiqui, a teenager studying in CMA Choi Cheung Kok Secondary School, said one of his teachers once told him he should not expect to be anything but a train driver or toilet cleaner when he grew up.

"Why are we always stereotyped? Why do they have such low expectations of us?" asked Suleman, a Pakistani whose family has lived in Hong Kong for four generations.

The government is targeting such pupils, who are often sidelined in local Chinese-speaking schools, with its "Chinese as a second language" subject.

The subject will be introduced in September and a HK$200 million budget has been put aside to support it in its first year. Details such as sample lessons, assessment tools and learning materials have yet to be provided.

But Praleena Gurung, Suleman's schoolmate, warned that if teachers did not change their methods, then it would be like throwing HK$200 million "into a trash bin".

The 14-year-old said her English-language teacher tackled global issues and explored different cultures with the class, while her Chinese-language teacher stuck to the textbook, which made lessons dry and boring.

"We're afraid we're going to learn in the same way with the same textbooks and the same teachers [when the new subject is implemented]," she said.

Reminding the meeting that Chinese was in fact their third language, the group said ethnic minority children were facing an identity crisis because their own cultures were not included in textbooks.

Former lawmaker and barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, who chairs the Unison board, said the lack of details about the new subject had led to anxiety among ethnic minority groups.

She said she was "thrilled" to see these children express their needs and concerns, and that she would deliver their opinions to the government.

University of Hong Kong law professor Puja Kapai said: "I think what the students are trying to tell us is that Chinese language is not the only part of this system that is broken. We need wholesale reform in education."


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

In our Chinese classes in NYC - ****www.hillslearning.com/classes/chineseclassesnyc/ it is also very important for our instructors to know where students are coming from, what their motivations are, and what their background is when learning Chinese.
It is the teachers who need to be taught how to teach, I mean those Chinese teachers being mentioned!
The comments of the teacher go to show clearly how the students coming from Ethnic Minorities are viewed and treated by teachers in Hong Kong. The whole education system of forcing upon the non- chinese speaking students the burden of learning the Chinese language is questionable, it is nothing but a superficial attempt by the Education Department and the respective schools to show that they were working towards bringing Ethnic Minorities into the mainstream when the TRUTH is that the study material and the teaching methods are totally outdated and obsolete and the effort not even close half-hearted. Talking about racism towards Ethnic Minorities it exits in every facet of the HK society right from Education to Housing to providing Jobs in Govt. sector, etc and the list is endless. Especially after opening of the border and influx of tourists the HK society has become extremely racist to all outsiders and it appears they want to run this once cosmopolitan city without having any foreigners whatsoever, this is a widely discussed topic at almost all foreigner gatherings.
I have several points to raise. Also, thanks to SCMP for its coverage.
First, it is important to note that these students mentioned in the article were not initially "invited" by the organizers. The organizers asked them to come in after they saw they had a large group of possible protestors on their hands.
Second it is reported that "Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, who chairs the Unison board, said the lack of details about the new subject had led to anxiety among ethnic minority groups." For my students who attended this meeting, I do not see their primary reaction as anxiety about the new Chinese Second Language subject. Rather, they frustrated over their current curriculum and put-off by the insufficient inclusion of community voices, in particular by UNISON. They are also rightly concerned that new curriculum will fail without new teaching.
Third, I am confused that Unison's chair said she was"'thrilled' to see these children express their needs and concerns". Some of these students presented their views at a Symposium on Ethnicity and Equity in Education last July. Unison attended this symposium, and was questioned about its aims, its advocacy, and its tactics. Unision should have already been aware of these students voices and taken them seriously.
Fourth, I am worried about our decision making process in Hong Kong. Unison's Ng said that "she would deliver [students'] opinions to the government. Why must a community go through this NGO to get their voices heard?
I am a HKner and I know how most of the HKners, especially middle class think.
The question: ""Why are we always stereotyped?"
Because HKners always put people into categories and stereotypes. Westernes are something they want to be, they are something like high class and they look upon them. All others, Phinoys, Indonesian, Pakistani, Hindu, Thai etc (even Mainlanders), they see as something lower than themselves.
HKners, especially the wannabe middle class, thinks they are something special. A culture and society of wannabes. And if you want to be something better and superior you have to have something or people who are categorised as lower than you. That is why they see ethnic minorities as not equal and they need to see the ethnic minorities such as Pakistanis, Indians, Pinoys etc. in HK as low class people in the society in order to be displayed as middle class and something better themselves. Pathetic but true.
"...while her Chinese-language teacher stuck to the textbook, which made lessons dry and boring."
Learning Chinese (also Cantonese) as a foreigner in classes and courses is one on the most boring things, indeed. Chinese teaching courses are didactically still ages behind compared to how English, French, Japanese and even German langunage classes are normally done. I have some experinces with learning Chinese in classroom courses and these courses offered across the word are much better than any sleeping pill!


SCMP.com Account