Hong Kong to mainland Chinese parents: will you send your children to our schools?
The city will ask mainlanders in Shenzhen if they intend to send their Hong Kong-born children across the border for schooling, lawmakers have heard.
The questionnaire seeks to quantify future demand for school places, after local parents protested against an influx of children from the mainland trying to enrol in kindergartens in districts close to the border.
The uproar of the last few months exposed the government's lack of concrete data on the number of children born in Hong Kong to mainlanders - totalling 142,240 between 2007 and 2011 - who might return to study.
The Education Bureau "is planning to conduct a survey for the [mainland] parents of Hong Kong children residing in Shenzhen to find out their concerns and preferences" in schooling their young, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said in a reply yesterday to lawmaker Leung Che-cheung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
Separately, a government source familiar with the matter told the South China Morning Post that "the bureau has sought help from Shenzhen authorities" to identify such children.
The survey would ask whether the children would study in Hong Kong and, if yes, when they would do so, the source said, adding that it was not known when the data collection would end.
North District Primary School Headmasters' Association chairman Chan Siu-hung welcomed the news. "It has come a bit late, but it's better late than never," he said. "Principals [of primary schools near the border] need the figures to see if they have enough places to meet the demand."
Education-sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen warned the government to be careful not to encourage or deter mainlanders through the survey.
Ip suggested expanding the geographical scope of the survey, as some mainland parents of Hong Kong-born children lived far away from Hong Kong.
"The government should cast the net wider so as to collect more accurate statistics," he said. "But it depends on whether the bureau has the contact information of those parents. It has been years since they gave birth to their children in Hong Kong."
The source disagreed. "Cross-border children are most likely from Shenzhen. The survey will cover most of them," he said.
Last year, the government projected that half of the children who had left Hong Kong would return before the age of 21.