Cross-border school faces battle
He Huifeng in Shenzhen
Soaring land prices and lack of government support have crippled expansion plans of a school in Shenzhen which caters exclusively for children of Hong Kong residents.
Liu Cheung-hin, who heads the Luohu School for Hong Kong Children, said the school had asked the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities to set up more such schools in Shenzhen. He said the school was full, but more Hongkongers on the mainland needed somewhere to educate their children. He said the idea had been shelved because of Shenzhen's rising property prices and a lack of support from the Hong Kong government.
'Previously, Shenzhen authorities were willing to allocate school sites to non-profit organisations,' he said. 'Now it becomes very hard to get approval from the local government ... when the land prices are increasing so quickly.
It seemed Hong Kong's government would not offer any financial support, Mr Liu said. Yet the numbers of Hong Kong children on the mainland continued to grow. Luohu School had only 16 pupils in 2001, but this year there were more than 700.
The school originally was opened to cater for the mainland-born children of Hong Kong parents awaiting admission to Hong Kong, but now Hongkongers dominated the intake.
According to a survey conducted by Shenzhen in 2002, there were 7,242 Hong Kong children in its schools. Mr Liu estimated that the current figure was double that.
The school has a Hong Kong curriculum and textbooks in English, but materials from the mainland are used for maths and Chinese. At present, the school charges a standard fee of 7,000 yuan a year.
Ms Lee, whose two boys, aged eight and six, are at the school, said her sons could speak fluent Putonghua and Cantonese, write both simple and traditional Chinese and had a better foundation in maths and Chinese than those studying in Hong Kong.
'I see no problem in them sitting Hong Kong examinations. Besides, it's very easy for the kids to go back to Hong Kong for upper classes,' she said.
Another mother, whose husband works in Hong Kong, was waiting for permission to migrate. She said she was satisfied with the qualifications of teachers at the school and the tuition fees were acceptable. 'I see no need to let my kids go back to Hong Kong,' she said.
A spokesman for the Education Bureau said it was not the government's policy to subsidise students who took courses outside Hong Kong or to fund schools outside Hong Kong.
In a report released early last month, the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre proposed building schools in Shenzhen exclusively for children of Hong Kong residents.
The think-tank, which has close ties with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, also wants the resolution of the problem that education benefits cannot be transferred across the border.