Classroom waiting lists hitting HK's competitiveness: survey The government must give higher priority to expanding international schools to tackle long waiting lists that are damaging Hong Kong's competitiveness, according to a study released yesterday. The study of 12 international schools commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce found average waiting lists of 331 students at five schools that provided such information. The total number of students on the waiting lists was 1,654. The proportion of students from local families attending international schools increased from 13 per cent to 14 per cent from 2003 to 2005, while student turnover shrank, with more students staying for their whole school career. Meanwhile, 14 schools wanting to expand were facing difficulties in gaining land grants and surplus school buildings from the government because they had to deal with 14 government departments and agencies and were ill-equipped for the task. The report calls for the government to give higher priority to expansion requests from international schools and for the adoption of an 'expansion policy' at the 'highest levels of government'. It also proposed the administration set up a one-stop shop to streamline the process of applying for buildings and land and co-ordinate schools' dealings with the 14 departments and agencies more efficiently. AmCham president Jack Maisano said: 'The study has found that the waiting lists for international schools are real and they are long. The waiting lists keep growing and will continue to keep growing as foreign investors continue to move into Hong Kong. 'The waiting lists at the five schools show just how great the demand is for international school places. People call us on a regular basis saying that they can't get their children into school, and asking us to help. 'The schools' suggestions are excellent ones and we support the schools and their efforts to facilitate further expansion and increase international school places. The government has said it is committed to more international curriculum places for international students and they need to work together.' The report also lists 17 initiatives proposed by participating schools to address their problems and help them lease commercial property, apply for greenfield sites and take over surplus buildings. Neil Johnston, a member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce board of governors and a former principal of Canadian International School, said he would like to set up a new international school in Hong Kong but could not find a suitable site. 'I think the government has got to work more closely with the international schools and accommodate them in any expansion plans,' he said. An Education Bureau spokesman said: 'We have been taking measures to expand the capacity of the international school sector in response to the increased demand following the local economic recovery.' The bureau supported the call in the report for more concerted efforts between government departments to streamline the building application process and had an open mind about the suggestions regarding its own procedures. The Financial Services and Treasury Bureau's business facilitation advisory committee considered the report yesterday and supported its broad recommendations.