Getting to know your students from Hong Kong

UK schools are likely to see an increase in the number of students from Hong Kong due to a visa scheme launched in January 2021.
This two-minute read will help you better understand and prepare for their arrival.

“Around 20% of Hong Kong youths suffer from severe or extreme depression because of the political unrest.”

87% of secondary school students don’t trust the government and 70% don’t trust people in general.

Political crackdown, arrests and seeming impunity for officials and police have caused some students to doubt the value of justices and learning.

Teachers and social workers interviewed by Hong Kong Well

Younger children have been affected as well. Some were uprooted “overnight” as parents decided to leave in haste and in secret due to safety concerns, allowing no proper farewells with friends.

Adapting to a new life in the UK will be challenging. While 40% of 12-year-olds are fluent in English to classroom level, other may struggle initially. Mainstream schools in Hong Kong tend to be more intense academically than the UK. Students are used to competition-centred teaching and learning that ranks them from a young age. Their experience of discussion and in note-taking are also limited.


Emotional challenges

Many Hongkongers have migrated here because, in 2020, China imposed a law in their hometown that effectively outlaws dissent and significantly restricts rights and freedoms. The UK is allowing Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) status and their dependants to settle here. Some of these students may come with emotional challenges. This is because young people were key participants in a 2019 mass social movement to oppose a law amendment many feared would threaten the city’s freedom. For more than six months, they witnessed a violent crackdown on the streets either in person or via social media. This was followed by political suppression which extended to classrooms.

How you can help?

  1. Provide more support such as specific explanations and step-by-step instructions to help them adjust to more open-ended tasks.
  2. Reassure students that asking questions or expressing opinion is welcome.
  3. Acknowledge their progress and efforts as students/parents may find it hard to track their achievements without frequent assessments and ranking, which they are familiar with.
  4. Assign “buddies” from diverse background.
  5. Be alert to signs of distress or mental ill-health.
  6. Arrange career counselling for students in secondary schools.
  7. Be aware of potential anti-East Asian racism exacerbated by COVID-19.

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