It's far more important for a Cantonese speaker to learn English than for an English speaker to learn another language. That is why you can't walk 50 meters in this city without seeing an English language tutoring school.
While learning English is not necessary for local kids, it would be an enormous disadvantage for them not to.
Amazing how these threads digress....from I hate HK, to I hate living in HK to I hate how HK tries to be western but wants to remain Chinese to I hate how HKers speak English. Who needs newspapers when one can remain sociologically updated via geoexpat. ;-))
I'm saying your average person is not at a huge disadvantage in HK if they don't have anything beyond a basic level of English.
Plenty of jobs do not require English, even those who work in the Chinese financial institutions do not have a good grasp of English in my experience.
There's a vast difference between want and need... Only the anglocentric blind would say something like it puts someone at a huge disadvantage. I'd say more than 80% of HK people rarely have to use English in the course of their day and they do just fine, in fact, they are far more likely to NEED mandarin than English. Many parents in HK want their kids to have a leg up and that's fine, one would wish that the same anglocentric lazy expats would do the same but they often don't bother. Are they at a huge disadvantage? They are not but those that speak more than one language have an advantage. That's the essential difference that lazy English speaking expat have a hard time grasping.