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Policy Address 2021: Carrie Lam acknowledges integration problem for ethnic minorities; expert says nothing has changed

The Hong Kong government will assess the effectiveness of its four-year-old scheme to enrol more non-Chinese speaking students in local kindergartens, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in this morning’s policy address. 

But local experts and ethnic minorities have little hope anything will change.

“It is encouraging that the minorities are part of the policy address, but for me, the challenging aspect is, where is the political will to truly enact all of this?” said Jeffrey Andrews, the first ethnic minority in Hong Kong to have run for the Legislative Council. “There’s so much money already given, but for me, I haven't really felt or seen any impact at all.”

In the 2017-2018 school year, the government implemented the Kindergarten Education Scheme, through which eligible children are able to attend local non-profit kindergartens with a three-year subsidy, according to the Education Bureau. 

As part of the government’s effort to integrate ethnic minorities into the community, kindergartens that admit more than eight non-Chinese speaking students are provided with additional funding.

“Hong Kong actually does a good job in accepting non-Chinese, but one of the major things is the language barrier… I learned Chinese at a very young age. I found that very, very, very useful,” said Rubin Robert Fernie, a Scottish Filipino born and raised here.

While the majority of the city’s population speak and write Chinese, less than one in five ethnic minorities are able to read Chinese, according to the Census and Statistics Department. In the 2016 Population By-census, 8% of the city’s population are non-Chinese ethnicities, an increase from 6.4% in 2011.

“The policy is for sure important. But how do you implement them? In kindergarten education, how do you make sure ethnic minorities can learn Chinese in an equal environment?” said Leung Yuk-ming, associate director of the Centre for Cultural Research and Development at Lingnan University.

Andrews agreed that the current education system does not provide sufficient support and resources for ethnic minority students. 

“I think teachers should have specific training to teach ethnic minorities Chinese as a second language... It’s different because we have so many different dynamics and cultural differences,” said Andrews. “We go back home and there’s no parents guiding us again.”

A quarter of local kindergartens were found to reject non-Chinese students, according to a report released by the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2018, although the Race Discrimination Ordinance provides that it is unlawful for an education establishment to reject students based on their race. 

For kindergartens with non-Chinese speaking students, over 30% don’t provide any Chinese learning support to them.

 “This is 2021 now. I'm hoping that in 10, 15, 20 years... we no longer need to use this term ‘ethnic minority'. We should all have the concept that we want everyone to be called a Hongkonger in the long run. That's my dream and vision for the city,” Andrews said.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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