“Ethnicity, language-in-education policy and linguistic discrimination: perspectives of Nepali students in Hong Kong” is the latest article by UNESCO Chair Bob Adamson and Dr. Chura Bahadur Thapa on an aspect of multiculturalism in Hong Kong.
Educational issues in relation to ethnicity and language education policies have been underexplored in Asian contexts. In particular, issues related to ethnic and linguistic minority students have not received much attention in the post-colonial context of Hong Kong. This paper highlights challenges and tensions faced by Nepali ethnic minority students in two Hong Kong schools arising from language policies adopted by the post-colonial government. Based on data arising from interviews with 28 secondary school Nepali students in 2013 and 2014, and an observation of two schools with a sizeable population of Nepali ethnic minority students over a period of more than two years, this paper investigates how students face the pressures of learning through the medium of either English or spoken Cantonese and written Chinese. Analysis of the data reveals that these students face inequities in schools due to neglect of attention to their overall educational development, discrimination in the institutional settings, and lack of opportunities to maintain their own heritage language and identity. Based on the findings, this paper proposes a multilingual education model for ethnic minority students, drawing on the models set out in Adamson and Feng (2014. “Models for Trilingual Education in the People’s Republic of China.” In Minority Languages and Multilingual Education, edited by D. Gorter, V. Zenotz, and J. Cenoz, 29–44. Dordrecht: Springer), which has potential to redress the balance.
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