International school places in Hong Kong for the 2013/14 academic year totaled 39,680, representing a growth of more than 30 percent over the last 13 school years, Ming Pao Daily News reported Tuesday. At present, 35,580 students are said to be studying in international schools in the city.
But there is still an acute shortage of places in the system, with the problem also taking a new dimension as English-language schools in the territory prepare to raise their fees even higher.
The government has been creating international school places through the allocation of greenfield sites and vacant school premises for new facilities. Last April, authorities picked three vacant school premises in order to provide some 1,150 primary and 210 secondary places in the 2016 school year, Ming Pao quoted Wendy Chung, principal assistant secretary in the Education Bureau, as saying.
The government has already identified two other vacant school premises and three new greenfield sites in the Southern district, Sai Kung and Tai Po to supply an additional 1,200 primary school places by 2016, Chung added.
Asked to comment on views of some people that international schools should retain up to 90 percent of their places for non-local students, Chung said the government must protect the rights of local parents seeking to provide education to their children outside the public school system, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post noted in a separate report that English-language education in Hong Kong is becoming increasingly the preserve of the affluent, especially after the government’s decision to phase out the English Schools Foundation’s annual HK$283 million subsidy in 2016. The subsidy removal is set to drive ESF school fees further up. For instance, the monthly school fee at Renaissance College, a private independent school in Ma On Shan, will rise to HK$9,230 (US$1,190) in the coming school year from the current HK$8,600.
The Education Bureau’s website lists 83 direct subsidy primary and secondary schools under the category “Education services for non-Chinese-speaking students”. Unlike government-funded schools, the direct subsidy counterparts can charge fees and implement different curriculums as they wish to.
Forty-eight of the 83 schools simply did not enroll any non-Chinese-speaking students, while the remaining admitted that English-speaking students face difficulties in learning and using Chinese at school, according to the report.
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