More parents are showing an interest in sending their children to secondary schools overseas with one of the reasons appearing to be the Government's drive to mother-tongue education. The Australian Education Centre, a resource centre for Australian schools and colleges, has seen a 20 per cent increase in inquiries in the past few months. 'In previous years, people who come to our office were usually interested in tertiary education. Now we're seeing quite a lot of students and parents asking about secondary education,' spokesman Ivy Ngan Kit-fan said. 'I think parents are concerned the number of English-language schools in Hong Kong has been reduced to 114 and competition to get in is increasingly tough.' Parents were also asking for information on Britain, the United States and Canada, officials said. The Institute of International Education, which provides information on American schools, has tested 306 children this academic year who wanted to go to boarding school. The institute's assistant director, Katherine Fung-Surya, expects the figure to be a record when the year ends. In the whole of the previous academic year, 429 students took the test. The cost of overseas studies, including tuition and living expenses, ranges from $92,000 to $200,000 a year depending on school and location. There are few scholarships. No one keeps track of how many secondary pupils study abroad, but an Education Department spokesman said they only accounted for a small amount of the estimated 452,000 secondary students in Hong Kong. Among the parents visiting the British Council for information about schools abroad recently was Mak Mei-yee who is considering sending her daughter Katie Mak Man-ting, 12, to school in England. The family has never been to England and knows no one there. 'I'm quite worried about sending her off at such a young age,' Mrs Mak said. 'But I think this is the best thing for her. English is an international language. She will get better jobs when she's older.' Her 15-year-old son attends one of the 114 schools that can continue teaching in English. But Mrs Mak said that after three years there, he continued to make mistakes - forgetting to add an 's' for plurals and confusing nouns with verbs.