Study reveals that herding ethnic pupils together perpetuates social divisions Herding ethnic minority students into specialist schools hinders their cultural integration and perpetuates racial divisions in Hong Kong society, according to the findings of a Baptist University study released yesterday. Raymond Chan Mow-chiu, associate professor in the university's department of education studies, said the prevailing method of allocating school places was 'really a problem'. 'Some schools have more than half or even up to 80 per cent of their students as ethnic minorities,' he said. 'This will just make the situation more complicated.' The study - released just two days after the government published its long-awaited draft bill to outlaw racial discrimination - looked at all aspects of daily life for 700 ethnic youngsters from 12 to 25 to assess their level of integration into society. Most were Filipino, Pakistani, Indian or Nepalese. Minorities in schools with a non-Chinese majority had little incentive to integrate and tended to band together speaking only in English or their native languages, he said. 'It seems that their environment is a crucial factor. If they are working or studying in a school and their schoolmates and also teachers accept them, they will try to adapt to their environment and try to use more Cantonese.' The situation was different in schools with small numbers of minorities students. 'Where students study alongside local students it has a positive effect not only on language, but also on their own career development,' he said. 'But it is not only good for the migrant people. If you ask the local people what they think of other races, you find their attitude is also more positive.' The government's draft bill, which was published on Wednesday, has been widely criticised by rights groups for containing too many exemptions, including language of instruction in schools. However, Dr Chan said legislation could only go so far. 'Their biggest problem is the daily bias and rejection from local people and this cannot be fixed with laws and regulations. If you get on the MTR and nobody is willing to sit next to you, laws cannot help make them do so. We need to put more effort into prevention and education.' Fermi Wong Wai-fun, director of the rights group Unison Hong Kong, said minority students generally did a lot better if they integrated with local Chinese children earlier. However, she said there could be problems if schools were not sufficiently prepared for the cultural issues involved. 'Some minorities students don't do so well academically due to language problems and there is a tendency for teachers to think they are just lazy,' she said. 'That could be very harmful to the student. There are many factors to take into account.' Law Yuk-kai, director of Human Rights Monitor, said, 'As a matter of policy, parents should be given choices but they should be real choices.' A large number of schools were not prepared to accept non-Chinese students and the Education and Manpower Bureau did not have sufficient measures in place to support the pupils, he said. 'The bureau just has a handful of civil servants looking after this territory-wide group,' he said. 'But this needs quite a lot of support, and not just in the classroom.' Mr Law criticised the bill's language exemptions as an 'attempt to institutionalise the lack of care' through legislation. 'Our system has to change. There should at least be some kind of due diligence. 'In no part of the world has anyone tried to make language an exemption from discrimination laws. This is something innovative in Hong Kong, and it is a shame.' In a statement in Chinese on its website, the EMB said it saw no need to alter its policy. 'Current policy already meets the requirements of the draft bill. As with other policy bureaus, the EMB will take into account the regulations set by any future anti-racial discrimination legislation when setting policy and executing measures,' the statement said. Unison Hong Kong, in association with community groups, plans to march on Sunday December 17 to protest about the content of the race law bill and call for effective legislation against racial discrimination.