A system that designates certain schools for ethnic minority pupils separates the children from the mainstream and should be abolished, the chief of the city's discrimination watchdog says. The 31 schools offer an easier curriculum for the Chinese language and most of their pupils are non-Chinese speakers. Ethnic minority pupils cannot blend into [the mainstream]. There is also a big gap between the levels of Chinese taught at their schools and the mainstream schools Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the segregated system was not working. "I personally think it should be abolished," the former secretary for food and health said in an online interview with Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing. "Ethnic minority pupils cannot blend into [the mainstream]. There is also a big gap between the levels of Chinese taught at their schools and the mainstream schools." Ethnic minorities can study at the designated or mainstream schools. But the language barrier facing such children, who are mainly South Asian, has led to de facto ethnic segregation in Hong Kong's schools. Most of the approximately 15,000 primary and secondary ethnic minority pupils end up at the designated schools. The discrepancy in Chinese standards jeopardises their chances of enrolling in universities and fewer than 1 per cent of them take up government-subsidised places in degree programmes, compared with 18 per cent of students overall. Chua Hoi-wai, the next chief executive of the Council of Social Service, said it was necessary to integrate ethnic minority youngsters but more government investment was needed to ensure schools could support their Chinese education needs. "Some parents send their children to designated schools because they cannot keep up with the Chinese taught in mainstream schools," said Chua, who will succeed Christine Fang Meng-sang in December. "To abolish the designated schools system we have to consider whether schools, from as early as kindergartens, can really support the Chinese education for ethnic minority children who do not speak Cantonese at all."