Why is the SCMP still printing these tedious letters from Pierce Lam? As well as attacking the ESF (yawn) he is now trying to defend the “designated schools” scheme:
South China Morning Post | 2 April 2013
Simon Osborn rightly recognises that the English Schools Foundation's "old policy" discriminates against native Cantonese-speaking children but wrongly claims its new policy will offer equal opportunity ("ESF's new policy offers equal chance", March 25).
As the new policy gives priority to siblings and children of alumni, it perpetuates non-Chinese speakers' preferential admission.
Non-Chinese children of non-permanent residents now account for 30 per cent of the ESF's student population, but constitute less than 2 per cent of the city's population.
According to ESF CEO Heather Du Quesnay, the new system would not "reduce the number of non-Chinese students at ESF schools" ("ESF ends priority for non-Chinese speakers", February 5). The ESF's selling of nomination rights and questionable test on "parental commitment" won't moderate the warped effects of its old policy.
Betty Bownath is right about the importance of non-Cantonese speakers' "integration into mainstream public schools" and "full immersion with extension or support classes for Chinese being the fairest and best option for ethnic minorities" ("Segregation still confronts ethnic students", March 22). But she misunderstands The New York Times article of March 10 and wrongly criticises Hong Kong's "designated schools".
Under Hong Kong's 12-year compulsory education, every school-aged child is guaranteed a school place. But, as the city is demographically 96 per cent Cantonese-speaking, the average public school isn't well prepared for the special needs of non-Cantonese speakers. Designated schools are mainstream schools which have joined a government scheme whereby they receive additional funding for the purpose of implementing school-based measures to help non Cantonese-speaking students.
Ms Bownath has overlooked the encouraging experience of Talwinder Singh, a designated school student who features in The New York Times article. He said he was glad to be in a designated school and would feel alone in a mainstream school. He said his teachers knew how to deal with minority students. He is thinking of universities after graduation this summer from a "designated school" where he studies alongside the school's Cantonese-speaking students.
The government should cut the ESF's subsidy because of that institution's practice of segregation based on linguistic discrimination, and divert such funding to help more mainstream schools develop the capability of designated schools and serve all ethnic minorities, native English speakers included, equally.
Pierce Lam, Central
The problem with Pierce Lam is that he decided a long time ago that the ESF was a dastardly plot by the evil colonial administration and nothing could possibly convince him to change his mind. So, even when they abolish the priority for non-Cantonese speakers (that he has been complaining about for years) he argues that nothing has changed.
On the other hand, when the government claim that their “designated schools” scheme is a serious attempt to cater for non-Cantonese speakers, he is convinced that this must be true. Because of course, the Hong Kong government can be trusted, unlike the wicked witch Heather Du Quesnay and the rest of them over at the ESF.
Here’s another article which comes to a similar conclusion as the one in the New York Times:
Time Out Hong Kong | 25 Oct 2011
Li Sing Tai Hang School in Causeway Bay, is one of 28 designated schools in Hong Kong that receive additional funds and resources from the government to help minority students. During the central allocation process, where the Education Bureau divvies up pupils according to the ‘school nets’ they are located in, most minority students end up being assigned to a designated school even if it isn’t located within their net. According to the Education Bureau, at present, among some 12,000 non-Chinese speaking students, about 60 percent are studying in designated schools.
“It’s racial segregation,” says Fermi Wong Wai-fun, executive director of Hong Kong Unison, a non-governmental organisation focusing on helping minority groups. Wong says up to 80 percent of minority students attend designated schools – but, she claims, some Hong Kong parents become unwilling to choose these schools for their children. “They [minority students] have been living and studying in a very narrow social circle and have become disconnected with the mainstream society. It will harm social integration,” says Wong.
But I have probably “misunderstood” this article, just like Betty Bownath did with the one in the New York Times, and really it is a fantastic scheme.