The EOC Calls for Equality and Inclusiveness in School Admissions
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has issued a call today (24 September 2015) for all schools in Hong Kong to adhere to the principles of equality and inclusiveness in their admission criteria and procedures, with the Primary One Admission (POA) process having started on 21 September 2015.
Dr York CHOW, the EOC Chairperson, said, “Children are our future and should be given all the opportunities possible to reach their full potential. In particular, schools have a vital role to play, and they should take active steps to level the playing field for all children, regardless of their race and abilities. The EOC attaches great importance to equal educational opportunities of children, including those from ethnic minority background, as well as those who have special educational needs or SEN. We have, in fact, listed their equal access to educational opportunities as two of our strategic priority work areas.”
“Nevertheless, despite our continuous effort and advocacy, the Commission continues to hear complaints from parents, NGOs and other stakeholders about unfair treatment and the lack of support for these students due to their race, disability, or a combination of characteristics,” added Dr Chow. “For instance, non-Chinese speaking students with special educational needs face a shortage in English-medium school places with sufficient special need support. Many continue to endure significant barriers and long waits for their education.”
In view of this, the EOC calls on all schools to step up their efforts to support ethnic minority students and students with SEN, including those who are non-Chinese speaking, particularly in admissions. Schools are reminded that it may be a contravention of the anti-discrimination legislation to deny admissions to students on the basis of their disability or race, including setting unjustifiable language or other admission requirements which may put ethnic minority children or students with disability at a disadvantage.
In order to help schools understand their legal obligations and as a first step to enhancing inclusive schools, the EOC organised on 21 September 2015 an English-language workshop for school principals and administrators on the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) and the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO). Approximately 50 school representatives were in attendance.
At the workshop, the EOC highlighted the responsibilities of schools as both employers and as education and service providers, and urged them to put in place equal opportunity policies, including in the procedures and criteria for admitting students. The EOC also emphasised the importance of providing reasonable accommodation to students with disability and ethnic minority students, both in the admission process as well as in everyday campus life, so as to ensure that all students can equally participate in learning and extra-curricular activities.
“The EOC will definitely continue to monitor the situation, to engage the schools and work closely with various parties, including the Government, to advance equal access to education for all students,” said Dr Chow.
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Equal Opportunities Commission
24 September 2015