Hong Kong pupils given harsh life lesson on value of hard work as cheers and tears greet allocation of secondary school spots
Education Bureau says number of children and parents happy with outcome is down on last year, while competition for places remains as intense as ever
After the city’s Primary 6 pupils found out which secondary schools they had been assigned to on Tuesday morning, the Au family dashed to four schools in different parts of Hong Kong to ask for a place for their daughter.
Au Kin-wah said the 12-year-old had burst into tears when she learned she had been assigned to Ho Tung Secondary School, her fifth choice.
So, armed with the girl’s academic performance reports, the accountant went to True Light Middle School in Wan Chai to see if there were any vacancies, while his wife and daughter went to True Light’s sister school in Kowloon to appeal for a place. They also went to two other schools after that.
“It is our first time knocking on doors like this, so we didn’t know what to prepare,” Au said.
He added: “I told my daughter she has to bear the consequences … the allocation results are based on the effort she put into her studies.”
Au was among a host of parents desperately seeking a second chance to get their children into preferred schools, even as others celebrated the results of the annual secondary school allocation exercise.
This year, 75 per cent of 49,554 pupils citywide either got directly accepted into secondary schools in an earlier exercise, or were allocated their first choice, while 89 per cent of them got one of their top three choices.
The “satisfaction rate” for the former, as the Education Bureau put it, was at a six-year low. Last year, 76 per cent of pupils were directly admitted or assigned to their top choice school.
Lee Suet-ying, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary School, said the exercise was more competitive this year as there was an increase in pupils taking part in the exercise, but a smaller “gap” between their numbers and available school places.
Primary 6 pupils are assigned to secondary schools based on their results from primary school exams and where they live, among other factors.
Those who are unhappy with their allocation can go to their preferred school to apply for whatever places are left.
At St Patrick’s School in Lok Fu, 79 per cent of Primary 6 students got into their top choice school, while 88 per cent found places in one of their top three choices.
As the teacher handed out results slips in a classroom, the silence gave way to chattering and laughter, with several pupils exchanging hugs, high-fives and handshakes.
Football-loving Yuen Pak-nak was thrilled to get into his top choice, Choi Hung Estate Catholic Secondary School, saying he would be able to “enjoy wide-ranging sports activities”.
His mother, Cheng Suk-fan, was jubilant. “The activity-filled school suits my son very well, and this can push him to study harder,” she said.
Yuen’s schoolmate Ip Kin-yeung was overjoyed to get a spot at Wah Yan College Kowloon, but said he would miss his friends.
He said he was not worried about moving from St Patrick’s, a Chinese-medium school, to an English-medium secondary school as he had attended extra English classes in anticipation.
But Penny Tsoi Yan-yi sobbed when she found out she got her third-choice school, Hoi Ping Chamber of Commerce Secondary School.
Her mother, who was by her side, said: “We really wanted to get into our first two choices, and we haven’t visited the school she was assigned to before, so we don’t know much about it.”
At Queen’s College, a well-known secondary school in Causeway Bay, Li Long, his wife and 11-year-old son were gunning for one of the remaining vacancies.
“My son’s grades are pretty good, so would want to give it a try again,” the clerk said.
Chiu Sin-hang, vice-principal of Queen’s College, said there were fewer than 10 vacancies for students appealing for places. In the past, the school got around 100 appeals for entry after the allocation exercise, and had already received 70 applications on Tuesday morning.