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All government and subsidised schools with more than 10 non-Chinese-speaking pupils will get an additional subsidy this school year to provide them with better support.
The move adds 70 schools to the 31 "designated schools" now covered by the subsidy, which ranges from HK$300,000 to HK$600,000 a year.
Announcing this at a meeting of the Legislative Council education panel yesterday, Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said it would minimise the "labelling effect" attached to the designated schools, where most of the pupils are from South and Southeast Asia.
Hongkongers tend not to send their children to these schools due to their high ratio of ethnic minority pupils.
"We hope to give the parents of non-Chinese speaking students more choices of schools and raise non-Chinese speaking students' efficiency in learning Chinese," Yeung said.
All schools receiving the subsidy have to adopt a set of guidelines to develop Chinese teaching strategies and set learning targets for their non-Chinese speaking pupils, he said.
Fermi Wong Wai-fun, director of human rights group Hong Kong Unison, said she was disappointed that the government only extended the subsidy without devising standardised curriculum and assessment tools for ethnic minority pupils to learn Chinese as a second language.
"The government needs to take the lead to develop a Chinese curriculum for ethnic minority students," Wong said, adding that many schools faced huge work pressure and could not develop efficient support for non-Chinese speaking pupils.
"If not, it'll be like dumping more money into the sea and will only increase the number of designated schools," she said. "It's still racial segregation, which is unlawful."
According to Wong, up to 80 per cent of ethnic minority pupils are taking the Chinese courses in the General Certificate of Secondary Education programme, which she said was only equal to early primary-level Chinese.
Lawmakers at the meeting passed a motion urging the Education Bureau to pen a local "Chinese as a second language" curriculum and assessment system. It was passed 9-0 with Priscilla Leung Mei-fun abstaining.
"The Education Bureau needs to provide a Chinese curriculum and assessment system that meets the needs of local ethnic minority students," said Claudia Mo Man-ching, who initiated the motion. "I can't see most of these kids understanding ancient Chinese poems, but at least the government shouldn't keep their Chinese at the level of primary school children."
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Subsidy rise to help ethnic pupils learn Chinese