My Take

As adults squabble, children suffer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 4:58pm

When you combine inexperience, incompetence and ideology, you get a mess like the mass hysteria over kindergarten placements in north New Territories. But isn't this the story of post-1997 Hong Kong?

Unused to so many applicants, many kindergartens are simply overwhelmed. They lack staff and resources to handle the long queues. Many have trouble sorting out how to hand out forms to hundreds or even thousands and then arrange interviews to select students. Only a minority of schools allow unlimited downloading of forms, but many parents don't trust the online service.

Is the government responsible? Well, up to a point. Surely it has some leverage in encouraging or helping kindergartens to use a more equitable and efficient system to avoid queuing. But education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim said it's no-can-do because many schools are private. But many are non-profit schools so all local parents receive subsidies in the form of government vouchers. If it is paying most tuition, surely the government has some say. But faced with another crisis, Ng again proves useless and hides behind Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's skirts, who tried to calm things yesterday.

Meanwhile, many have blamed mainland parents for the crisis. Well, it's legal to take their Hong Kong-born children to study across the border. However, some mainlanders have denounced the screening interview as unfair because the schools do it in Cantonese. Some schools allow the parents to translate for their Putonghua-speaking children. Alas, many mainland parents are not conversant in Cantonese. I am sorry, but this is a Cantonese-speaking city and most if not all the classes are conducted in the local dialect. If your children can't handle it, why send them over?

Do we have enough places? Yes. Even the anti-government Professional Teachers' Union admits there are enough places, only much tighter than Ng allows. Sensing blood, the PTU used its own biased figures to challenge the government without offering any solution. Neither did the Neo Democrats who protested against the government. These opportunistic pan-democrats just want to embarrass the government. Meanwhile, suffer the little children.