More pupils vying for elite secondary school places
Direct applications are up as much as 10pc despite there being fewer places on offer
Principals have warned parents to expect more competition for elite secondary school places this year, as more tried their luck in the latest allocation exercise.
Places could be further limited after the Education Bureau reduced class sizes ahead of an expected reduction in student numbers in the next few years, the educators said.
Even though there were fewer places on offer, the principals of some elite secondary schools said they had 10 per cent more direct applications from parents in this year's discretionary allocation exercise, which ended yesterday.
In the allocation exercise, public schools - excluding some direct subsidy schools that do not participate in the scheme - can reserve up to 30 per cent of their Form One places for direct applicants. The rest are selected via a random, centralised allocation exercise to be conducted later.
The vice-principal of one elite girls' school said that although there would be 5,000 fewer students eligible for secondary education in the city this year, he expected applicant numbers to rise.
"Parents have seen an overall drop in student numbers, so they think there is a better chance of getting their kids into an elite school," said Cho Kong-sang, vice-principal of Ying Wa Girls' School in Mid-Levels.
One mother handed in her documents just minutes before the Queen's College office in Causeway Bay stopped taking applications yesterday.
"I just downloaded the form yesterday because my friends said I shouldn't waste this chance," she said.
Parents can choose up to two schools in the allocation exercise. Queen's College assistant principal Leung Wai-shun said more than 600 students had applied directly for one of their 43 discretionary places - meaning at least 14 people vying for each one. It did not participate in the class reduction scheme.
Yip Wai-ming, principal of the St Louis School in Sai Ying Pun, expected a 10 per cent rise in the number of direct applicants.
In a bid to stave off redundancies, the Education Bureau asked schools to reduce class sizes by two pupils from the coming academic year beginning in September, and again by one student in each of the next two years.
But some schools only reduced the size of each Form One class by one, and some government schools refused to reduce the numbers because of strong demand. The exercise is estimated to have resulted in the loss of 600 places in total at schools that teach mainly in English.
"This is a crisis waiting to happen. How do we know how many of the 200,000 [children born to mainland parents] might come to the city," said Wong Tsang-Cheung, the principal of Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School in Sheung Shui, adding that it may have to increase class sizes in the future.