New policy to stem kindergarten queues in North District, Tai Po

Education Bureau brings in new registration process for children in North District, Tai Po kindergartens to prevent multiple placements

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:05am

Parents who want to register their children with a kindergarten in North District or Tai Po will now have to produce a letter from the Education Bureau.

This is the government's latest attempt to address parents' concerns over a shortage of school places in the two districts.

The measure, which applies only to the two districts, came after hundreds of parents queued outside kindergartens in those areas for application forms.

Schools in places like Sheung Shui and Fanling are under increasing pressure from an influx of cross-border children. To ensure their children get into an ideal school, some parents hold more than one place, adding further pressure to the situation.

Under the new system, kindergartens would announce the application results from October to December and tell parents they should accept only one offer, said Education Minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim yesterday.

After a three-day "temporary registration" session from December 11, schools would individually submit their registered pupils' names and birth certificate numbers to the bureau so it could find out which parents had made multiple registrations.

The schools would also liaise with those parents, who should make their decisions by February, when the bureau would issue letters to those who made only one choice. The parents would then use the letters to complete their children's kindergarten registration process.

"If parents want to change their mind after that, they will have to retrieve the letter from the school, then register with the school they like better with the same letter," Ng said. "'One person, one place' - this is an important step to avoid a child occupying several places at a time."

Ng said the new policy could help shorten the tedious application process, which typically took almost a year. A bureau spokesman said officials would help if schools in other districts were keen to join the scheme.

Ng also encouraged kindergartens to provide more places by converting vacant spaces into classrooms. He said five schools had already agreed to do so, but did not say how many extra places that would generate. The schools had also agreed to grant priority to children living in the district in which they were located, he added.

On concerns about fake addresses, Kwok Chor-kiu, the Tai Po and North District Early Childhood Education Principal Association chairwoman, said schools could compare forms and interview children to find out if parents were lying. "Last year, there was a case where five forms had the same address and the same guardian's name," she said.

Shenzhen resident Deng Donghao, who queued up at eight local kindergartens for his son, said the new policy made him feel more secure as parents would be informed of the results earlier. "In the past, I might have had to queue for a few more months," he said.

But Bonnie Lau Sau-wan, a Sheung Shui mother who had to join the queues, said the policy came too late. "We're already exhausted," she said. "The application process is already ending. It won't help us much any more."