Hong Kong schools

Parents of Hong Kong ‘dragon babies’ vie for coveted Primary One spots at top schools

Large cohort born in 2012 promises stiff competition as applications open for discretionary places

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 11:17pm

Hong Kong’s latest batch of ‘dragon babies’ has come of age, and it is time for their parents to fight to secure them a coveted spot in the city’s top primary schools amid competition from a bumper cohort.

Many mainland Chinese parents of Hong Kong-born pupils have also entered the fray, despite their children – unlike those from previous years – now being eligible for a place in mainland Chinese public schools, as most of these parents still prefer that their youngsters be educated in Hong Kong.

Early on Monday, the day applications opened for discretionary Primary One places for the 2018/19 school year, long lines could be seen in and outside top government and aided schools across the city.

This admission stage, which runs until Friday, allows parents to apply for public school places in or outside the school net in which they live and accounts for about half of such schools’ total places. Thus, parents often take this opportunity to vie for a coveted place in top public schools.

At about 9am, when La Salle Primary School opened its doors to applicants, about 30 parents were spotted queuing outside the elite school in Kowloon Tong despite the sweltering heat.

One mainland father said he had rented a place in the school net for about HK$26,000 to improve his child’s odds of getting in, but added that he did not think his son had a high chance as he did not meet many special priority requirements.

“There is no point applying to other schools, we just want to get into this school,” he said, adding that he had chosen La Salle for its high ranking and because it was known for good English standards.

At the nearby Maryknoll Convent School, another line of about 30 parents formed before the school began accepting applications at 10am.

A father, surnamed Cheung, said he had taken a few hours off work to help his younger daughter apply for a place.

“The school is known for its good reputation, quality teachers and good English,” he said.

Hong Kong and mainland parents feel pressure of kindergarten chaos

But Cheung felt the chances of his daughter getting a place were low as she did not meet many priority requirements, like having a sibling studying at the same school, and he was worried about the competition from the dragon babies.

Most pupils entering Primary One next year were born in 2012, with the majority being dragon babies.

In Chinese culture, the year of the dragon is regarded as the most auspicious for childbirth because the mythical creature symbolises might and intelligence.

In recent years, the number of live births in Hong Kong were the highest in 2011 and 2012 at 95,451 and 91,558 respectively, compared with 88,584 in 2010 and 57,084 in 2013.

Meanwhile, about 20 people were queuing at Wai Chow Public School in Sheung Shui in the North District, with many being mainland parents of Hong Kong-born pupils.

A mainland mother, surnamed Li, arrived at the school at 8am. She said she had chosen the school because her five-year-old only child liked the spacious campus.

At the nearby Fung Kai No 1 Primary School, another mainland mother, surnamed Yan, said she was applying for a place for her five-year-old daughter due to the school’s popularity, teaching quality and its large variety of extracurricular activities.

Yan said she had considered sending her daughter to public schools in Shenzhen as they were reopened to Hong Kong children from September 2017, but schools in the city remained her first choice.

“I want her to have better cultural integration for her future development in the city,” Yan said.

Schools in Hong Kong feel effects of children heading to mainland China for school

Between 2001 and 2012, over 202,000 children were born in Hong Kong to mainland parents, before the government imposed a ban in 2013 prohibiting local hospitals from taking in mainland women who were giving birth.

Previously, these parents very often had no choice but to enrol their children into Hong Kong schools despite a long commute because public schools on the mainland could not take them, and private schools were often too expensive.

But a new policy was implemented this year allowing these pupils to apply to public primary schools in Shenzhen through a points system.

A recent survey found, however, that about 70 per cent of these parents would still prefer to have their children educated in Hong Kong, with the quality of the education system given as the main reason.

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Wong Wing-keung, principal of Wai Chow Public School, said the reopening of public schools in Shenzhen to Hong Kong pupils might not greatly affect schools in the border district.

“The North District has a geographical advantage, hence may receive an impact less than other districts in Hong Kong.”

He said about one-third of some 240 applications the school received last year were from cross-border children, and he expected roughly the same situation this year. Among the 1,080 current pupils at the school, about 30 per cent commute across the border every day.