AN extra 5,000 international school places will be created over the next five years if the Education Department approves schools' expansion plans. The department disclosed the proposals yesterday as it appointed a company to conduct a $900,000 survey on the demand for such places up to 2000. It is part of a study which will also review admission criteria and the existing forms of Government financial assistance to international schools. Japanese, Australian, Chinese and American international schools and the English Schools Foundation (ESF) have applied to expand their capacity. Deputy Director of Education, Elaine Chung Lai-kwok, said the department would approve the expansion schemes if it found the need was justified. Ms Chung said 2,000 of the 23,900 international school places were vacant because of mismatches between demand and supply in terms of curriculum, schooling level and location of the schools. According to the department, hundreds of children are waiting for primary ESF places in Kowloon and the New Territories, while there are vacancies elsewhere. Ms Chung said there were complaints about insufficient places, although the number of schools had doubled to 40 last year from 20 in 1988 and student admissions had increased by half over the period. 'Hong Kong is an international city. It is very important that we have adequate facilities for children of the expatriates coming to work in Hong Kong,' Ms Chung said. The trend for companies to recruit expatriates, Hong Kong's population growth, the 1997 factor, and the strength of overseas economies are the main factors which will affect the demand for places, she added. The survey, commissioned by a departmental working group, will poll 2,000 families and 2,000 companies in addition to the schools. The sampled companies will be asked whether they have, or will employ, overseas staff before and after 1997, and whether the expatriates have children. School principals and the families will be asked to give opinions on the provision of education in Hong Kong. The schools will also be asked to give statistical information. Ms Chung said the department would also ask the Immigration Department, Census and Statistics Department, Trade and Industry Branch and other relevant bodies for information. To review the admission criteria, Ms Chung said officials had sought views from eight principals and school councils of international schools and four major chambers of commerce in Hong Kong. They would approach nine consulates, legislators and educational bodies. The department is expected to produce a report by May with options and suggestions.