North District is short of about 1,400 Primary One school places in Sheung Shui, Fanling and Sha Tau Kok because of an increasing number of cross-border students, says the Education Bureau.
But despite promising to increase school places, including by building more classrooms, the bureau is not guaranteeing an admission priority for local families.
However, Education Bureau permanent secretary Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching told a Legislative Council education panel on Friday that cross-border students had been diverted to eight different school areas because they did not have fixed addresses in Hong Kong. Students who were residents of North District would be allocated where possible to the school area in which they belonged.
Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said the pressure on public school places from Hong Kong-born children living on the mainland would continue. The number of cross-border kindergarten pupils for 2011-12 was 5,700 – more than cross-border primary pupils who numbered about 5,300.
In the same period, 70 per cent of almost 13,000 cross-border students were in North District, even though they accounted for only 1.35 per cent of the total number of Hong Kong students. Nearly a quarter of primary pupils in North District are cross-border students.
“Hong Kong as a whole can take in [the cross-border students], but they are highly concentrated in North District, so the problem is how to allocate them,” Ip said, adding that pupils could be allocated to various districts according to the immigration control points they used.
He blamed the bureau for failing to foresee the problem, as the number of cross-border students had been increasing since 1999.
Ip urged the government to discuss with Guangdong officials the possibility of letting Hong Kong-born students go to public schools in the province and open classes especially for them.
Meanwhile, education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the government planned to come up with proposals in the next two years for free education over 15 years for students.
He said that a committee would be set up in the middle of this year to study the feasibility of the plan.
“There will be five to six working groups to study different aspects, such as the subsidising mode, teachers’ qualifications and salaries,” he said.