Schools share burden of primary push

Government allocates 3,000 places to first-year children from over the border, but they might have to travel further to get their education

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 4:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 4:29am

Primary schools in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long will share the burden of educating pupils from over the border, easing the pressure on North District.

Seventy primary schools in the two areas will provide up to 2,350 first-year places to the central places allocation system dedicated to pupils across the border.

The government yesterday revealed it had reserved a total of 3,000 Primary One places in 122 schools for parents of about 2,800 pupils living on the mainland to choose from. The schools are from eight catchment areas close to the border

As well as an extra two places in every existing Primary One class in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, Tuen Mun will provide 900 extra places, or some 30 new classes, and Yuen Long, including Tin Shui Wai, will offer 850 additional places, or 30 classes.

Tai Po's 18 primary schools will provide 150 places, while three schools from Tung Chung, two from Ma On Shan and one from Wong Tai Sin will provide at least 200 places to the central places allocation.

However, North District, closest to the border, will only provide up to 300 places for cross-border pupils.

"We hope, through these measures, there will be a diversion to ease the strong demand for Primary One places in North District, while fully utilising the vacant classrooms in Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai," said Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said he was worried about how the policy would affect the sustainability of the schools in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long districts, as more pupils born to mainland parents were expected to seek education in the city in future.

"Will there be any spare capacity at the schools to meet an even bigger demand next year? Just adding classes is not sustainable," Ip said, adding that such a measure would also create a huge imbalance between the numbers of pupils in different forms, making it difficult for schools to allocate resources.

Leung Cheuk-yin, principal of the Taoist Ching Chung Primary School in Tuen Mun, said schools might need extra resources to teach cross-boundary pupils if they did not speak Cantonese.

One mainland mother living in Lo Wu said she would not send her son to study in Hong Kong if he was allocated to schools other than those in North District. "It's too far away. Commuting every day for hours will be too exhausting, even if the schools provide a bus service," she said.

In the discretionary places admission last month, only 1,100 of about 3,900 pupils living on the mainland were successful in securing a primary school place.

Parents of cross-border pupils can complete the allocation procedure in mid-January at one of four centres, in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and North District.