Early learning gap

Early learning gap

Lack of kindergarten studies among many ethnic-minority children quickly puts them at disadvantage in Hong Kong


Many Southeast Asian children struggle because there is no Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum
Many Southeast Asian children struggle because there is no Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum
Photo: Sam Tsang/SCMP
The learning gap in Hong Kong between ethnic minority students and their Chinese counterparts begins as early as pre-school education, a study suggests.

Researchers at the Hong Kong Institute of Education found that 14 per cent of the city's Southeast Asian children don't attend kindergarten.

Using data collected during the 2011 Hong Kong Population Census, they found that of this group, Filipino families most commonly missed out on kindergarten: 19.4 per cent of children from these families didn't have any pre-school education, compared to 8.5 per cent of Chinese families.

Celeste Yuen Yuet-mui, HKIEd's associate professor, says many ethnic-minority children come from poor families, who can't afford the costly tuition fees.

The parents in these families often do not have a good education themselves, so they fail to realise the importance of early schooling for children.

Yuen says the government has failed to introduce a Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum for ethic minorities. This has made it difficult for ethnic-minority students, and led to 13 per cent of Southeast Asian students leaving school before Form Five. After dropping out, or graduating, most ethnic minorities find it difficult to find jobs because of their lack of Chinese-language skills.

Yuen wants the government to offer scholarships for ethnic-minority students and prepare tutors so they can teach Chinese as a second language.

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