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Study shows lack of transparency in kinder quality reviews

20 November 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has not been transparent in disclosing results of quality reviews of individual kindergartens by publishing these only in Chinese, thus failing to provide accountability to non-Chinese-speaking parents.

This view was expressed by local NGO Hong Kong Unison and Legislative Councillor Fernando Cheung in a media conference on Nov 2 at the Legislative Council to launch a research Unison had conducted on 151 quality review reports from three districts.

Cheung said Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who had promised better treatment for ethnic minority students when she campaigned on the slogan “Connect”, should rectify this problem while there is still time.

“You know Carrie Lam’s slogan in her election campaign is ‘Connect’. I would expect that connection would be extended to all, including ethnic minorities in Hong Kong,” Cheung said in response to a question from The SUN on Lam’s policy on ethnic minorities.

“One would expect that her being the Chief Executive, she would make education policy accessible and connecting to everyone in Hong Kong. So, judging from that slogan, I would expect policies that should make these connections to follow,” Cheung said.

But the legislator expressed his disappointment at the administration’s latest letdown. “Now, we had just discovered that the access to kindergarten education in terms of materials in facilitating parents in making choices for their children, for non-Chinese-speaking populations, is not quite accessible,” Cheung said.

“Catalogues in kindergartens are in both languages (Chinese and English) but are lacking in information pertaining to support for non-Chinese-speaking students. And this quality assessment report is only in Chinese, so, no access for non-Chinese students and parents. I hope this should be changed,” he said.

He said that in LegCo, the lawmakers had alerted the government as early as 2015 that the quality assessment report needed to be published in both languages.

Puja Kapai, associate professor of law at Hong Kong University, recounted her first-hand experience as an ethnic minority parent searching for the right kindergarten for her son.

She said it took her some time looking for a school that offered equal opportunities for both Chinese-speaking and non-Chinese-speaking students in terms of learning experience in their formative years.

Kapai eventually found one such kindergarten that taught both Cantonese and English to all its students, so, her son learned Cantonese. This year, in his Kindergarten 1 class he is learning Putonghua, English and Cantonese.”

"But I have to emphasize that I can only do this because I have the resources to be able to access such a kindergarten.. It’s the only one I know of which enables children of any background to be able to master three languages in their formative years and I’m very happy,” Kapai said.

Even so, Kapai said she could only do this because she had the resources. She said she still needed to hire a tutor for the boy’s homework in Putonghua and Cantonese.

“I tell you, this is a class problem, as much as it is a language problem. If you have resources, you can try to catch up. But if you don’t, even if you have access to these schools, support in those schools does not allow you and your child to progress in the same way as Chinese-speaking students,” she said.

Hong Kong Unison’s research on 151 QR reports from 3 districts investigated what kind of information non-Chinese-speaking parents missed from Chinese-only QR reports.

The study also assessed if the information in the reports reflected performance of kindergartens on the teaching and learning for ethnic minority children and parents.

Unison and Cheung both said the EDB should provide an English version of QR reports to ensure equal access to information and to enhance accountability to non-Chinese-speaking parents.

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