Ombudsman urges more support for non-Chinese speaking students

February 20, 2019 15:25
The Office of the Ombudsman has offered some suggestions to the Education Bureau on the issue of enhancing support for non-Chinese speaking students in the city. Photo: HKEJ

The government watchdog has urged authorities to provide more support for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students and parents in the city, as a probe has revealed several inadequacies on that front.

While the government has in recent years introduced measures to enhance the support for NCS students due to the increase in the number of people of ethnic minorities residing in Hong Kong, there have been criticisms from time to time that the Education Bureau (EDB) has not offered enough support to cater to the needs of such students.

Amid this situation, the Office of the Ombudsman conducted an investigation to assess any shortcomings and offer appropriate recommendations to the bureau to help make things better for the NCS students.

Releasing the results on Tuesday, Ombudsman Connie Lau Yiu-hing said the scope of the direct investigation covered the EDB's support and relevant measures for NCS students in learning Chinese and for creating an inclusive school environment, the EDB's support for NCS children in applying for enrolment in kindergartens and the arrangements for NCS children in the allocation of Primary One places.

The existing additional funding mechanism for the students was also an issue that came in for scrutiny, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Currently public sector and Direct Subsidy Scheme primary and secondary schools that offer local curriculum and admit 10 or more NCS students are granted additional funding ranging from HK$800,000 to HK$1.5 million per year, while those admitting nine or fewer can only apply for additional funding of HK$50,000.

Lau said that means the difference of only one NCS student can lead to a difference of 16 times in additional funding to primary and secondary schools, suggesting the mechanism be reviewed and the EDB consider increasing the subsidies for primary and secondary schools that admit fewer than 10 NCS students so as to encourage more schools to admit NCS students.

The Ombudsman also stressed that support measures for primary and secondary schools should not just be on funding, but require coordination of various sectors and encourage school participation.

The watchdog urged the EDB to conduct prompt and regular reviews on the effectiveness of the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework it has started implementing since the 2014/15 school year as well as strengthen the support for school administration and teacher training.

Moreover, although the EDB had suggested that kindergartens should provide enrolment application forms and other information in both Chinese and English, the Ombudsman found many of the documents were still all prepared in Chinese only, causing communication problems for parents of NCS students due to the language barrier.

Last but not least, the Ombudsman recommended the EDB to consider abolishing the "Schools on the List" mechanism.

The EDB has provided such a list showing primary schools that traditionally admit more NCS students. However, the Ombudsman said its investigation revealed certain schools not on the list have in fact admitted more NCS students than some of the listed ones.

The watchdog criticized the EDB for having not revised the list for years since it was compiled, noting that such inaction may make it impossible for NCS children and their parents to grasp the picture of the actual situation.

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