Bad news for most at the school gate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am


Disappointment met more than half the anxious parents who flocked to schools yesterday to see if their child had won a place at their preferred school, under the discretionary round of applications to primary schools.

The success rate of applicants has dropped for five consecutive years, and this year it hit the lowest level since 1997. Only 45.5 per cent out of 45,715 children won a place in the government or aided primary school they wanted for the next academic year - 2 percentage points lower than last year.

Many parents try hard to get their children into primary schools that are perceived to have the best reputation. But under the discretionary system, more than one-fifth of successful applicants are siblings of existing pupils or children of staff. Many other places must go to children, under a points system, who already have various ties to the school.

Many wish the discretionary-admission system could be revamped.

Nervous parents arrived at La Salle Primary School in Kowloon City yesterday morning, to look for their child's name on a list at the entrance. Joyner Luo, whose son applied unsuccessfully for a place at the school, said she felt the competition was fierce this year, and was unhappy about the admission system.

'Some get admitted only because of their siblings or parents,' she said. 'It's unfair.'

Luo, housewife, said she was not especially disappointed and would pick a private or direct-subsidy school for her son instead. 'It's less complicated,' she said.

Another parent, an alumnus of Maryknoll Convent School, learned her daughter would enter the school. 'I feel relieved,' the woman, who works in the financial sector, said. 'My daughter is attending ballet, drawing, gymnastics and swimming classes. But these are not for primary school admission. They're only for her personal development.'

Education Bureau figures show there are 57,100 children of the age to enter primary school next year, compared with 50,400 this year. But there will be fewer primary school places overall, as more schools switch to 'small-class' teaching under a government policy.

Leung Siu-tong, chairman of the Hong Kong Aided Primary School Heads Association, expects the success rate to continue to drop, as there will be more children looking for places in the next few years.

'If parents continue to pick only a few popular schools, the situation will get worse,' he said. 'Children can feel parents' unhappiness even though they are only six or seven years old. Parents should be encouraging even if their kids don't get into the schools they like.

'Otherwise, there will be too much pressure on the kids.'

Successful applicants should register with the schools tomorrow or on Thursday, while those who failed to secure a discretionary place will automatically join the central allocation process in January.

Government and aided primary schools allocate about half of their total Primary One places as discretionary. The other places are reserved for the central allocation process.