Locals left behind in school choices

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am

Hong Kong's competitive education system makes sending children to the best schools a priority for many parents. Children are often forced to take expensive music, dance and sports lessons in order to impress the selectors at the preferred school. Some families even splash out on living temporarily in prime districts where there are openings at elite schools. But competition for places means there are winners and losers. For parents living in less well-off districts in the New Territories, their dream is simple - a school place in the neighbourhood so that their children don't have to travel far away.

But what is supposed to be a humble request turns out to be an impossible dream for many. Recently, more Hong Kong-born children living on the mainland have crossed the border to study in North District, forcing locals to study elsewhere.

Last week, the results of the allocation of places at primary schools saw some mothers in tears as they complained that the system was unfair. According to the Education Bureau, three-quarters of more than 20,000 pupils have been granted one of their top three choices in the coming academic year. But the lucky ones probably include some Hong Kong-born mainland children. While they have the right, like locals, to study here they are inevitably seen by many as taking away the opportunities from the locals.

Recent efforts to limit the number of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong may ease the problem in the long run, but the fact that tens of thousands of children have already gained residency by being born here means the situation is likely to worsen in the coming years. Plans by the government to cap the cross-border student quota at 13,000 next year is unlikely to resolve the problem. As long as they can come, locals may be forced to study elsewhere. There is a need for policy intervention at a higher level so that both local and mainland children can study in the schools they prefer.


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