Language policy, ethnicity and educational inequity in Hong Kong: The case of Nepalese

Chura Bahadur THAPA, Robert Damian ADAMSON

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper highlights the challenges and tensions faced by the ethnic minority students in Hong Kong schools due to the language policies adopted by the post-colonial government. Drawing on the ethnographic research method, we interviewed 28 secondary school Nepalese students in 2013 and 2014, and conducted observation of a school with a sizeable population of ethnic minority students for over a two-year period. We also collected relevant policy documents and media stories to triangulate our ethnographic data. Analysis of the data identified that the Nepalese students as ethnic minorities face the challenges and difficulties in relation to their overall educational development, challenges in maintaining their own heritage language, and ethnic discrimination in schools. From the policy perspectives, these students face the pressures of not only learning multiple languages such as English, Cantonese or Putonghua, but also learning either in English or in Cantonese. Such challenges complicate their identity aspirations highlighting the social as well as educational inequalities in the system in relation to the education of ethnic minority students in Hong Kong. This paper recommends that policy makers and educators take into account of the linguistic practices of the minority families, and make arrangements for the education of these students in the language that they practice at home.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


language policy
Hong Kong
national minority
colonial government
educational inequality
social inequality
research method
secondary school


Thapa, C. B., & Adamson, B. (2016, November). Language policy, ethnicity and educational inequity in Hong Kong: The case of Nepalese. Paper presented at the 2016 CESHK Autumn Forum: Hong Kong in Comparative Perspectives, The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.