“Did you hear that, ____? English is the most inclusive language!”
This is something that I overheard on the train last week. The other party was discussing inclusion in Hong Kong’s international schools, and the teacher said that the school strongly discourages students from using Cantonese in the spirit of inclusion. Today’s reading talked about the exclusion of Caucasian schoolchildren from Hong Kong’s public school system. School administrators often give up on these schoolchildren before they even start due to historical trends of students of similar backgrounds being admitted and ultimately giving up. The cultural difference between the East and West contribute to this exclusion, as Caucasian students struggle befriend local students, who tend to spend their time outside the classroom in another classroom. In that sense, is this educational barrier unbreakable? I don’t think so. However, it does complicate the assimilation process for these non-Cantonese speaking students.
I don’t have a solution to the exclusion of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong’s public school system, but perhaps the problem can be rectified if the government sponsored Cantonese language programs for non-Native speakers, like a Saturday school or an after-school program. That way, economically disadvantaged students can have the linguistic skillset to vie for a spot in the top public schools and the more privileged Caucasian students won’t be turned away simply because administrators assume they won’t be able to learn Cantonese. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.
Until we find a solution, I’ll stand by the quote that I started this post with. English is indeed the most inclusive language for public and private schools alike.