Hong Kong Christian Service

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Issue 003
2014 Sep

Why is it so difficult for Ethnic Minorities to learn Chinese Language?

The Policy Address this year raised to allocate $200 million a year to support non-Chinese speaking students, including to provide "Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework" which stir up a lot of discussion about learning Chinese Language among Ethnic Minorities (EMs).

We cooperated with City University earlier in a survey "The impact of Chinese Education on further studies and career among Ethnic Minorities". The findings indicated that more than 60% of secondary students considered their Chinese Language standard just reaching primary school level. For those who considered themselves having a higher standard of Chinese Language, have correspondingly higher expectation on further studies, this reflected that they know the importance of Chinese Language in further studies. The Chinese Language ability affects their choice of career. In the same survey, more than 60% agreed that Chinese language ability is the main obstacle in finding a job. Furthermore, about 50% of the people admitted that they could not understand a job advertisement. The point is these people received education in Hong Kong, but did not learn Chinese Language well.

What hinders the Ethnic Minorities to improve their standard of Chinese Language? In short, the lack of support.

Parents have difficulties in grasping information on further studies and its related support.

There were research which revealed that parents' involvement relating to further studies in EMs were in fact no less than their Chinese counterparts, however, language barrier disable them to assist their children in learning Chinese Language as well as monitor their learning progress; at the end they were unable to understand how school teaches the language and other related support information, these all hinder them to help their children to make the best choice.

A majority of the parents will have their children enrol in "specific schools", hoping to get more support. Yet, the Chinese Language curriculum in these "specific schools" were pre-designed, and were comparatively simpler, like some secondary schools enrolled for the easier GCSE but not HKDSE. What is more important is that, no matter these "specific schools" are primary or secondary schools, the Chinese Language curriculum was designed by the schools themselves, there is no systematic learning objectives, curriculum nor learning ladder. Some students even found the Chinese Language taught was easier than what they learnt in primary schools, thus lacking the incentive to learn.

Adequate support for schools could assist the students to raise their Chinese standard as early as possible

Entering mainstream schools would provide a better environment for language learning as there are more interaction between EMs and Chinese students. However, an ideal Chinese learning environment needs relevant resources. Starting from 2014-15 academic year, Education Bureau (EDB) will grant more subsidy to school having 10 or more EM students, for example, a school that have 10-25 students, the subsidy from EDB would be up to $0.8 million. If a school has less than 10 EM students, the school could only apply for a maximum of $50,000 subsidy, these are insufficient to mobilise and support schools and teachers to offer comprehensive support for students and parents which in turn only affect EMs students integrating into mainstream schools in the long run.

The implementation of "Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework" might help EM students improve their Chinese standard providing them with better prospects for further studies and job opportunities, however, we would like to appeal the government to ensure that schools, teachers, parents and students receive the necessary support, EDB should be impartial in offering the subsidy to all schools receiving EM students, so that those schools would have the required resources to recruit additional teachers or teaching assistants to support students with special difficulties as well as improving communication between schools and parents, actively helping both parents and students to get hold of relevant information in further studies and careers opportunities.

Furthermore, EDB could advance such measures like learning framework, teachers training and assessment tools as early as nursery schools so that the EMs could have an interest in learning Chinese when young and could strengthen their confidence and ability which would be beneficial in getting equal opportunities in their development.



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