The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has warned kindergarten administrators that they could face racial discrimination charges if they reject applicants on the basis of their inability to speak Cantonese.
The EOC issued the warning after receiving a complaint from Hong Kong Unison, a non-governmental organization promoting the rights of ethnic minorities in the city, that many kindergartens are rejecting applicants from ethnic minorities, Ming Pao Daily reported on Tuesday.
Kindergartens should hire interpreters when interviewing applicants who do not speak Cantonese, or use other methods of assessing their abilities, the commission said.
Under the same principle, international schools that use the ability to speak English as a criterion for admission could face charges of violating the anti-discrimination ordinance, the EOC said.
Hong Kong Unison stressed that all children should be given the chance to learn Chinese and English.
It is unfair that they are denied admission to a school because of their language ability even before they enter the education system, the NGO said.
The EOC reminded kindergarten administrators to exercise caution when using language ability as a benchmark for admitting students.
It went on to point out that kindergartens that fail to provide English versions of school information and conduct interviews solely in Chinese could be seen as discriminating against ethnic minorities.
Kindergartens were also urged not to separate Chinese-speaking pupils from those who cannot speak the language as this would not help those from ethnic minorities to learn the language nor would it foster mutual understanding and respect.
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