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  • Apr 24, 2014
  • Updated: 3:42pm
NewsHong Kong
EDUCATION

Hong Kong schools woo cross-border pupils in battle to survive

Falling birth rates putting heads under pressure, but distance proving a deterrent for parents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 September, 2013, 8:24am
 

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Hong Kong schools worried that falling pupil numbers will force them to close are courting children across the border in a bid to avoid the axe.

The move comes despite the children facing an hours-long commute to and from school each day - something that puts off many parents.

Schools in North district, where commuting is easier, have little trouble filling their classrooms and even struggle to accommodate pupils from nearby Shenzhen.

But with Hong Kong's low birth rate leading to falling enrolments, those elsewhere without enough pupils face closure.

Yesterday schools in old urban areas further south such as Pokfulam and Chai Wan - at the far western and eastern ends of Hong Kong Island - were chasing potential entrants in Shenzhen. The schools are among more than 20 Hong Kong kindergartens, primary and secondary schools attending a three-day exhibition in the border city this weekend to promote themselves to parents with Hong Kong-born children living on the mainland.

The fall in pupil numbers will affect secondary schools the most in the next few years.

"We are here mainly to do publicity and promotion work," said Anna Hung Wing-chee, headmistress of Caritas Chai Wan Marden Foundation Secondary School.

Schools in Pokfulam, Chai Wan, Tseung Kwan O and Sham Shui Po are taking part in the event, at Shenzhen's Luohu railway station, for the first time this year.

"Of course we'd welcome [cross-border pupils]. It would help our enrolment numbers," Hung said.

The school, in Eastern district, has no cross-border pupils at present, but half of its pupils are recent mainland migrants.

Hung said the school would be willing to provide school bus services and even weekend classes in Shenzhen.

Tsang Kwok-yung, headmaster of the Yan Chai Hospital Lan Chi Pat Memorial Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O, said: "We are willing to provide more support for cross-border pupils."

His school - around 90 minutes from the border - currently has no cross-border students. Kwok said that, as distance was a problem, he was attending the exhibition in an attempt to connect with potential immigrants who may move to Hong Kong in the coming years.

"Schools across Hong Kong are having problems getting enough student enrolment," said Tsang. "This is something we will continually need to deal with."

However, parents seemed reluctant to enrol their children in schools far from the border.

One mother said Mong Kok was the farthest she was prepared to go. Another, who wants her 12-year-old son to attend a secondary school in Hong Kong teaching in English next year, said she preferred schools within five MTR stops of the border.

"If the school was quite far away, I'd consider renting an apartment nearby," she said.

About 20,000 cross-border pupils - children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents or from local families currently living on the mainland - currently cross the border every day to attend the city's public schools.

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This article is now closed to comments

likingming
With no migrant mainlanders, HK is / was dead.
Camel
This issue needs to be on the agenda in the Legco.
Ben
I
cfj
These children were born here but their 'domicile' is in Shenzhen so could someone with a legal background point out if this makes any difference to their rights? Starting with the Immigration Ordinance and working outwards from there ?
Next we need to try to grasp exactly what the motivation is for mainland mothers to take this route. It may not simply be a question of getting 'free' education but a much longer term aim. For example, after gaining an HKSAR passport, emigration to the US, UK, NZ etc. may be easier and then the child (no longer) can simply apply for his/her (now retired) parents to join him/her. This has implications for government services here.
lamlm38
dont forget most of our parents came from the mainland!!! they ended up as hard working individuals who sent their kids to college and paying taxes along the way.. you like some of aholes here just simply assume that these kids parents cant contribute to the society.. most civilized societies and countries would allow such reunions..
Ben
T
lamlm38
@SpeakFreely sounds like it's a chicken-n-eggs kind of question.. if they none of the parents are allowed to live in HK and pay their dues then how do you expect the kids to live here normally in the first plc? yes, it's a political issue now because some segment of the HK society just want to rid of the mainlanders at all cost.. the CE is just a caretaker, not a decision maker.. CY needs to unclench his **** cheeks for this one!!!
SpeakFreely
Is this another hk taboo that government and political parties are not interested to even talk about? If we have an immigration need to bring in those kids lets do it. If not, then shut the door as even in anywhere in the world, citizen by birth does not guarantee education as this should be supported by parents working here paying tax. This is typical hk non decision making consequence.
Closing the school is another issue, if it has to be closed, lets close it as we are subsidizing. Again The key is the above 2 points not because of we need to save the schools, doesn't make sense.
maecheung
Education in Hong Kong has been and still is a "Business", an "Industry".
XYZ
There are now up to 40 children in each primary school classroom in Hong Kong and the situation is similar in secondary schools. The Education Bureau, in its wisdom, provides financial incentives to schools which combine classess, thus driving up the teacher-to-pupil ratio. At present, it's hard for teachers to know the names of the students they're supposed to be teaching, much less provide individual attention. It is therefore no wonder that after-school tutoring is a booming business and private school tuition is soaring. The Hong Kong school system needs 20,000 cross-border pupils like it needs a hole in the head.

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