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How do ethnic minorities struggle with education?

Education is about helping children prepare for later life and is often a means by which children can overcome their current circumstances. Ethnic minority parents may have trouble navigating their way towards a suitable school for their children when many public school interviews are not conducted in English or are discriminatory towards ethnic minorities. Women take up a big burden as they are the primary carers and hand-holders of and for their children.  

Challenges Faced by EMs

1. EM students are provided with a smaller pool of resources. There is a lack of school places for ethnic minority students.

2. EM students have trouble getting in or staying in schools that have most of their classes conducted in Chinese. In those schools, there are not enough Chinese language learning opportunities that are geared towards a population whose mother tongue is not Chinese and who do not speak Chinese at home. 

3. EM students are provided with a perceived lower quality of available educational institutions. Unlike for Chinese students, EM students do not have a plethora of choices. Educational institutions that are suitable for them are in fact limited.

4. Because of the language barrier, EM students have less access to the information about the educational systems. Mothers and teenage-aged students alike face challenges regarding the school placement process which can understandably be confusing and overwhelming.

5. There is little to no interaction between Chinese and ethnic minority students, especially very young ethnic minority children who are in that formative age where learning another language is perhaps the easiest. This lack of interaction might have stemmed from ethnic minority parents' lack of Chinese language ability.

"In Hong Kong, all eligible local children, including non-Chinese speaking (NCS) children, who are mainly ethnic minorities (EM), are entitled to 12 years of free education, 9 of which is compulsory." (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2011, p. 2)

This is interesting as it has also been found that although ethnic minorities are given equal rights, a disproportionately small number of EM students form the school population. At the secondary school level, EM students form but 1.1% of the school population. This already small percentage is halved come time for post-secondary education.

If you are interested in learning more about EM students' educational challenges, this report by Miron Kumar BHOWMIK is an incredibly useful resource.

Aid Organisations

Education: Service

HOPE Centre

Provides Cantonese, English, computer and other interest classes

2836 3598


Inner City Ministries

Christian ministry that serves the South Asian community by providing Cantonese classes, youth fellowship, Kids Club, etc.

2781 0117


Integrated Brilliant Education

Empowering EM students by providing free high-quality education support

2677 7778


HOME Centre

Provides language and tutorial classes for ethnic minorities

3610 4418

Education Bureau: Education Services for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students

The Education Bureau provides extensive information and resources regarding the education of ethnic minority children in Hong Kong. You can visit their webpage to understand what are some government policies towards school admissions, public exams and more. They also gives information about both primary and secondary schools, creating school profiles to make looking for a suitable school easier for parents. This is an immensely useful website if you're having problems with finding a school for your child.

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