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The EOC urges kindergartens to embrace diversity and inclusion in student admission

07/09/2017


As the application process for kindergarten admissions for 2018-19 will get underway soon, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) would like to remind kindergartens in Hong Kong to adopt a fair and inclusive admission policy for all including children from the ethnic minorities (EM). This advice comes in the midst of continued concerns from Non-Chinese parents that school information by some kindergartens is only available in Chinese and interviews for young applicants are conducted in Cantonese. Some allegedly simply point them towards schools with high concentrations of EM students even though the parents prefer that their children study in an immersed Chinese environment.

The EOC Chairperson, Prof. Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, said, “Equal access to good quality education is a fundamental right and to ensure that access for EM students is a priority area for us. Despite many efforts by all stakeholders, including us, we continue to receive complaints from EM parents about their difficulties in finding suitable kindergarten places for their children.”

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.

Hence, the EOC urges kindergartens to be cautious when using race or language as the grounds for rejecting an application. Kindergartens are also requested to be non-discriminatory when providing information and when approached by parents for assistance. The language of interview for applicants is also an area that needs careful consideration so as not to unfairly eliminate applications from EM children. Kindergartens should look at other ways of assessing an applicant’s suitability, such as observation during play time etc. instead of interview, if appropriate and practicable.

The EOC welcomes the introduction of the Free Kindergarten Education Policy and particularly the additional resource to kindergartens admitting eight or more non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students for supporting them. It is hoped that this incentive will encourage kindergartens to accept more EM students thereby providing them with opportunities to get an early start on Chinese language acquisition, clearly something that more and more EM parents are realizing as essential.

It is imperative that the additional funding that kindergartens may avail of is truly utilized for the support of Chinese language learning by NCS students.

One of the key areas that needs attention is the provision of more bilingual information by kindergartens, especially on their websites. As information gathering is the first step for parents in making a choice of kindergarten for their children, the absence of this information in English puts EM parents at a distinct disadvantage when compared to their local Chinese counterparts. Kindergartens, that so far have only Chinese information on their websites, are advised to start providing essential information, if not all information, in English as well as a first step.

If parents or students face discriminatory practices or behavior 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. In order to help schools and kindergartens adhere to the principles of equal opportunities, they may refer to the EOC’s booklet titled Promotion of Racial Integration and Prevention of Racial Discrimination in Schools that is also available on the EOC website www.eoc.org.hk.

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For media enquiries, please contact Mr. Raymond HO at 2106-2234

Equal Opportunities Commission
7 September 2017

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