Clear the Air
Education Support for Non-Chinese Speaking Students
The Government is committed to encouraging and supporting the integration of non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students into the community, including facilitating their early adaptation to the local education system and mastery of the Chinese Language. We appreciate that major stakeholders are concerned about NCS students, notably ethnic minority (EM) students’ learning of the Chinese Language. Nevertheless, individual stakeholders may overlook the development and effectiveness of various support measures implemented over the years, or even impose their subjective thinking on the bureau or individual officers, when they comment on the direction on how to support NCS students in learning Chinese Language. To clarify the misunderstanding and facilitate stakeholders’ further deliberation of the issue, we wish to enumerate the background and development of the series of support measures for NCS students.
Before 2003, under the Central Allocation of Primary One Allocation (POA) system, NCS students were only allowed to choose the seven schools that mainly enrolled NCS students. Although this arrangement was accepted by the NCS communities in general, the Education Bureau (EDB) took the initiative to review and revise this arrangement by allowing NCS students to choose schools in their residing school net in the same manner as their local counterparts, with a view to facilitating their early admission to local mainstream schools, adaptation to the local education system and integration into the community. Subsequently, taking into account views of NCS parents and to strike a balance on their needs, the EDB further revised the arrangement in 2005 under which, in addition to schools in their residing school net like their local counterparts, NCS students were allowed to choose the seven primary schools traditionally admitting NCS students in other school nets so as to facilitate some EM children’s adaptation to primary school life.
Upon revamping the POA system, we have put in place a series of measures since the 2006/07 school year to support schools admitting NCS students. As a start, for accumulating experience in supporting NCS students, schools admitting a critical mass of NCS students, having experience in taking care of NCS students, ready to partner with the EDB to develop school-based support measures and willing to share experiences with other schools are provided with an additional grant. These schools are in general simply referred to as the so-called “designated schools”. However, it is definitely not true that these schools are designated for NCS students who are not allowed to study in other schools.
In tandem, to support teaching of NCS students, we have developed the “Supplementary Guide to the Chinese Language Curriculum for NCS Students” complemented with a series of learning and teaching resources and teachers’ professional development programmes. To help NCS students reinforce what they have learnt in class, we have provided support after-school and during holidays by commissioning the University of Hong Kong to operate the Chinese Language Learning Support Centres and implementing the Project of After-school Extended Chinese Learning funded by the Language Fund.
We encourage schools and NCS students to adopt the Chinese Language examinations under the defunct Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) / Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) as their ultimate goal. For those who do not have the opportunity to study the full Chinese Language curriculum in primary and secondary schools, in particular those late starters, we provide examination subsidy to eligible students to sit for other non-local Chinese examinations, including the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) or the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Subsidiary Level and Advanced Level examinations to encourage them to obtain other recognised Chinese qualifications so as to facilitate their further study and career pursuits. In this connection, post-secondary institutions and universities have set out the details on the application for admission.
We examine our support measures from time to time. There is a general consensus that NCS children should have an early start in learning Chinese, the earlier the better. Hence, we are keen on providing support to kindergartens. We invite all kindergartens in Hong Kong annually to participate in the school-based support programmes offered by experts of the EDB, and through the “University-School Support Progrmmes”, we have enhanced the school-based support to kindergartens admitting NCS students. Besides, with funding from the Language Fund, we have, in collaboration with non-governmental organisations, piloted district-based programmes for NCS children aged 3 to 9 since the 2012/13 school year to facilitate their early exposure to Chinese and motivate them to learn Chinese through fun and cultural activities. This year, we have also refined the Summer Bridging Programme for NCS students progressing to Primary 1 to Primary 4 by allowing NCS parents to accompany their children on the programme. Hopefully, through enhanced parent-school collaboration, NCS students would be better motivated and supported in learning the Chinese Language.
On the other hand, dedicated briefing sessions on school choice are organised for NCS parents. While NCS students’ enrolment to the so-called “designated schools” is primarily a result of parental choice, some of the so-called “designated schools” currently have a relatively high proportion of NCS students. In light of NCS students’ general difficulties in learning the Chinese Language, these schools tend to adapt the Chinese Language curriculum with a pre-set simpler content when setting learning targets for their NCS students. Besides, the lack of an immersed Chinese environment in these schools is not conducive to NCS students’ learning of the Chinese Language. Taking into account stakeholders’ views, we have already revised the mode of support to schools with effect from the 2013/14 school year.
In the 2013/14 school year, all schools admitting 10 or more NCS students are provided with additional funding and school-based professional support, benefitting about 150 schools which is a significant increase from the former 31 so-called “designated schools”. Following this change, there will no longer be any “designated schools”. Apart from removing the misnomer of the “designated schools” label, we also seek to enhance the learning of Chinese Language of NCS students and widen school choices for NCS parents in the long run. In tandem, we have commissioned the University of Hong Kong to develop the “Chinese Language Assessment Tools” to support schools in setting specific learning targets and develop teaching strategies for their NCS students, with a view to optimising the benefit of the additional funding to help the NCS students master the Chinese Language in a progressive manner and to enhance the communication with NCS parents. This revised mode of support to schools is also in line with the policy of integrating NCS students into mainstream schools and the POA arrangements revised since 2005 to guarantee equal opportunities for school admission for NCS students.
All members of the EDB are committed to supporting NCS students’ mastery of the Chinese Language and early integration into the local community. With this commitment, we have been formulating various support policies and measures. The implementation and effectiveness of the support measures hinges on the support of all stakeholders. We will continue to closely liaise with different stakeholders and are confident that with the concerted effort of all stakeholders, NCS students will, in time, master the Chinese Language and integrate into the local community.
12 December 2013