Non-locals need special approach
At the Fresh Fish Traders' School in Tai Kok Tsui, which provides education to students from low-income families and other disadvantaged groups, non-local students come mainly from China and share remarkably similar backgrounds.
"Usually their fathers are from Hong Kong, while theirs mother are from the mainland," says Leung Kee-cheong, the school's principal. "The education level of their parents is generally low and thus most are unable to teach their children."
The school therefore takes special measures to cater to the needs of its non-local students. "For example, we hire an extra teaching assistant for every Primary One class. Their role is mainly to help teachers to maintain order in class. After class, they will play a tutor's role. They know everything about each student's shortcomings, so it is better if after-class teaching is done by them," Leung says.
He adds that teachers are fully aware of the fact that teaching non-local students is never an easy task. "Most of these children's parents are unable to teach their own children, or they have the wrong concept about teaching. They seldom discipline their children and let them do whatever they want - even letting them not study or do their homework," he says.
"These parents tend to shift their duties onto teachers. Under these circumstances, teachers are required to play the role of parents. They will keep students at school after classes have finished to look after them, otherwise no one will keep an eye on them. They are more than just teachers - they are half parents."
Leung says he constantly reminds teachers that every child has their own story and that teachers are there to help them. They should treat students with heart and try to always praise them to help them build up their self-confidence. This can help students develop positive values and start to take steps down the road to success.
At Elegantia College in Sheung Shui, principal Ho Hon-kuen says teachers who are more familiar with the mainland help non-local students adjust to life in Hong Kong.
"Teachers meet with these students regularly and try to find out if they are facing any problems living in Hong Kong. School social workers also take non-local students to visit famous landmarks and teach them the culture and core values of Hong Kong in order to help them get integrated into the city," he says.
Discrimination at the school is strictly prohibited. "If it is discovered that this occurs, I will handle the situation very seriously, for sure," Ho says.
Empathy and affection are two words he reminds teachers of when they teach non-local students. "Non-local students are usually newcomers to Hong Kong and are not familiar with the city. Everything here is strange to them," he says. "We should offer them assistance and help them get used to life here."