Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 226


New data reconfirm gaps in Hong Kong’s ethnic minority education policy

A mere 37.8% of Chinese language teachers and 54.1% of those teaching other subjects at Hong Kong primary schools are confident that they could help non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students reach the level of their Chinese-speaking counterparts, according to a new study released by the EOC on 20 January 2020.

Commissioned to Oxfam Hong Kong and the Centre for Advancement of Chinese Language Education and Research of The University of Hong Kong, the study aimed to explore the challenges faced by primary schools in teaching non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students, and to recommend policy improvements based on feedback from principals and teachers. The research team interviewed nine principals and 24 teachers from nine primary schools from October to November 2018. Two questionnaires – one for principals and one for teachers – were then developed from the interview findings. From February to June 2019, a total of 121 principals and 1,230 teachers responded, covering over 40% of primary schools with NCS students in Hong Kong.

The survey lays bare major gaps in various areas of Hong Kong’s ethnic minority education policy, from pedagogical support and curriculum design to professional training and home-school cooperation. Over 95% of teachers agreed that it is necessary for the Education Bureau (EDB) to provide support for subjects besides Chinese Language (e.g. Mathematics and General Studies), while over 90% of Chinese Language teachers said there is a lack of teaching materials for students learning Chinese as a second language. When it comes to incentivising teachers to receive relevant training, over 90% of principals believed that the EDB should offer professional recognition for teachers who specialise in teaching NCS students. Many also pointed out that schools should enjoy greater flexibility in using EDB subisides in order to enhance their communication with NCS parents and organise more cultural exchange activities.

The research team made a series of policy recommendations, including bridging programmes for NCS students transitioning from kindergarten to primary school, the allocation of additional funds for schools to assist with NCS students’ learning of non-Chinese Language subjects, the setup of a coordinator position in each school to organise efforts aimed at supporting NCS students and teachers, and the development of a complete set of teaching materials aligned with the EDB’s “Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework”. Many of these echo observations in Closing the Gap, a report by the EOC Working Group on Education released in September 2019.

“Education is the passport to the future, and Hong Kong has to ensure its education system does not put NCS students or ethnic minorities at a disadvantage,” said Dr Ferrick CHU, Acting Chief Operations Officer of the EOC. “We will continue to work closely with the Government, NGOs and other stakeholders to close the education gap between NCS and Chinese-speaking students, an issue that deeply affects the career development and social integration of ethnic minorities in our city.”