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Hong Kong schools

Top English school seeking Hong Kong teachers as it announces plan to expand into Greater Bay Area

  • Lady Eleanor Holles targets September 2019 open date for new Foshan campus
  • Bay area’s potential for growth expanding beyond technological innovation
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2018, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2018, 9:18pm

The rise of the Greater Bay Area is no longer just a breeding ground for technological innovation, in addition to its flourishing industry, teachers in Hong Kong can also ride on the potential of the development because of the city’s unique position in higher education, according to experts.

This comes after a renowned all-girls’ school in England announced it was looking to hire 80 to 90 native speaking staff after announcing its plans to branch out to Foshan, in neighbouring Guangdong province.

“With Southern China being close to Hong Kong, the city is at an advantage for attracting some teachers because they will know Hong Kong better than those from other parts of China,” said Heather Hanbury, the headmistress of Lady Eleanor Holles (LEH) School.

According to a mainland education agency, Yuan Bo Education, more than 30 international schools have moved into Guangdong in recent years, with LEH being one of them.

The city will continue to see many institutions and schools move in, because of the need to attract talent to the bay area, according to Lingnan University’s vice-president professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho.

“While it’s still unclear what the area will become, it holds great possibilities and the school sees the need for a market to serve this specific expat community that will move into the city,” Mok said.

Mok, who is also an expert on comparative development and policy studies, believes this will actually become beneficial to Hong Kong’s teachers.

“Instead of looking for teachers on the mainland, these schools are very likely to hire staff who are currently working in our city, or who were trained in Hong Kong amid the city’s geographical advantages and qualifications,” he said.

Greater Bay Area success depends on getting young people on board

“Teachers from our local universities or international schools are known for being highly equipped which places advantages on education graduates.”

In 2017, a total of 2.39 million people applied for residence permits in Guangdong, a 6.2 per cent increase from the year before. It has been recorded that around 82,714 living in the city are foreigners.

In a breakdown, data from the Foshan Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau showed that 754 expats were employed in the city. Among them, 40 per cent are from Britain.

The city will see the opening of LEH school as early as September next year after it initiated talks with the Changcheng District Education Bureau four years ago.

Steve Allen, the headmaster of the Foshan campus, insisted that despite being based in China, pupils will get an English curriculum, and experience the learning style and environment of an English education.

“Unlike a lot of British schools coming in, this is about education,” Allen said. “With so many other new schools coming into China, there’s a property developer behind them and they do not always have the close links that we will have with the UK.

“We are not a school with the LEH name, we are a part of LEH.”

The school has been licensed as a foreign school, and will only open its doors to the area’s international community as well as those with duel citizenships, Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions and Taiwan passport holders.

To enrol, students must be proficient in English.

“There is a demand for the area to match the lifestyles and values of highly qualified people, and to be able to do that it will depend how well the city can cater to their needs,” Mok said.

Integrating with China won’t diminish Hong Kong’s role, despite what some think

“With education being one of the main criteria, professionals will consider whether their children’s studies can be maintained when they move to the mainland.”

The institution is expecting to admit 150 pupils during its first year, allowing it to offer smaller classes and a better teacher-student experience.

The school will have 47 classrooms, and 570 dorm rooms, of which 70 are designated as for the school’s staff.

Closer to home, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said that even though schools are moving into the bay area, it did not mean Hong Kong was losing its competitiveness.

“The bay area is still developing, so it’s understandable that schools are branching out to grab a bigger piece of the pie,” he said. “But, locally I think that institutions are maintaining their international standards.”