Where equity is a dirty word: Contradictions in Hong Kong's policy of support measure for ethnic and linguistic minority students

Year: 2012

Author: Connelly, Jan

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Equity for ethnic minority students* (EM) is a marginalized discourse in Hong Kong educational circles. This is not to say that Government policy over the last five years has not tried to respond to the educational needs of (EM) or non-Chinese speaking student (NCS) as they are referred to by Hong Kong's Department of Education (EDB).  These students come from heritage backgrounds of Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Filipino, and Indonesian. They also include students who have multi-ethnic parentage. Over the last six years the government's broad-ranging support measures, inclusive of a specially designed Chinese–Second-Language (CSL) course, have been slow to improve the reality that few ethnic minority students complete their final years of schooling and fewer still proceed to further and higher study.

This paper reports on findings from research that explored the difficulties that Hong Kong's EM students and their families encounter inside the education system.  It shares the challenges that principals, and teachers face in meeting the complex educational needs of a multicultural, multi-lingual student body.  It closely examines the government's support measure that establishes 'designated' schools and questions whether the policy in fact contradicts the official rhetoric of 'smooth integration' for EM students, by spawning further segregation and inequality. Finally the presentation speculates on the impact this educational issue is having on HK teachers and teacher educators.

*The term ethnic minority has long been appropriated in Hong Kong as a label for people from South Asian communities. These communities are not in the true sense, ethnic minorities of the geographical region of Hong Kong, but present as linguistic minorities - that is long-term, permanent Hong Kong residents who are non-Chinese speaking.