SCMP Saturday, September 29, 2001

Education 'the gateway to cross-cultural integration'


Education is essential to achieve cultural integration, Education Department deputy director Anthony Tong Kai-hong said.
Speaking as he toured Sir Ellis Kadoorie Secondary School with Indian Consul-General Ashok K. Kantha, Mr Tong said that learning Chinese was crucial to integration for ethnic minority students.
He also laid down a series of missions for the school, which caters chiefly for ethnic minority communities, to achieve creativity and social harmony.
Parents find that it is not easy for the children to learn Chinese, although they are eager to see a more systematic teaching of the language to ensure job security for their children. The price of this, though, is that the number of classes in Hindi and Urdu, the national languages of many in the school, are being cut.
Chinese poses a particular challenge in this school, because no syllabus has been developed locally to teach it as a second rather than first language, according to Balvinder Singh, chairman of the school's parent-teacher association.
It was difficult to hire teachers with experience of second language teaching, admitted a teacher. "Since elementary Chinese was made compulsory in 1999, teachers of other subjects had been teaching Chinese until two Chinese teachers were assigned to us this year," she said, adding that the Education Department had provided funds to hire teaching assistants.
The school is trying to solve the problem by adopting the international GCE O-level Chinese syllabus instead of the local HKCEE Chinese programme catering for mother-tongue speakers.
"You can't expect these children to learn Chinese and Chinese culture like local students. All they need is vocational Chinese. Sitting [the O-level] would at least provide them with a publicly recognised qualification," said the teacher.
Sir Ellis Kadoorie Secondary School, founded in the 1890s for students of Indian descent, currently caters mainly for students from Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal. There are also some Chinese and western pupils.
According to Education Department figures, there are about 8,000 students of ethnic minority origin being educated in the SAR.