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LCQ9: Support for ethnic minority students in school

     Following is a question by the Hon Claudia Mo and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (November 26):


     I have recently received complaints from the parents, students and ex-teachers of a school, alleging that the school has been incessantly admitting ethnic minority (EM) students in a bid to avoid being requested by the Government to cease operation due to under-enrolment under the policy on consolidation of schools (commonly known as "closure of schools"). However, the school has not provided appropriate learning support for these students who have therefore become the victims of the prevailing education policy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Education Bureau (EDB) received complaints in the past three years about EM students not receiving appropriate learning support in schools; if it did, how EDB followed up such complaints; if not, whether EDB will take the initiative to understand the learning condition of EM students and consider setting up a task force to conduct investigations;

(2) whether EDB has measures in place to prevent schools from enrolling, in a bid to avoid closure of schools, EM students to a number beyond the coping capacity of their teaching resources; if EDB does, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether EDB will conduct regular reviews to see if those schools which have admitted relatively more EM students but whose total numbers of students are on the low side have sufficient teaching resources, so as to ensure that EM students can receive appropriate learning support and integrate into school life;

(4) of the name of each of the schools which admitted 10 or more EM students in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years (please use codes to replace school names if it is considered inappropriate to make public the names of the schools concerned), the districts in which the schools are situated, as well as the respective numbers of EM students admitted by each school and their percentages in the total numbers of students, broken down by the race and grade of EM students; and

(5) of the number of schools which admitted EM students in the 2014-2015 school year, with a breakdown by the number of EM students admitted (below 10, 10 to 19, 20 to 29 and 30 or more) and its percentage in the total numbers of students?



     The Education Bureau (EDB) must clarify that there is no such "school closure" policy as alleged by some people. Aided secondary schools, even those operating only one Secondary 1 class, can continue to operate under various school development options. Furthermore, all eligible children, irrespective of their ethnicity, are entitled to equal opportunities to education. The EDB has been providing schools with resources and support to facilitate the learning of non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students. My reply to the five-part question is as follows:

(1) to (3) The Government is committed to encouraging and supporting NCS students' early integration into the community, including facilitating their adaptation to the local education system and mastery of the Chinese language. Apart from providing schools with resources and support, the EDB, through school visits and communication with stakeholders concerned, understands the learning of NCS students in schools to ensure that they are given support as appropriate. The EDB has not received in the past three years complaints about NCS students not being provided with appropriate learning support in schools.

     The EDB conducts the annual Student Enrolment Survey to, among others, better understand schools' admission of NCS students, and continuously reviews and enhances the support measures for NCS students to cater for their learning needs. We noted that some stakeholders had proposed capping the number of NCS students admitted to a school and/or setting a ratio of NCS to Chinese-speaking students with the objective of exposing NCS students concerned to an immersed Chinese language environment in schools to facilitate their learning of the Chinese language. After thorough deliberation, stakeholders (Note 1) generally considered it necessary to take into account the worries and views of some NCS students and parents about school choice as well as concerns of schools. On balancing the views of different stakeholders, the EDB revised, in the 2013/14 school year, the mode of support to schools admitting NCS students. In brief, we abolished the so-called "designated schools" system (Note 2). Capitalising on the experience in supporting NCS students, the EDB provided additional funding to all schools admitting 10 or more NCS students to facilitate schools' development of school-based support measures for their NCS students with a view to widening NCS parents' school choices.

     In tandem, upon review of the measures for supporting NCS students' learning of the Chinese language, the Government announced in the 2014 Policy Address that the EDB would, starting from the 2014/15 school year, provide schools with the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework ("Learning Framework") (Note 3). Developed from the perspective of second language learners, the "Learning Framework" seeks to further address the concern about NCS students' learning of Chinese as a second language with a view to enabling them to bridge over to mainstream Chinese Language classes, and to ensure equal opportunities for all NCS students in learning Chinese on par with their Chinese-speaking counterparts. The Government has also significantly increased the additional funding to schools to about $200 million a year starting from the 2014/15 school year to facilitate schools' implementation of the "Learning Framework" and creation of an inclusive learning environment in schools.

     Starting from the 2014/15 school year, schools admitting 10 or more NCS students are provided with an additional funding ranging from $0.8 million to $1.5 million per annum depending on the number of NCS students admitted. The schools concerned are required to submit an annual school plan on support to their NCS students. The plan should cover NCS students' overall learning performance as revealed in the assessment through using the Chinese Language Assessment Tools in conjunction with the "Learning Framework" and teaching strategies to be adopted with regard to their NCS students' learning targets, performance and progress. By the end of a school year, schools are required to submit a report which should cover, among others, overall summative assessment results of all NCS students, implementation of other complementary support measures and the use of additional funding (with breakdown on the expenditure). We have set up a dedicated team for implementation and monitoring of the enhanced funding support to schools. Regarding evaluation and monitoring of the support measures for NCS students at systemic level, we have invited experts to formulate a research framework for the evaluation of the effectiveness of various support measures to ensure the quality of the support services and refine individual measures where appropriate.

(4) A total of 151 and 173 (provisional figure) schools admitting 10 or more NCS students in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 school years respectively have been provided with additional funding to support their NCS students. The percentage of NCS students among all students in these schools is similar in the school years concerned, ranging from about 1 per cent to about 98 per cent. The number of NCS students in schools admitting 10 or more NCS students by district and by grade is tabulated at Annex 1. As regards the situation of individual schools, it is the established practice that we do not disclose the names and situation of individual schools (including the use of code), particularly when the additional funding support is applicable to all public sector schools meeting the threshold, so as to avoid unnecessary labelling effect on schools and the misconception that we intend to remove by abolition of the so-called "designated schools" system in the 2013/14 school year. Besides, given that as many as 17 ethnicity codes are adopted in the Student Enrolment Survey and the figures of NCS students at Annex 1 have already included all the students whose spoken language at home is not Chinese, we have not tabulated the number of students by ethnicity.

(5) The provisional number of schools with NCS students (ranging from "less than 10", "10 to 19", "20 to 29" and "30 or above") and provisional percentage of NCS students among all students of these schools in the 2014/15 school year are tabulated at Annex 2.

Note 1: Stakeholders include the Special Needs Groups Task Force under the Commission on Poverty, the Panel on Education of the Legislative Council, etc.

Note 2: From the 2006/07 to 2012/13 school years, 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 share experience with other schools were provided with an annual additional funding ranging from $300,000 to $600,000 depending on the number of NCS students admitted and professional support services for these schools to develop specific school-based support programmes and Chinese Language learning and teaching materials. These schools needed to share their experience with other schools admitting NCS students through the school support network that the EDB had formed so that all NCS students would benefit. These schools were generally referred to as the so-called "designated schools".

Note 3: To facilitate schools' implementation of the "Learning Framework" and to strengthen teachers' skills in teaching NCS students Chinese Language, the EDB has implemented a series of support measures, including provision of practical tools and steps, and second language learning reference materials by phases prior to the start of the 2014/15 school year. A designated webpage collating containing all the supporting materials has been set up. In tandem, the EDB has enhanced teachers' professional development in teaching Chinese as a second language for Chinese Language teachers and provided school-based professional support to schools through diversified modes.

Ends/Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:26


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