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Carrie Lam vows ‘personal attention’ to EM schooling

02 March 2017

Former Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (in red jacket) admits the $200 million funding to address the education concerns of ethnic minority children lacks effective monitoring.

By Vir B. Lumicao

Carrie Lam, considered most likely to become Hong Kong’s next chief executive, promised the city’s ethnic minorities on Feb 18 that she would give personal attention to their children’s education if she won the March election.

Lam also said she would review the Race Discrimination Ordinance, or RDO, but did not make concrete promises during an hour-long, closed-door dialogue with members of the city’s ethnic minorities organized by NGO Hong Kong Unison.

She met with the media after the dialogue in the Unison offices in Tai Kok Tsui to update them on what had been discussed.

“If elected, I will give my personal attention to the educational concerns of ethnic minorities and ensure full implementation of this policy,” Lam replied when asked how she would address the minorities’ education problem.

“If Hong Kong is to be a home for people of different nationalities, it should support programs that ensure students of different ethnicities can learn English and Chinese well for better opportunities in terms of employment,” the former chief secretary said.

But a Unison officer told The SUN the group was “unhappy” that the meeting with the leading candidate for the position to be vacated by C.Y. Leung had received no reply to the issue of ethnic minority children’s education concerns.

“In fact, there’s no reply this morning apart from the fact that she would look into it,” said barrister Margaret Ng, a member of Unison’s executive committee.

Ng said if the government had put $20 billion into ethnic minority education, “then one should have expected the government to take a very serious view about monitoring the effects. I mean, she shouldn’t have needed us to tell her now that the execution, the implementation of that policy is far from ideal.”

“But at least she promised to look at it,” Ng said.

Lam said she understood that a $200 million recurrent government funding per year for local schools to support non-Chinese-speaking students’ Chinese learning was not effective.

“I think the implementation of the learning framework can be improved and the government should do more regarding monitoring and implementing the CSL (Chinese as a Second Language) program and the upcoming Free Quality Kindergarten policies, and let students have a good Chinese language environment from a young age,” Lam said.

The ethnic minority representatives pointed out that the Hong Kong government should honor its obligation as a signatory of international conventions to protect human rights and racial equality and plug the holes in the RDO.

Lam, who introduced the Race Discrimination Bill in the Legislative Council when she was the permanent secretary for home affairs, said more stakeholders should be allowed to participate in policymaking.

Ethnic minority representatives said their children do not enjoy fair and equal opportunity to education as kindergartens hesitate to accept them, stripping them of an early childhood Chinese learning environment and affecting their future primary and secondary school choices.

They said parents cannot enroll their children in mainstream schools because of policies that overlook non-Chinese-speaking students’ learning needs.

These include the “Mother Tongue Education Policy” and “Using Putonghua as the Medium of Instruction for Teaching the Chinese Language Subject.”

Meanwhile, they do not have any information from the Education Bureau on whether the funding for the Learning Framework has been well-spent by schools to support ethnic minorities in Chinese learning.

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