Expand school allocation system to Shenzhen: principal

Allocation based on pupils' mainland home addresses will ease pressure on overcrowded schools in the border areas, principal says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 7:30am

The "school net" system under which primary school places are allocated based on where children live should be extended into Shenzhen, a veteran school principal has said.

Hung Wai-shing, principal of S. K. H. Tin Shui Wai Ling Oi Primary School, said political issues should be put aside to establish a systematic allocation exercise based on the children's mainland residences.

This would help ease the pressure on schools in border areas that are being swamped by an influx of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents or living in Shenzhen with Hong Kong parents, he said.

"There is a saying that Hong Kong officials should not do anything that may intervene [in the administration] of the Shenzhen government because it would affect internal affairs of the mainland," said Hung.

But a realistic way of addressing the problem was to disregard such issues, he said.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim acknowledged at a media luncheon yesterday that creating a new school net for Hong Kong students living in Shenzhen and allocating them to schools based on their addresses outside Hong Kong was a viable option.

Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said any changes to the system must ensure there would be no criticism that Hong Kong children on the mainland had fewer rights than those who live in the city.

The Education Bureau had earlier said northern districts lack 1,400 Primary One places with hundreds of Sheung Shui children expected to be allocated to a school outside their net.

The centralised allocation system uses 36 school nets, but eligible children outside Hong Kong can apply for any of the New Territories' eight districts regardless of where they live.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appears more willing to liaise with the mainland, so he should use those opportunities to communicate [on the schooling issue]

Sheung Shui is popular because of its proximity to the Lo Wu crossing.

But to prevent these children from being concentrated in Sheung Shui, Hung said, the new system should allocate schools based on where they live in Shenzhen. For example, those living in western areas of the neighbouring city should be diverted to western areas of Hong Kong such as Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.

There might be difficulty in verifying mainland addresses and issues could arise from the "one country, two systems" principle, under which Hong Kong's day-to-day administration is kept separate from that of the mainland, but Hung said the SAR government should collaborate better with the mainland to solve livelihood issues.

"Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appears more willing to liaise with the mainland, so he should use those opportunities to communicate [on the schooling issue]," he said.

In recent years, some 200,000 children were born to mainland parents in Hong Kong with the same rights as other locally born babies. Education officials have said it is hard to tell how much pressure these children will impose on local schools because it is unknown how many of them will seek education in Hong Kong.

Hung said allocating children based on where they live in Shenzhen was fair. "Other Hong Kong students and Kowloon students also don't have many school nets to choose from," he said.

Under the present system, children who do not get an offer from their school of choice must enter a random allocation scheme which designates places based on where they live.