Baby boom a risk for small-class plan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2012, 12:00am


The growing number of babies born in Hong Kong to mainland parents could wreck plans for small-class teaching in the city, says chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying.

There are no comprehensive figures for how many of these babies will attend Hong Kong schools, but Leung said the number could be large enough to make small-class teaching impractical.

'I believe many babies born to mainland mothers will come for schooling, so it is unrealistic to target 25-pupil classes,' he said after visiting the Maternal and Child Health Centre in Fanling, which is popular with mainland mothers.

In his education policy unveiled on Monday, Leung proposes giving secondary schools flexibility in their enrolment targets so they can have classes with 30 to 35 students.

Tracy Wu Wai-yu, a local mother who accompanied Leung on his visit, said the large number of mainland mothers in the system was preventing her baby from getting the services he needs at the scheduled times.

'Only around one in five of the babies here were born to local parents,' said Wu, who was carrying her son Chan Lok-hin, now almost 11 months old.

'They fill the reservation list. My baby was supposed to get vaccinated in mid-April last year, but it ended up being put back to May 4.'

On previous visits, it took up to three hours for her son to receive his various treatments. Based on conversations with mothers who live in other districts, Wu said the queues for service in Fanling were twice as long as elsewhere. Asked if she would consider using private clinics, she said: 'I am a citizen here. Why should I suffer [financially] because of the influx of mainland women?'

More than 30 per cent of the babies using Hong Kong's health services last year were born to mainland parents, the Health Department says.

Ao Caixia, a mother from Zhejiang, flew to Hong Kong for a health check for her year-old baby.

'We stay here for at least three days for each health centre visit,' said Ao, who gave birth to her second child in the city 'to escape the mainland's one-child policy'.

'He will study in Hong Kong and live in Shenzhen,' Ao said. 'I will send my six-year-old child to receive primary education in Shenzhen, and I will move there to take care of them.'