Shenzhen parents with Hong Kong-born children shunning mainland schools, survey shows

Only 9.2 per cent of Shenzhen-based parents polled in June and July said they would consider transferring their Hong Kong-born children to mainland public schools

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 11:33pm

Only 99 out of more than a thousand Shenzhen-based parents polled in a survey said they would consider transferring their Hong Kong-born children back to mainland public schools to spare them the need to cross the border every day for education in their birthplace.

The survey was conducted by a non-government service centre two months after Shenzhen announced in April that all public primary schools in the city would reopen to Hong Kong and Macau students from September, lifting a suspension of intake that has been in place since early 2013.

In the school year of 2016/17, there were 17,458 cross-border pupils in primary schools in Hong Kong, reaching a five-year high with an increase of more than 158 per cent from 2012/13, according to the Education Bureau.

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Among these pupils were children born to mainland parents in Hong Kong, who would not be granted a mainland household registration, also known as hukou. But hukou is usually required for admission to public schools on the mainland, unless they gave up their Hong Kong citizenship.

The survey by the Lo Wu service centre of the International Social Service Hong Kong Branch found education in Hong Kong remained a unique attraction for parents while public schools in Shenzhen were not easily accessible despite the new policy, and a policy for higher school levels remained uncertain.

Under the new policy, Hong Kong and Macau students born from mainland parents could apply for public primary schools in Shenzhen through a points system. Priorities are given to parents with local hukou and those who live in housing estates in the districts where their targeted schools are located.

The reopening of public primary schools in Shenzhen was part of the suite of policies rolled out by Beijing to provide Hongkongers living on the mainland with the same privileges as their mainland counterparts.

Fresh solution for cross-border students

Only 9.2 per cent or 99 of the 1,077 Shenzhen-based parents polled in June and July said they would consider transferring their Hong Kong-born children to mainland public schools, with most saying the arrangement could save the daily cross-border trips.

Among the 99, 74 said the current travelling time to and from school was too long, while around the same number worried about their children’s health. Some 43 parents said the travelling expenses were rather high.

But 782 out of the 1,077 parents said they would like to have their children educated in Hong Kong, with 70 per cent of these respondents citing the quality of the education system as the most important reason.

Some of these parents also said their children were already used to schooling in Hong Kong and they would like to see them grow up in the city.

More than 190 parents in the poll were indecisive, saying they were troubled by the uncertainty of polices on the mainland.

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“The public schools shut and reopened their doors to Hong Kong students all of a sudden,” said Florence Wong Yim-bing, director of service development in the mainland for the branch, who has been serving cross-boundary families in Shenzhen for more than a decade.

The indecisive parents also told Wong that they had no idea where their children should receive secondary education if they attended primary schools on the mainland, as they would face a very different curriculum in Hong Kong and public middle schools on the mainland might ask for the household registration again.

“If the arrangements for entering higher schools on the mainland becomes clearer in the future, more might consider returning,” Wong said.

The Hong Kong Education Bureau said it was yet to ascertain the impact on local schools of Shenzhen’s new policy but would liaise closely with their counterpart and the local education sector to make appropriate planning in response to the changes of student population.