Nearly four in 10 parents would send their children overseas to study or to international schools if they could afford to do so, a survey has found. The Chinese University study, in which 1,005 parents were interviewed, found a quarter would prefer to send their children abroad while 14 per cent would opt for international schools in Hong Kong. Survey researchers and education critics warned that the results showed a crisis of confidence in the school system, especially among better-off families. Fifty-three per cent of 162 respondents who earn $40,000 or more a month said they would opt for alternatives to government schools. All the respondents were asked to rate the SAR's education policy. A third gave it a fail, 47.4 per cent a pass and the rest said it was satisfactory. Although 58.5 per cent of respondents agreed with the policy of teaching in Chinese, 56.3 per cent disagreed with the scrapping of so-called 'elite classes' for top students. Overseas destinations for Hong Kong students, including the United States, Australia and Canada, are receiving record numbers of applicants. In 1998, 4,106 students were learning in the US. By last year, the number had risen to 5,392. Local students in Australia rose from 3,467 to 5,536 in the same period. Chinese University social work professor Wong Chark-kie, a survey researcher, said professionals and the wealthy had a low regard for the Hong Kong education system. 'The situation will divide our society,' he said. The legislator representing the education constituency, Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, said the results did not mean parents had less faith in the Government's education reforms. But Katherine Fung-Surya Mo-kit, director of the Institute of International Education, disagreed. 'The education reforms will require teachers to be re-educated to change the culture on how to help children learn. But parents don't see that happening now.' The Education and Manpower Bureau denied there was a lack of confidence in the local system, saying: 'The different types of schools provide variety for parents.' The surge in demand from local Chinese parents has prompted the English Schools Foundation to open up more new schools while the private Hong Kong International School has advised parents to apply two years in advance.