Cost of extracurricular activities puts poor pupils at disadvantage: NGO

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 3:46am

The chance of children from poor families winning admission to a school of their choosing is becoming slimmer, an NGO says.

Nearly 90 per cent of secondary schools list extracurricular activities or "other learning activities" as part of their admissions criteria.

But many parents of low-income families do not have the money to pay for such activities as piano lessons or badminton classes for their children, making it difficult to build an impressive application.

"It's very unfair - they lose out from the very beginning," said Sze Lai-shan of the Society for Community Organisation.

The group looked at publicly available school records and found 397 of the city's 454 secondary schools listed activities outside of normal class time as criteria for admission.

With inflation, school fees, the price of books and other costs rising, many families on welfare have to use money normally reserved for daily necessities to pay for their children's education.

Education is losing its power as a social equaliser and widening the gap between the rich and the poor, the agency says.

A study by an academic at the Hong Kong Institute of Education recently showed that in 1991, the chances of rich and poor children getting into university was roughly similar; in 2011, the chances of children from rich families getting into university was four times higher.

"Since extracurricular activities have become compulsory to get into secondary school, the government should provide funding for the poor children," Sze said.

"There should be a system where these children can get funding for one or two of these activities.