Ethnic Groups Are Deprived In Hong Kongs Education

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Hong Kong is a globalized city of which its population consists of diverse ethnic groups. According to the 2006 Population By-Census, 95% of Hong Kong's population was Chinese and the remaining 5% was composed of different ethnic minority groups. The ethnic minority groups include Filipino, Indonesian, White, Indian and Nepalese etc. In recent years, non-government organizations and pressure groups like Hong Kong Unison have point out that the ethnic minority, especially South-East Asian; have difficulties in adapting to Hong Kong's education system. They suggest that government has only little support toward the ethnic minority groups in the education system. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts the principle of non-discrimination and proclaims that every person has the right to education. It is based on the principles of the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings [1] . Hence, it is the government's duty to provide an equal opportunity to all ethnic minority groups in the education system. In the following paragraphs, I am going to discuss the major factors that leading to educational inequality among ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong. As will be argued, lack of educational opportunity, language barrier, examination system and the quality of teacher would be factors that leading the ethnic minority groups being deprived in Hong Kong's education system.

The most significant problem would be lack of educational opportunity. According to a survey, 51.4% of ethnic minorities think that they have "only a few choices" in opportunities of studies (Yang Memorial Methodist Social Service, 2002). One of the causes is the language differences. In the 2006 By-Census, those who identified themselves as ethnic minorities usually admitted that their "usual language" is languages other than Chinese or English. But in Hong Kong, most primary schools use Chinese as the medium of instructions. In secondary education, there are only 114 registered English secondary schools. Among these 114 schools, only ten schools are allowed to skip Chinese and use French as substitution (Ku, Chan & Sandhu, 2005).Seven out of these ten schools are traditional prestigious schools. As most of the ethnic minorities are from lower banding schools, the chances of going into these band one schools are very limited under keen competition. Although international schools could be an alternative, but the working-class ethnic minority families are difficult to afford the school fee. Hence, the educational opportunity for working-class ethnic minority families is even smaller.

Another significant problem would be language problem. According to statistic from Society for Community Organization, 76.6% of ethnic minority parents though that their children had tremendous difficulties learning Chinese. As suggested by Dr. Ku (2005), "they might not have been able to pick up the language as easily as their Chinese counterparts since parental involvement is very limited or totally missing when it came to the Chinese subject"(P.9). In addition to lacking suitable textbooks and teaching materials for linguistic minorities, it is hard for the ethnic minorities to adopt the Chinese curriculum. These directly hinder the learning progress of the ethnic minorities. Compare with the locals, they are placed in a disadvantaged position, in particular, the ethnic minorities in CMI (Chinese Medium of Instructions) schools. As most of the subjects are teach in Chinese, this affects their understanding towards the subjects. In order to get a similar result as the locals do, it is likely that they need to pay extra effort.

The examination system also contributes to the deprivation of ethnic minorities in the education system. In Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE), unlike English, there is only one syllabus for Chinese. In other words, ethnic minority candidates have to take the same paper as the locals do. The marking standard and requirements would also be the same. As mentioned, ethnic minorities usually have difficulties in learning Chinese. Hence, it is not uncommon that the result is worse than the locals. In 2008 HKCEE, Hong Kong Unison found that there are only 124 ethnic minority candidates met the minimum requirements for further study in S6, "this represent 39.2% of the total taking the examination, whereas for local students, 51.8% can meet the criteria for admission to S6 in the HKCEE" (as cited in Carmichael, 2009, p.19). Although there are different contributing the poor performance, "but it is highly likely that poor performance in Chinese is a major factor" (Carmichael, 2009, p.19). Hence, it is hard to say the examination system is fair to every candidate. This, in turns, limits their chance in furthering their study.

Last but not the least, the quality of teacher is one of the factors that worsen the deprivation. Some teachers treat students unfairly because their race or ethnic. In a research, "More than 30% of the students generally feel that their teachers care about Chinese students more than they do non-Chinese students in school. Among all the students, 30% of them feel that their teachers dislike teaching ethnic minority students" (Ku, Chan & Sandhu, 2005, p.25). With this unequal and unfair treatment, this may adversely affect the learning progress as well as the learning motivation of the ethnic minorities. Even more, it is violating the basic human rights of the ethnic minorities. Although some teachers may not have this biased attitude, "teachers find it hard to handle different ability levels as they are not trained to do so, and classes are large, making it difficult to provide individual attention to meet different needs" (Carmichael, 2009, p.17). This makes the teaching is not effective and it is hard for the ethnic minorities to catch up the learning progress of the class.

To conclude, the major reason of low education attainment of ethnic minorities is not because their ability or attitude; rather, it is because they are structurally deprived in the education system. Special consideration, such as improving linguistic supports in schools and providing alternative qualification of Chinese in public exam, should be given to ethnic minorities in order to make the education system fair and just. Nowadays, Hong Kong prides in being a globalized city. But being a globalized city is not only about economic succession and achievements, but also about the inclusiveness of different ethnics in all aspects. Only when these things happen, can Hong Kong truly calls itself a globalized city and maintains its reputation in the international status.

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