ESF - English Schools Foundation

Space running out at international schools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 February, 2012, 12:00am

A consultant's report has revealed the extent of the shortage of primary places at international schools, with only a handful still with openings.

Some critics say the authorities should ease the shortage by allowing vacant schools to be reopened as international campuses.

Moving firm Crown Relocations surveyed 37 international and English Schools Foundation schools popular with expatriates. As of December, only two on Hong Kong Island had places for Primary One pupils: the English section of the Korean International School and Carmel School.

The shortage was less acute in the New Territories and Kowloon, where four schools had places.

Critics said the survey showed it was 'close to impossible' for many parents to place their children in an English-language primary school on the island.

The government says the overall occupancy rate for international schools, which is less than 90 per cent according to the most recent data, means there is no urgency for additional measures. About 5,000 international school places are expected to come on stream in the next few years as new schools are completed and existing ones expanded.

The issue is due to be discussed at a Legislative Council meeting today and, in a submission to the government, Kiangsu and Chekiang Primary School said it had about 1,000 pupils on its waiting list, with applications extending to as far as the 2015-16 academic year.

Janet De Silva, from the American Chamber of Commerce, said the situation showed government measures were failing to alleviate the shortage.

Legislator Abraham Razack accused the government of lacking the political will to solve the problem.

'Under the current measures, the problem won't be solved for about five or six years,' Razack said.

He urged the authorities to see whether local systems, such as the ESF, had the ability to increase the number of school places. Both Razack and De Silva, who will address today's Legco meeting, said vacant schools should be turned over to international schools.

Mervyn Cheung Man-ping, chairman of the Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organisation, a watchdog formed by educators, said the city's land shortage meant the government was facing pressure on its policies across several fronts and not just education. 'It is even hesitant to build public housing estate flats,' Cheung said.

Other proponents have called for disused school premises to be converted into homes for the elderly, as the population continues to age.

In a document submitted to legislators, the Education Bureau said that as of September last year, 33,000 students were enrolled in the city's 47 international schools.

In the next few years, four new schools will offer an additional 3,500 school places, including 1,500 places at Harrow International and 675 places at Hong Kong Academy's new Sai Kung campus. But an academy spokeswoman said the places would also be filled by existing students.

The new campus for Kellett School in Kowloon Bay will provide 880 places, while the campus for Christian Alliance P. C. Lau Memorial International School will have 1,100 new slots.

In December the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce, Rob Chipman, said a shortage of international school places could become a 'deal breaker' for expatriates considering a move to the city.


Local pupils will be restricted to this much of overall enrolment at new international schools built on government land under a proposed policy

In demand

International schools with Primary One places

Hong Kong Island

Korean International School (English Section)

Carmel School

New Territories and Kowloon

Harrow International School

Hong Lok Yuen International School

International Christian School

Anfield Primary School

Data, as of December 1, 2011, prepared by Crown Relocations GMS, Destination Team