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LCQ16: Education for ethnic minority students

     Following is a question by Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (December 2):


     Recently, I have received the views expressed by some parents of ethnic minority (EM) students (parents) on their communication with schools and the education received by their children.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as some parents have indicated that they have difficulties in choosing suitable schools for their children because school profiles are available in Chinese only and contain no information on the support provided by such schools for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students, the public examinations that such type of students may sit for after completing the courses, the ratio of Chinese speaking students to NCS students in school, etc, whether the authorities will urge schools to provide parents with such information so as to assist them in choosing schools;

(2) whether it has any plan to urge all schools across the territory to admit EM students and include such arrangement into the schools' teaching programmes;

(3) whether it has compiled a recommended textbook list in respect of the primary and secondary school Chinese curriculum for EM students; if it has not, whether it will do so; if it will, when it will do so; if not, of the reasons for that;

(4) as some parents have criticised that the after-school extended Chinese learning programmes (tutorial classes) provided by schools vary in quality and that the relevant arrangements lack transparency, whether the Government has monitored the quality and arrangements of such tutorial classes; if it has, how they have monitored the classes; if not, of the reasons for that;

(5) as some parents have criticised that the duties of teaching assistants (TAs) are indistinct and TAs are not respected by teachers, but the Chinese tutorial classes are often taught by TAs, whether the Government will delineate the duties of TAs and explain their duties clearly to parents through school newsletters; in the long run, whether the Government will arrange teachers who have received specialised training to teach the Chinese tutorial classes for NCS students; and

(6) as some parents have often complained that since the circulars issued by schools are available in Chinese only, they cannot understand the contents of the circulars, and that teachers are not quite willing to communicate with them in English, whether the Government will increase the funding allocated to schools which have admitted EM students for hiring translators to enable schools to issue circulars in both Chinese and English to parents and facilitate more effective communication between teachers and parents?



     The Government is committed to encouraging and supporting the integration of non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students (Note) (notably ethnic minority (EM) students) into the community, including facilitating their early adaptation to the local education system and mastery of the Chinese language. The 2014 Policy Address announced a series of measures to enhance support for NCS students' learning of Chinese, including implementation of the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework (Learning Framework) in primary and secondary schools to help NCS students overcome the difficulties of learning Chinese as a second language with a view to enabling them to bridge over to mainstream Chinese Language classes, and provision of enhanced funding support to facilitate schools' implementation of the Learning Framework and creation of an inclusive learning environment in schools (hereafter referred to as "enhanced support measures"). The policy intent is to encourage parents of NCS students to send their children to schools with an immersed Chinese language environment as early as possible to facilitate their mastery of the Chinese language. The Government ensures equal opportunities in school admission for all eligible children, including NCS children, in public sector schools. In tandem, schools are encouraged to proactively communicate with NCS parents with a view to better supporting NCS students' learning of Chinese and enhancing their learning effectiveness through parent-school collaboration.

     My reply to Hon Leung Kwok-hung is as follows:

(1) To encourage NCS parents to send their children to schools with an immersed Chinese language environment to facilitate their mastery of the Chinese language, the Education Bureau (EDB), starting from the 2015/16 school year, has distributed the English version of the School Profiles to each NCS student to help NCS parents grasp the basic information of all public sector schools. Schools generally provide an outline of relevant information in student support, learning and teaching plans, etc under "School Characteristics" in the School Profiles. The EDB will encourage schools to keep on enriching the contents of the English School Profiles and school websites to help NCS parents gather more information.

     In formulating the enhanced support measures, there is a general consensus among major stakeholders that specific information on NCS students of individual schools, such as the number and proportion of NCS students, should not be released to avoid over concentration of NCS students in some schools and labelling effect on individual schools. Such information is therefore not available in the School Profiles.

     With the enhanced support measures, schools are not allowed to prescribe any pre-set targets on Chinese learning for their NCS students, including the Chinese Language public examinations to be taken. Teachers should make use of the Chinese Language Assessment Tools in conjunction with the Learning Framework every school year to make evidence-based recommendations, having regard to individual NCS students' progress and performance in Chinese learning, as to whether they should choose, in the light of their aptitudes and aspirations, to take the Chinese Language examination in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, or study the Applied Learning Chinese (for NCS students) courses and/or attain other internationally recognised overseas Chinese Language qualifications for articulation to multiple pathways.

     The EDB has been encouraging parents, including NCS parents, to take into account the aspirations and needs of their children when making school choices. A dedicated webpage on education services for NCS students has been provided to enable NCS students and their parents to have a better understanding of the enhanced support measures and school admission. Details of the support measures to help NCS students' learning of Chinese and other relevant information are available in major EM languages (see Annex for details). The EDB also organises dedicated briefing sessions with simultaneous interpretation services for NCS parents. Besides, we encourage NCS parents to proactively communicate with schools and join on-site school visits organised by individual schools and Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations on district basis to learn more about the schools to make informed choices.

(2) Under the Primary One Admission and Secondary School Places Allocation systems, all public sector schools have the chance of being allocated with any students, including NCS students. For admission of students to fill vacant school places, the EDB has issued guidelines to schools reminding them that their admission criteria should be in compliance with relevant laws of Hong Kong, including the Race Discrimination Ordinance. Schools should also inform potential applicant parents/students of their criteria and ensure that the vacant school places are filled in a fair and just manner. These guidelines are also applicable to kindergartens.

     As a matter of fact, schools would prepare themselves for supporting NCS students in learning Chinese. Quite a number of schools without NCS students have arranged for their teachers to attend the diversified training programmes on implementation of the Learning Framework.

(3) Generally speaking, the Chinese Language curriculum provides a central curriculum framework that includes curriculum aims, learning targets, learning objectives and contents, etc. Taking into consideration learning needs of their students, including NCS students, teachers may select suitable textbooks or develop school-based learning materials according to the curriculum framework.

     Upon implementation of the Learning Framework in primary and secondary schools in the 2014/15 school year, we have informed publishers that they can develop textbooks by making reference to the Learning Framework and submit textbooks for review following the current procedures. Textbooks that are considered acceptable by the textbook review panels will be put on the Recommended Textbook List for schools' choice. The EDB has yet to receive any such applications in this regard. Developed from the perspective of second language learners, the Learning Framework provides a systematic set of expected learning outcomes that describes the learning progress of NCS students at different learning stages. It enables teachers to set progressive learning targets, learning progress and expected learning outcomes, select learning materials, develop school-based curriculum and use a "small-step" learning approach to enhance the learning effectiveness of NCS students. In this connection, the EDB has produced a series of Second Language Learning Packages in the form of textbooks, which cover the primary and secondary curricula. The packages have been delivered to schools and students, and are available online for teachers' reference. Schools can either use the complete set of textbooks or develop their school-based learning materials by making reference to the packages based on school-based situation.

(4) Upon the implementation of enhanced support measures in the 2014/15 school year, after-school extended Chinese learning activities (generally known as tutorial classes) for NCS students are mainly of two types, namely tutorial classes organised by individual schools with additional funding provided by the EDB, and the Chinese Language Learning Support Centres (the centres) operated by a university commissioned by the EDB. For better utilisation of public resources, schools are required to submit annual school plans and school reports on the use of the additional funding, including the modes of operation and resources deployment of the tutorial classes, for the EDB's scrutiny. The EDB also conducts supervisory visits to ensure the quality of tutorial classes.

     In the 2014/15 school year, the university commissioned by the EDB operated a total of 24 centres, with all (except one) being located in individual schools. As such, these centres collaborate closely with the schools to encourage participation of NCS students who are in need of such support and have a more in-depth understanding of students' progress in learning Chinese for developing the course contents appropriate to their learning needs. The university commissioned is required to submit interim and final evaluation reports together with attendance records to the EDB annually. The EDB conducts lesson observation and have regular progress meetings with the university about students' learning progress to offer professional advice for enhancing the quality of services rendered. The EDB also conducts questionnaire surveys to collect views of NCS students at the end of the programmes.

     Moreover, according to the School Development and Accountability framework, schools are required to report the progress of various support measures, including tutorial classes, to their School Management Committees/Incorporated Management Committees. The EDB also encourages schools to enhance transparency, strengthen parent-school co-operation and communicate proactively with NCS parents to keep them informed of their children's performance in the learning of Chinese, including their performance in tutorial classes.

(5) To tie in with the spirit of school-based management, public sector schools should draw up job descriptions for teaching and non-teaching staff in a clear and explicit manner. The duties of different posts should be included in relevant employment contracts or letters of appointment. Generally speaking, teaching assistants (TAs) employed for the purpose of supporting NCS students' learning of Chinese are mainly responsible for assisting teachers in preparing teaching materials, designing activities and implementing diversified modes of Chinese learning activities, such as visits, seminars, project learning and after-school extended Chinese learning, etc, as well as other clerical duties of recording the learning progress of NCS students and collecting relevant data. Schools will also assign duties to individual TAs having regard to school-based needs and TAs' backgrounds and qualifications. For instance, EM TAs may be deployed to help liaise with NCS parents if necessary and provide translation service to individual NCS students during Chinese Language lessons and after school where necessary.

     On learning and teaching, all teachers are qualified teachers. With the implementation of the Learning Framework, the EDB will continue to organise diversified and progressively advanced professional development programmes to ensure that all the teachers, including TAs, responsible for teaching NCS students have adequate training opportunities for implementation of the Learning Framework. In addition, the EDB launched the Professional Enhancement Grant Scheme for Chinese Teachers (Teaching Chinese as a Second Language) under the Language Fund in 2014 to encourage serving Chinese Language teachers, who will be provided with subsidies, to pursue continual professional development in this regard for enhancement of their professional capabilities in teaching NCS students.

(6) The EDB has repeatedly reminded schools to communicate with NCS parents in a proactive manner, including making available school circulars in English. The commonly-used circulars have been translated into English and are available online for schools' reference. Besides, schools may deploy the additional funding provided under the enhanced support measures and other resources available for employing EM assistants or procuring translation services as necessary. Schools may also make use of other means available, such as soliciting support from other parents/students, and making use of the EM languages interpretation services provided by the CHEER Centre funded by the Home Affairs Department. Relevant details have been incorporated in the School Administration Guide, which is available at the EDB webpage. The EDB currently has no plan to provide schools admitting NCS students with additional funding or specific grants for employing translators.

Note: For the planning of educational support measures, students whose spoken language at home is not Chinese are broadly categorised as NCS students.

Ends/Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:25


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