Our government has a wealth of policy goals. But how well they are put into practice is another matter. A huge gap between the objective and the outcome is not uncommon. Schooling for ethnic minorities is an example. Although the Education Bureau has stressed it was never its intention to confine ethnic minorities to designated schools, the mainstream schools are still off-limits to many non-Chinese pupils. It makes a mockery of the so-called integration policy when segregation remains the reality.
The problems were put into perspective in a report in this newspaper earlier. Currently, 15,000 pupils in public schools are being held back in their education because their Chinese language proficiency is too low to compete with their counterparts for places in mainstream schools. Unless there is better support for language learning or a different curriculum is introduced, ethnic minorities have no choice but to study in one of the 31 schools previously designated for them. Officials may continue to shield themselves from criticism with the so-called integration policy. But the voices of those victimised by the education system, as reported in our paper, are strong evidence that the policy is not working.
Educational disadvantage can lead to a life-long inequality. While there are examples of successful figures with ethnic minority backgrounds, they are exceptions rather than the rule. With Chinese language proficiency being a basic requirement for higher education and jobs these days, many non-Chinese are struggling to move up the socio-economic ladder.
Surely the government can do more to help them integrate into mainstream schools at an early stage. The suggestion of a reinforced language curriculum to help them catch up in the first two years of primary school is a good way to start.
The impact of segregation goes beyond deprived education opportunities and limited career development. More misunderstandings, prejudice and tension may arise if ethnic minorities continue to be marginalised.