In the decade to 2016, the numbers of Hong Kong’s Chinese ethnic minorities increased significantly, by 70%, rising to 584,383 and constituting 8.0% of the whole population, 98.7% of them in the category of ‘Usual Residents.’ The major ethnic minorities are Filipinos (31.5%), Indonesians (26.2%), South Asians (14.5%), Mixed (11.2%) and Western (10%), and the first two groups mainly work as foreign domestic helpers (Census and Statistics Department, 2017). Although they comprise a sizeable proportion of Hong Kong’s population, these individuals have been shown by several studies to be highly vulnerable due to racial discrimination by local people, language difficulties, problems in adjusting to Hong Kong’s bilingual educational system, a poor living environment and a low family monthly income (Loper, 2004).
In 2011, 44,320 individuals from ethnic minorities were in the ‘Below 15 years’ age group, thus since 2014, they will have been entering the post-secondary education cohort. However, traditionally, students from ethnic minorities constitute only 1.3% of those in post-secondary full-time courses in Hong Kong, which is a much lower proportion than their groups’ representation in the general population (6.4%) (Census and Statistics Department, 2012).
The government has long recognised that educational inequity is preventing ethnic minorities from filling Hong Kong’s talent shortage (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2013). While individuals have excelled, their success has been despite countless social barriers that hinder its policies’ aims. Although it is well known that race and class prejudice arise at the age of three, because the tuition is entirely in Cantonese, ethnic minorities’ attendance at early childhood education is lower than in the population as a whole. For the same reason, public special needs schools do not yet serve non-Chinese-speaking (NCS, ethnic minorities group) children well: to access appropriate education, their parents may need to leave Hong Kong.
Such a situation impairs NCS children’s chances. Private schools are out of most people’s reach and Designated Schools do not promote integration. Consequently, there are funds to assist primary and secondary schools in establishing school-based teaching for their NCS students. By contrast, by the post-secondary years this group enjoys little support to learn Chinese.