The government should adopt a more forward-looking vision and clearer direction in education to attract local pupils back to local schools, the director of the Yew Chung International School says.
Dr Betty Chan Po-king also called for more resources for international schools to help them cope with the heavy demand for places.
Her comments came at a time when international school places are in short supply, as local parents turn to the institutions for what they perceive as supplying a better education for their children.
According to government figures, 13.7 per cent of the pupils in international and English Schools Foundation schools are permanent residents without a foreign passport.
Chan said the government should allocate more resources to international schools, so they could build more campuses. Yew Chung has a long waiting list and there are few places for pupils who did not start with the school at kindergarten level.
The government should improve the education system across the board at local schools, Chan said. "In the past, there were just too many changes in the curriculum," she said, explaining why some local parents had lost confidence in local schools. "We have seen many different people in the post of education minister and permanent secretary, too."
She said the city should first improve the quality of its nurseries and kindergartens, so children had a solid foundation for further studies. "The Education Bureau should have a clearer direction on what kind of education the children will receive."
The school charges an annual fee of HK$54,930 to HK$150,607 for early childhood education, HK$158,580 for primary and HK$154,390 to HK$157,920 for secondary.
Asked whether high school fees limited quality education to wealthy families, Chan said education was expensive but the priority was that parents agreed with the school's approach and judged the education it provided as worth the price.
Chan's niece, Lydia Chan Lai-seng, who also works at the school, said that a higher quality of education at local schools would lessen the need for parents to look for alternatives for their children. "If the government was willing to invest, there wouldn't be any need for private schools," she said.
The proportion of total government spending that went to education for this financial year was 20.4 per cent, up from 18.6 per cent for the previous year.