Hong Kong parents say competition is waning for school places due to emigration wave

  • Fewer than 20 parents turned up at Queen’s College in Causeway Bay on Monday, the first day of the application exercise
  • Some parents say they chose the school in part because they believe acceptance rates would be higher given recent emigration wave

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Parents at Queen’s College in Causeway Bay said they expected there to be less competition for school spots, as many families have moved abroad. Photo: SCMP/ Nora Tam

Hong Kong parents said competition for school places for their children had waned as a discretionary admission exercise kicked off on Monday, with some pointing to an overall withdrawal of students amid a broader emigration wave as the cause.

The city’s schools have been losing students since the summer holidays, with the latest official figures showing 6,016 vacancies at secondary schools and 193 new spots at primary schools between August and the end of November last year.

At Queen’s College, an elite secondary school in Causeway Bay, fewer than 20 parents turned up in the two hours after it opened at 9am on Monday, the first day of the application exercise that runs until January 17.

Emigration’s drain on Hong Kong schools

A mother who identified herself as Teng said she was surprised to be the first to arrive at 8.40am, as the first day of the discretionary admission stage used to be marked by long queues of parents outside the city’s top schools.

Only three parents were behind Teng at 9am.

“I heard that last year there was a long queue as early as 8am,” she said. “Today’s experience gave me a feeling that it may be easier for my son to enter the school [due to the wave of emigration].”

Another parent, Mrs Yau, said she chose Queen’s College in part because of the city’s drop-out rate.

Mrs Teng, parent and housewife, speaks to the media at Queen’s College in Causeway Bay. Photo: SCMP/ Nora Tam

“From what I saw from news reports, it seems that many students have dropped out,” she said. “The possibility of [my son] getting accepted may be better this year.”

Yau added that she had no plans to emigrate or send her son to study abroad.

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The Education Bureau last month said it expected about 50,700 Primary Six students to vie for 15,300 Form One places at the discretionary admission stage in the 2022-23 academic cycle, 2,550 fewer than the previous school year.

A survey by the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools last month found that 140 secondary schools lost nearly 4,500 students over the last academic year, a jump from the 2,700 reported in each of the previous two years.

A father brings along his son to submit an application for Secondary One (S1) Discretionary Places at Queen’s College, Causeway Bay. Photo: SCMP/ Nora Tam

But Ms Kaur, another mother at Queen’s College, said she expected competition to remain despite the decline in student numbers.

“Only 200 children will be shortlisted for an interview. I’m pretty nervous about this. There’s always competition for a great school,” she said.

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Form One places are allotted either through discretionary admission or central allocation. Secondary schools can reserve up to 30 per cent of their Form One places as discretionary, and each student can only apply for a maximum of two schools.

Schools will notify the parents of successful applicants by March. Students who fail to secure a discretionary place will be given a spot through central allocation.

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