26 October 2016
Most ethnic-minority parents will opt for integrated schools for their children if given the opportunity, says a rights group. Photo: HKEJ
Most ethnic-minority parents will opt for integrated schools for their children if given the opportunity, says a rights group. Photo: HKEJ

Govt must help ethnic-minority parents on school choices: NGO

Hong Kong government should provide more support to ethnic-minority parents to help the latter choose ideal primary schools for their children, a non-governmental organization said.

Information should be provided in English, besides the usual Chinese, on issues related to schools and course curriculum, said Hong Kong Unison Ltd., an NGO that fights for ethnic-minority rights.

Primary School Profile booklets provided by the districts, details on individual schools and the Learning Framework should be offered in English for the benefit of non-Chinese speaking people, it said. 

The Education Bureau claims that ethnic-minority parents are free to choose any public and subsidized school, but in practice many of the minority parents face several difficulties, Unison said.

The NGO issued a press release after conducting a survey of 99 ethnic-minority and 143 Chinese parents of children attending Kindergarten 3 to Primary 3.

According to the survey, which was carried out between December 2014 and April 2015, most ethnic-minority parents said the size of ethnic-minority student population was the least important of 13 factors that could influence their decision to place a child in a school.

Instead, the parents identified the quality of teachers, welcoming attitudes towards ethnic-minority students and support measures to teach Chinese as the most important factors.

About 43 percent of the surveyed ethnic-minority parents whose children attend “racially segregated” schools said they were not happy that the schools had few Chinese students.

Lack of choice and information had pushed the ethnic minorities to those schools, rather than any desire to opt for such schools, the parents said. 

Over 30 percent of interviewed ethnic-minority parents said they were dissatisfied with the support measures in Chinese learning, quality of teachers and graduates’ ability in Chinese and English.

Hong Kong Unison, citing responses from interview sessions with minority parents, said parents are more willing to place their children into mainstream schools with majority Chinese students because they think such schools will provide better Chinese language learning environment, and provide opportunities for their children’s long-term future.

The NGO also pointed out some other issues confronting the parents.

Even if minority parents seek help from tutorial classes organized by NGOs, the classes cannot provide much help as tutors lack experience in teaching Chinese to ethnic-minority students. Also, the poor tutor-student ratio means that not every student gets enough attention, it said.

As only 3 percent of the minority parents can read Chinese and much of the primary school information, most parents cannot access vital information, Unison said.

The NGO has urged the government to communicate with ethnic-minority parents and monitor and review the system, so that the minority groups can access better education information and wider choice of schools.

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EJ Insight intern reporter

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