Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s ethnic minority parents are battling information gap on schools

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 10:29pm

The Education Bureau released the results of the central allocation for primary one admission last week. I congratulate the children (nearly 70 per cent) who were allocated to one of their first three school choices (“Tears of joy after fierce battle for primary school places”, June 3).

Making an informed school choice is often not too difficult for most parents, as the market is flooded with Chinese admission guides. Parents who cannot read Chinese, on the other hand, have few channels to seek school information to make an informed choice.

Why schools are failing ethnic minority pupils over Cantonese lessons

The primary school profiles published by the Education Bureau have thus become an important source of information for them. Yet, questions remain over whether the school profiles provide adequate and useful information for ethnic minority parents and students.

I recently spoke to a Pakistani woman who helped choose a primary school for her niece. She said that the bureau’s school profiles are handy, as information on all schools in each district are grouped together.

Yet, she discovered that even among schools that had admitted non-Chinese-speaking students, some would not include information regarding the support and related measures offered.

For instance, she wanted to know the ratio of non-Chinese students in each school, so as to refrain from choosing schools with a disproportionate number of ethnic minority students, a phenomenon not conducive to Chinese learning.

She was not able to find such information in the profiles, and was asked by the bureau to contact each school directly. Although she speaks fluent Cantonese, the advice was impractical – considering the number of schools in each district.

While the bureau encourages minority parents to “send their children to schools with an immersed Chinese language environment to facilitate their mastery of the Chinese language”, a study conducted by Hong Kong Unison revealed that many schools did not disclose information on school support measures provided to ethnic minority students, even if they received recurrent additional funding (HK$800,000 to HK$1.5 million) from the bureau to help such students learn Chinese.

Moreover, most school websites were only available in Chinese, making them inaccessible to ethnic minority parents.

Does Hong Kong want to engage with non-Chinese-literate youth?

Ethnic minority children are also Hongkongers and should be embraced by the mainstream education system. The government must clear barriers that impede minority parents from making informed school choices.

We urge the Education Bureau to step up refining information in the school profiles, especially with regard to schools admitting non-Chinese-speakers, and ensure that support information for such students and parents is adequately and systematically provided.

Phyllis Cheung, executive director, Hong Kong Unison