Hong Kong third wave: schools with cross-border pupils, kindergartens expect more dropouts amid suspension of face-to-face teaching
- More than 100 Hong Kong students living on the mainland have quit in the past school year, principals say
- Kindergartens find it difficult to conduct online classes for young children
School heads reported the trend on Wednesday as kindergarten operators and private tutorial centres called on the government to provide a fresh round of subsidies to compensate for the suspension of activities, as they feared the closure of more privately run institutions.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung announced on Monday that schools returning from the summer holiday might resume classes online, but face-to-face lessons would be suspended until further notice and the same applied to private tutorial centres.
Principals of schools with cross-border pupils – Hongkongers living on the mainland with their families – told the Post that more than 100 students had quit in the past school year and more were expected to do so after learning they were unlikely to return to campus in September.
Most of the city’s 27,000 cross-border pupils had missed out on face-to-face lessons for more than half a year after schools were closed from early February. Although local students were back on campus in phases in late May until the summer holiday, only about 2,500 senior secondary cross-border students were allowed to return to class in Hong Kong under quarantine exemption.
Principal Leung Chi-man, chairman of the North District Primary School Heads Association, said up to 100 cross-border students from 28 primary schools in the district had decided to withdraw in the 2019-20 school year. Among them were younger students who had more flexibility in adapting to a new environment.
Leung, principal of Fuk Tak Education Society Primary School in border town Sha Tau Kok, where about two-thirds of the 320 students are from the mainland, said at least five to six cross-border students had already decided or were planning to withdraw from the school and head back to Shenzhen to continue their studies instead.
He said: “Parents worry their children would be indefinitely unable to return to Hong Kong schools amid the pandemic, but meanwhile many of their peers [in mainland China] are already able to attend face-to-face classes at schools there.”
Chu Wai-lam, principal of Fung Kai No 1 Primary School in Sheung Shui, where about half of the 1,000 students are cross-border pupils, said about five of them had informed the school they would be withdrawing and returning to schools on the mainland.
Chu, vice-chairman of the New Territories School Heads Association, added that about 30 cross-border pupils at one school in Kwai Tsing district were planning to quit.
At kindergartens, principals are also scrambling as more pupils plan to quit school, especially at pre-nursery classes which are not mandatory under the education system, as it might be difficult to carry out online activities for children as young as two years old.
Latest figures from the Education Bureau showed at least six kindergartens or nursery schools had closed down this year during the health crisis.
Kindergarten principal Elaine Kwan Shuk-ling, also vice-president of the 100,000-member Professional Teachers’ Union, told a radio programme on Wednesday that a new round of subsidies should be provided to kindergartens, on top of various financial help provided earlier to the sector to buy antiseptic materials and to sustain operations.
Some kindergartens had already been suffering from financial difficulties and had to use their reserves to pay for teachers’ salaries, she added.
The 35,000-strong Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers also urged the government to offer fresh subsidies as many kindergartens were facing significant numbers of student dropouts.
An Education Bureau spokeswoman said they did not compile figures of cross-border student dropouts, but added that they would continue to work out suitable arrangements to assist their learning. The bureau would also closely communicate with the kindergarten sector to understand their needs and provide them with the appropriate help.
The Education Centres Union, which represents tutorial centres and schools offering interest classes, warned of mass closures and lay-offs among the 8,000 privately-run institutions if the government did not provide them with an additional round of financial injection.
The group called for a one-off government subsidy of HK$300,000 (US$38,708) for each centre, on top of the HK$40,000 each provided to the sector as a relief grant in April.
“We understand putting children’s safety as priority, but when the government asks us to suspend classes, shouldn’t they also think about how to compensate and assist these private tutorial centres?” said spokesman Trevor So Tik-hei.