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One in four kindergartens in Hong Kong reject or discourage children from ethnic minorities from being admitted, according to a survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
A total of 12% of kindergartens rejected applications from non-Chinese speaking students and 10% of schools discouraged them continuing with their applications, according to the survey of 179 kindergartens in Hong Kong conducted from October to December last year, according to a release on the commission’s website.
Asked about their acceptance of non-Chinese speaking children, 5% of the kindergartens gave ambiguous responses, while some showed concern about youngsters with ethnic minority backgrounds.
About a third of kindergartens that have non-Chinese speaking students did not provide any support to help those students learn the language, and the others did not give a clear answer about what support they do provide.
Meanwhile, over 70% of the kindergartens’ websites are inaccessible to non-Chinese speaking parents. Essential information such as school fees, school facilities, class structures and the curriculum are largely not available in English.
Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, chairperson of the commission, said the survey revealed gaps that still exist in kindergarten admission practices, classroom language support and information for parents, placing non-Chinese speaking parents and children at a disadvantage compared with others.
‘Better support and monitoring needed’
He urged the Education Bureau to strengthen its support and monitoring of kindergartens to ensure that admission policies are fair and open. Kindergartens are also encouraged to come up with a formal structure of language support for students in need and provide relevant information to parents on their website to help them choose the school that best suits their kids.
A woman of Indian origin, who had been living in Hong Kong for two years, shared the difficulty she encountered last year when she lodged an admission application for her daughter, the Oriental Daily reported.
She said she applied at two kindergartens in Nam Cheong and Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. The staff at the kindergartens were shocked to see the applications and asked why the woman had not applied at other “more appropriate” schools. One of the kindergartens even refused to arrange a school tour for them.
Her daughter is now attending an English kindergarten in Mei Foo, but she worried that her daughter would not be up to speed with Chinese when she enters local primary and secondary schools.