Educational Language Policies and Racialized Linguistic Privilege in Hong Kong

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Abstract

South Asian students, the largest group of non-Chinese students in Hong Kong, are well-documented to be challenged by disproportionate academic underachievement. Although research suggests structural constraints to be a significant cause, government interventions often downplay structural barriers and instead highlight South Asians’ “language deficit,” creating a linguistic hierarchy and leading to exclusionary practices and segregation at schools. The Education Bureau officially names them “non-Chinese speaking” students and prioritizes a Hong Kong-centric assimilationist approach which upholds Chinese as the cultural-linguistic standard. The prestigious status of English language in education and business further complicates the situation. Through the lens of South Asian students in Hong Kong, this paper unravels how educational language policies serve to reify and racialize privilege in linguistic terms.

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