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The EOC urges kindergartens to embrace diversity and inclusion in accepting ethnic minority students

31/08/2015

With the new school year drawing close, the Equal Opportunities Commission (“EOC”) is urging kindergartens and schools in Hong Kong to be fair and inclusive in accepting ethnic minority (“EM”) children. The advice comes in the midst of complaints received by the EOC in relation to the admission of EM students to kindergartens and schools, and media reports that some kindergartens provide school information only in Chinese, and conduct interviews for young applicants in Chinese only, which may place EM students at a disadvantage.

 
Kindergarten is the first stage of systematic education for any child, and the best time to nurture their language skills. Every child should be given equal opportunities to learn Chinese and English in Hong Kong, irrespective of their mother tongue, and their language skills prior to entering into the education system should not be a factor to exclude them from entering kindergartens.


Section 26(1) of the Race Discrimination Ordinance (“RDO”), Cap 602, provides that it is unlawful for an educational establishment to refuse to accept a student’s application for admission on the ground of his/her race. The Ordinance also includes provisions on indirect racial discrimination. Given that language used by people is often associated with their race, treatment based on language may constitute indirect discrimination against ethnic minorities. If a requirement, for example language requirement, is applied in such a way that it has an unfair effect on a particular racial group because only a smaller proportion of people from that group can meet that requirement, then it may amount to indirect race discrimination against people of that race, unless it can be shown that the requirement is justifiable under the circumstances.

 
Hence, kindergartens are advised to be cautious when using language as a criterion for selection of applicants. For instance, for non-Chinese speaking applicants, Chinese-medium kindergartens could look at options for evaluation other than interviews held in Chinese and consider factors other than their proficiency in the language. This advice should be similarly applied to kindergartens with medium of instruction other than Chinese.


Furthermore, kindergartens are encouraged to provide information to prospective parents in both Chinese and English. Kindergartens should also strive to make their websites and information booklets in both Chinese and English and advise their staff members to be receptive to inquiries from EM applicants as a commitment to embracing diversity and inclusion.


Although pull-out lessons for intensive language teaching may sometimes be necessary for certain students, the EOC urges kindergartens not to put EM and Chinese students in separate classes, but allow for integrated classes wherever possible. Healthy interaction between students of different races can lead to integration, mutual understanding and respect, and notably, the grasp of language. With opportunities for early training, children can master languages just as well as native speakers.


Quality kindergarten education lays the foundation for a child’s future. Parents and students should be allowed to exercise their choice in the selection of schools under fair admission policies and procedures of all schools. Society also has to ensure that access to equal education opportunities is provided to all without any barriers.

If parents or students face discriminatory behaviours during the process of kindergarten admissions, they can make an enquiry or lodge a complaint with the EOC.

Kindergartens may also contact the EOC to clarify that their policies are not in violation of the anti-discrimination ordinances or to review their admissions procedures. To help schools and kindergartens adhere to the principles of equal opportunities, the EOC is also planning to publish a booklet this year giving suggestions on policies and practices including fair admissions criteria and inclusive school environment.
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For media enquiries, please contact Mr. Raymond Ho at 2106 2234

Equal Opportunities Commission
31 August 2015

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