Is Help Coming?
By Alice So and Donald Cheung
This year’s Policy Address by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed launching an Applied Learning (Chinese Language) subject for ethnic minorities in September. However, frontline teachers say they receive little outside of funding.
“There is very little that we know about this new curriculum. They never consulted the schools about this,” said Sham Suk Yee, an experienced Chinese teacher from Sir Ellis Kadoorie School (West Kowloon), one of the designated schools for ethnic minorities.
Leung announced in his Policy Address in January that the Education Bureau (EDB) would provide a “Chinese curriculum second language learning framework” with teaching materials.
According to an official reply of the EDB, NCS students with less than 6 years in mainstream curriculum, or have studied an adapted Chinese curriculum for more than 6 years, or with learning interrupted are eligible to take Applied Learning (Chinese). Students are forbidden in taking Applied Learning (Chinese) together with the DSE core subject Chinese Language, which means the new subject will serve as an alternative of the core Chinese subject in the DSE exams for NCS students.
The proposed launch of the subject is the 2014-15 academic year, which starts in September, in six months.
When Our Voice asked the EDB about the detailed content of the new curriculum, it replied that “the subject will be taught mainly on students’ own school premises with timetables arranged by course providers and schools concerned”. However, Chinese teachers from a government school with 70% of NCS students said they obtain most information about this subject from newspapers.
“We just know as much as you do, concerning the content of this new subject,” said Leung Wai Kwong, another Chinese teacher who has been teaching at Kadoorie for almost a decade.
“I believe the launching of the curriculum is just posturing in order to give the impression to society that the government is doing something,” said Sham.
She said the bureau did not provide details about the curriculum before or after the Policy Address, and all the information had been released through the media.
“The Education Bureau is planning to give HK$1.2 million to schools, which have 10 or more ethnic minority students enrolled. The bureau has sent senior officials to discuss with us how to use the subsidy. At first they slightly mentioned the curriculum, but then they expressed the hope of the Non-Chinese Speaking students being able to take the regular DSE exam,” said Sham.
Education officials suggested that the schools provide extra immersion courses so minority students can eventually sit the HKDSE.
“In our school, there are no minority students who are competent enough to take the local Chinese public exams so far,” said Sham.
Under the current policy, some of the designated schools like Kadoorie will provide an alternative to the Chinese language examination under the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), instead of the HKDSE curriculum, for minority students with lower language proficiency.
However, the level between HKDSE and GCSE curriculum is too great that they cannot suit the needs of EMs who need to use Chinese in their future career. For example, the amount of vocabulary used in GCSE Chinese (the more difficult curriculum) will be about the level of a local Primary two student.
“There are students who need a higher qualification than a top grade in GCSE Chinese, but they are unclassified if they take the HKDSE exam,” said Sham.
According to EDB’s data, there are about 7 600 NCS students in public sector and Direct Subsidy Scheme secondary schools, taking up about 2% among all students studying in these schools in the 2013/14 school year. But there are no statistics concerning the ethnicity of students sitting the Chinese DSE exam, therefore we cannot tell the number or proportion of ethnic minority students participating in the exam each year.
The Education Bureau has listed 20 primary and 10 secondary schools as designated institutions, they include public, subsidized and Direct Subsidy schools. However, EDB replied that the list of schools which will offer the Applied Learning (Chinese) has not yet been confirmed.
The bureau has been encouraging NCS parents to send their children to mainstream schools. For instance, details of the support measures are introduced in briefing sessions on Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) System dedicated for NCS parents.
Since 2004, minority student can successfully enroll in mainstream schools if their exam results meet the criteria required. Schools which have enrolled more than 10 NCS received extra subsidies and provide help such as hiring ethnic minority teaching assistants to improve teacher and parent communication.
However, if NCS students are enrolled in local schools with less than 10 of these students, they will not receive any support. For example, PHC Wing Kwong College, where the profile’s interviewee studies has not receive any support or even notification from the Education Bureau. The Principle Kwok Man Kwan of the college said that he doesn’t even know there are ethnic minority students in the school.