ESF - English Schools Foundation

Expats struggle to find school places: survey

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 12:00am

An influx of expatriates has led to a shortage of places at international schools, a survey says.

'Most schools reported a strong increase in applications over the past few months,' said Mark Michelson, InvestHK associate director-general.

'The most popular international schools report limited places and waiting lists - particularly in primary grades. In some grades, waiting lists are substantial.'

InvestHK contacted all local international schools and the English Schools Foundation (ESF).

Schools that used the curricula of certain countries - particularly the US, Britain, and Canada - were experiencing the most demand.

Mr Michelson said the increased demand was due to the improving economy.

Bernadette Linn Hon-ho, deputy secretary for education and manpower, said it was difficult to interpret the survey results as the study was not exhaustive.

'Last year, for all international schools, there was a vacancy rate of 10-13 per cent,' she said.

But she admitted action might be needed to prevent the lack of places becoming a problem in the long term.

'It is possible the demand will continue to build up. It is a matter of how we address that demand.'

Ms Linn advocated a three-pronged approach.

First, international schools should review their admissions system, possibly reducing their intake of local students. Second, expatriate parents should consider private independent schools such as the ESF as an alternative.

And finally, she said, it might be necessary to increase the number of places available in the future. She said the Education and Manpower Bureau had a number of vacant schools which could be converted into new international schools.