Hong Kong needs to improve its education support for ethnic minorities or it will 'fail to qualify as a world city', lawmakers said this week.
In one of their most detailed and structured attacks on the issue, members of the Legislative Council education panel called on officials to set up a panel of language experts to produce a 'comprehensive set' of textbooks for second-language learners of Chinese, stretching from primary to secondary schools.
'All students have a right to receive a good education and in Hong Kong they should have this chance,' legislator Abraham Razack said.
'We know they need to have a good command of Chinese and English, otherwise they will not have much of a future.'
Producing high-quality textbooks would 'have a strong impact' on the learning of pupils from non-Chinese-speaking families, he said.
'If we fail to do that, we cannot qualify as a world city. We must not rob them of opportunity.'
At the Thursday meeting, legislators also criticised the Education Bureau for not giving enough support to non-Chinese-speaking students with special education needs.
Principal assistant secretary for education Catherine Chan Ka-ki said the bureau was producing two to three sets of textbooks - based on teaching materials developed by local schools - which were 'almost ready for publication'.
Dr Chan said minorities students tended to be at very different Chinese levels within the same class.
'You could have a very weak secondary student whose level is actually much lower. We will have a set of assessment tools that will allow teachers to assess what level their students are at.'
Education legislator Cheung Man-kwong said the diversity of language skills among ethnic minorities was due to the lack of continuity between primary and secondary schools. He urged the bureau to produce a comprehensive set of short textbooks to allow schools to group pupils by ability while allowing them to progress at different speeds.