Rights activists and legislators say Chinese course is vital
Equal rights activists, ethnic minorities community leaders and legislators have vowed to continue to fight for an alternative Chinese curriculum for second-language learners, saying that government officials give little more than 'lip service' to the needs of non-Chinese-speaking students.
During a meeting of the Legislative Council's education panel on Monday, members passed a non-binding motion urging the Education and Manpower Bureau to investigate a second curriculum leading to a public exam.
Bureau officials maintain that an alternative curriculum is unnecessary as the standard Chinese curriculum is designed for anyone 'learning Chinese to integrate into the local community'.
But speaking after Monday's meeting, Bernadette Linn said the bureau would consider complying with the panel's motion. 'I think what the schools need most is teaching materials on what they should teach ethnic minority students. We are helping them, to find out if there is more we can do in that respect. You could call that a second curriculum,' she said.
Panel member Audrey Eu Yuet-mei said the government continued to 'totally ignore the education panel'. 'We are really looking for a formal curriculum and formal exam,' she said.
'We want them [students] to be able to sit an exam that really tests their ability as learners of a second language.'
Panel chairman Yeung Sum said he was pleased the government was considering giving ethnic minority students the option of sitting the British GCSE in Chinese next year, but it needed to be accompanied by a structured curriculum tailored to it.
'Just an exam is not enough, you need a curriculum to help the students pass it,' he said. 'This is important for the training of teachers as well.'
Dr Yeung said he was also concerned whether the qualification would be recognised by universities or by the largest employer in Hong Kong, the government.
'We will keep pushing for this, but of course the government doesn't accept our position right now,' he said.
Fermi Wong, director of Hong Kong Unison, said the administration was trying to 'oversimplify the problem'.
'It's not just about teaching materials. Many of the schools have produced some teaching materials of their own. What they lack is the structure setting out the expected standards,' she said.
Unison planned to make a complaint to Legco over government prejudice, and was considering taking the matter to the Ombudsman.