Hong Kong families send their children to overseas boarding schools because they believe it ensures a good education and they will return fluent in English. Battie Fung Tsz-yu, general manager of the boarding school consultancy Academic Asia, said: 'Many parents consider getting a place at an English medium school better than winning the lottery.' The attraction of a boarding school education is borne out by the figures. The number of Hong Kong students aged 11-18 studying at UK secondary schools - the majority as boarders - has increased by 79 per cent since 1997-98 to 7,700. In the US, the number has grown dramatically over the last five years, according to Frank Tracey, Asian adviser to the Association of Boarding Schools, a US-based organisation. And in Australia, more than 1,700 Hong Kong schoolchildren now study in government and private boarding schools, a year-on-year increase of 5 per cent over the past five years. 'Parents realise that the boarding school experience gives student a broader horizon, seeing things from a different perspective, and helps them accept people from different backgrounds,' said Katherine Fung-Surya, director of the Hong Kong branch of the US government-funded Institute of International Education, which promotes cultural exchanges with America. 'These experiences help students fit into a social group and will be very helpful in the future when they start work.' A third reason for opting for boarding is the growing dissatisfaction with the rigidity of the local curriculum.