A minority rights group on Thursday criticised a decision by authorities to drop Hindi and Urdu as foreign language subjects taken in future university entrance exams, saying the move is unfair to ethnic minority students.
The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) announced on Wednesday that from 2025, students taking the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examination will no longer be able to opt for Hindi and Urdu exams, as "no suitable [alternative] examinations have been identified".
Currently, students sitting the language subjects – French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Hindi, and Urdu – as electives take the Cambridge Assessment International Education advanced subsidiary level question papers.
But from 2025, the Cambridge papers will no longer be used, and candidates will instead need to take language exams administered by the relevant official cultural organisations.
In the 2022 DSE exams, 13 students sat for Hindi, and there were 41 candidates for Urdu.
John Tse, the executive director of Unison, called the decision to drop the two languages a major disappointment, saying ethnic minority students are being denied the chance to use a language they are familiar with to help secure a university spot.
"They are being put into a disadvantage and very difficult position, because what they are good at does not count now," he said.
"Without considering their competence in this area and asking them to switch into another language, the question is: is it fair? Why do we have to disadvantage this group and not other groups?"
While the HKEAA will scrap the Hindi and Urdu papers, it will bring in Korean from 2025, citing the language’s popularity among young people.
"If we just look at the number of students taking language courses, then we are being too commercial, being dictated by the dominant culture at the expense of minority cultures. Does it mean in future we're only offering popular subjects and languages, rather than broadening the language or the knowledge base of our students?" Tse questioned.
Ferrick Chu, the executive director of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said he believes the anti-discrimination law does not apply in this case.
"Under the law, what is required is that, for providers of services, goods and facilities, they have to provide services or goods in an equal manner...As far as I can see in the existing anti-discrimination law, there's no application at all," Chu said.
"From the market perspective, whether the language is really required in relation to, for example, the employment market, the education market, it really depends on the need."
But he conceded that the scrapping of the two language papers may affect the Hindi and Urdu speaking communities.