Chinese-language help for Hong Kong’s ethnic minority pupils lacks transparency, NGO finds
Advocacy group urges officials to boost monitoring based on a discrepancy between funding that is received and information made available to public
Some schools in Hong Kong that get government funding to help their ethnic minority pupils learn Chinese were lacking in transparency and accountability, an NGO said on Monday.
The local advocacy group Unison called on officials to boost their monitoring to ensure funding information was available to the public and non-Chinese speaking parents of pupils.
Between July and September last year, Unison studied school websites as well as the published annual plans and reports of primary and secondary schools in Yau Tsim Mong, Yuen Long and Eastern districts.
In total, the group looked at 97 primary and 86 secondary schools. The annual funding for the Chinese-language programmes targeting ethnic minority pupils ranged between HK$1.5 million per year (US$192,000) and HK$50,000, depending on the number of non-Chinese children in a school.
Unison project manager Mandy Cheuk Man-po said the study found 28 primary and 19 secondary schools indicated on their websites or uploaded documents that they had received Education Bureau funding for either Enhanced Chinese Learning and Teaching for Non-Chinese Speaking Students or After-school Support for Non-Chinese Speaking Students in Learning Chinese.
But the bureau’s statistics showed that 37 primary and 27 secondary schools in the three districts had received funding for the enhanced programme. Cheuk said the authority was unable to give a figure for the after-school funding.
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The first allocation targets schools with 10 or more non-Chinese speaking pupils; the second is for those with nine or fewer.
Cheuk said this showed that not all schools receiving the funding had made this information public, suggesting a lack of transparency.
The two recurrent funding schemes have been provided by the bureau since 2014. The goal is to help schools ensure equal opportunities for all non-Chinese speaking pupils. About HK$200 million is spent on the programmes every year.
Unison said schools were not being as accountable as they should be.
Cheuk estimated about 20 per cent of the schools that received the funding did not make their support measures publicly accessible, such as information on adapted Chinese curriculum and the pupils’ Chinese-learning performance.
Only a few of the surveyed schools provided information that was fully bilingual, she added, meaning helpful details would be largely inaccessible to non-Chinese speaking stakeholders and members of the public.
“The bureau has spent more than HK$800 million in funding to support Chinese learning by non-Chinese-speaking pupils on a ‘school-based approach’,” lawmaker Dennis Kwok said.
“Pupils’ progress would be slowed without proper monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the framework and funding.”
Unison executive director Phyllis Cheung Fung-mei called on the bureau to review its monitoring system and ensure the programme information is transparent and made available to non-Chinese speaking pupils’ parents and the public, in both English and Chinese.
She urged officials to disclose details on how the current framework is evaluated.
A Pakistani father of two non-Chinese speaking children who asked only to be identified as ‘KK’ said he had not heard of the enhanced funding.
He argued parents needed to know how the funding was spent and be able to access the children’s learning progress and performance.
“If reports are not available, how can the government be accountable to the public on this spending?”
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An Education Bureau spokeswoman said it was discussing with the sector how to make it easier for parents of non-Chinese-speaking pupils to choose schools for their children.
This included adding a note about a school providing additional support for non-Chinese speaking pupils in the student support section of its profile as provided by the government.
The profile is available online in English and Chinese, and a hard-copy English version is given to non-Chinese speaking pupils.