The value of a ‘head start’
2014-02-14, Ming Yeung

There were only 120 non-Chinese-speaking students admitted to degree courses at local public universities in 2012. That’s fewer than 1 percent of the offers of enrolment made through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System.

Since the 2011 report on the education of ethnic minorities, the Equal Opportunities Commission has been urging the government to commit to broader and longer-term support. The commission believes minority children need more language and cultural programs starting from the pre-primary level. In that way, there is greater likelihood they can make a successful transition into mainstream schools, York Chow Yat-ngok, chairman of the commission, wrote in an opinion piece last September.

An alternative Chinese curriculum and testing system is particularly necessary, Chow pointed out. “This curriculum should take into account the specific challenges faced by many ethnic minority students who are learning Chinese as a second or third language, while providing them with practical Chinese skills for future education and employment pursuits.”

“Misconceptions remain common. Some local Chinese parents do not wish to send their children to schools with a high intake of ethnic minority students. In reality, the benefits of diversity in education are well documented, not least because it encourages empathy and develops cross-cultural competence — all important components for 21st-century success,” Chow wrote.

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