The Hong Kong Council of Social Service
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R&D of Chinese Teaching Materials for Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Minorities – HKCSS Channel      2016/12/22

“Chinese is very important. Because the daughters are studying in Hong Kong, most of people speak in Chinese. Even they go to school, they study Chinese subject. Although the parent does not know how to read. How to write Chinese. For the children. Yes, they can.” Ethnic Minority (EM) parent Gina said.

Ms Kalina Tsang, Head of HK, Macau, Taiwan Programme, Oxfam, said that if EM Chinese foundation is poor, it'll be hard for EM to further study or getting a job. It’ll affect their social mobility and does not solve the poverty issue. The Chinese-as-a-second-language framework will be extended to secondary and primary schools, but not kindergartens. We observe that the time in kindergarten is the optimal window for children to learn languages. We believe that if children can acquire a good foundation in kindergarten, it will help them in learning Chinese in the long run. So, “Impact Incubator” funds Oxfam to develop the first set of Chinese teaching materials for children of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong and launched it at six kindergartens with children of ethnic minorities.

Dr Tikky Chan, Assistant Professor, Department of Early childhood Education, The Education University of Hong Kong, said that “Start from the Beginning” is targeted at non-Chinese-speaking local children and designed for learning Chinese as a second language. We provide curriculum, teaching materials and pedagogy to help non-Chinese-speaking students who can’t read Chinese or speak Cantonese to start learning to speak Cantonese and read Chinese. Dr Elizabeth Loh, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, completed the research of comparing the pre-test and post-test results. The students supported by the one-year project have improved fourfold. Chinese is the mother tongue of Chinese-speaking students. Before Chinese students go to primary school, they would have had 20,000-hour exposure to our mother language. When non-Chinese-speaking kids are integrated with Chinese-speaking kids, they don’t have the said 20,000-hour advantage. There’s no way they can catch up all at once. We saw how non-Chinese-speaking kids interacted—they weren’t confident, weren’t interested, and lacked a sense of achievement. It was hard for them to integrate with the rest of the class. After they took part in the project, they are enthusiastic about Chinese lessons. The students take the initiative to go to class, and there’s an obvious improvement in the motivation to learn. They take the initiative to share what they have learnt in class with Chinese-speaking students.

Ms Joyce Hau, Teaching Consultant, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, observed that the differences between Chinese and non-Chinese in appearance and language are probably a major obstacle in their social interaction. After taking part in the project, kindergarten students acquire a foundation in Chinese, making it easier for them to make friends with Chinese-speaking children. They are able to have simple conversations and even handle everyday problems.

“Ethnic minority parents are grateful to schools” Ms Vanessa Wan, Principal of Little Buds Kindergarten, said. Because they understand that it’s important to learn Chinese, they can’t provide any support for their children and feel confused and helpless. So, they are very reliant on schools to support their kids.

Oxfam hopes the “Start from the Beginning” project can become a successful model to prove that this project can help kids in kindergarten. And also hope that the government will adopt it and implement it in all kindergartens in Hong Kong to help ethnic minority children.