Problems parents face and how to solve the language question for ethnic minority pupils in HK

22-Feb-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Ombudsman has released an investigation report into the Hong Kong government’s support for non-Chinese-speaking pupils. The government watchdog hit out at the Education Bureau for not doing enough to push schools and teachers to use various services on offer, urging it to review its support measures to help more non-Chinese-speaking pupils integrate. In the 2016-17 academic year, there were 9,200 primary school and 9,000 secondary school pupils from non-Chinese-speaking families, or 2.6 per cent of the total enrolled.

What problems do ethnic minority parents face in finding kindergartens for their children?

The Ombudsman’s report, released on Tuesday, said that while the bureau had told kindergartens they should provide application forms and other information in both Chinese and English, many did not. While some websites had headings in both languages, the content was in Chinese only. Another problem was that even though enrolment forms were bilingual, links to them were in Chinese so parents could struggle to even find the forms.

How about problems with primary school admission?

For many years, the bureau has compiled a list of primary schools that traditionally admit a higher number of non-Chinese-speaking pupils, so parents know which ones to look for if they want teachers with more experience in that area. But there is a discrepancy: some schools not listed admit more ethnic minority children than those on the list. The bureau has not revised the list for years, the report said.

What has the government done to help?

Over the years, the government has rolled out a series of measures. In the 2017-18 school year, the bureau implemented the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme, under which kindergartens with eight or more non-Chinese-speaking pupils would be provided subsidies. The rate is the annual salary of a kindergarten teacher, which is around HK$360,000.

The money can be spent in various areas, including recruitment of extra teachers and teaching assistants, as well as training for teachers so they will be better prepared to help non-Chinese-speaking pupils.

The bureau has also been providing kindergartens with on-site support services, such as help in designing school activities that cater to the needs of ethnic minority children.

A professional enhancement grant scheme was launched in the 2014-15 school year to improve the capabilities of serving Chinese subject teachers to teach the language to non-Chinese students in primary and secondary schools by subsidising recognised courses at universities. But just 24 teachers have completed and received reimbursements for the programmes over the years.

What is the verdict of concern groups?

Hong Kong Unison, an INGO focused on ethnic minority rights, said there was “major room for improvement” in terms of the government’s support for ethnic minorities. Even for those born and raised in Hong Kong, many would only be as proficient in Chinese as a Primary Two pupil when they graduated from Secondary Six, it added. Executive director Phyllis Cheung Fung-mei said there were too few teachers qualified to teach non-Chinese pupils. There should be a mandated percentage of how many teachers should be trained in the area.

What has the Ombudsman suggested?

The Ombudsman urged the bureau to review the funding mechanism and consider raising subsidies for primary and secondary schools that had fewer than 10 non-Chinese-speaking pupils. There was also a need for the bureau to tell schools to publish admission information in English, and to follow up on whether they had done so.

While the bureau had implemented the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework in the 2014-15 school year to step up support for ethnic minority children, it had not been reviewed since. The watchdog called for prompt and regular reviews and for the bureau to boost teacher training support.


Category: Hong Kong

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