As every Hong Kong parent will tell you, getting a place for a child in a good public primary school is a nightmare.
The challenge is compounded by the two-stage allocation system — one for discretionary places, the other for central admission.
The results of primary one discretionary admission for this year were announced on Monday.
Only 42.9 percent of 52,314 applicants were offered a place in government schools or government-aided institutions, leaving more than half of the candidates and their parents disappointed.
One usual complaint is there is simply not much parents and children can do to raise the chances of admission.
Under the present allocation system, applicants get a “hereditary” pass if they have siblings in the selected school or one parent works in that school.
Among 22,465 students who were offered a place in this year’s discretionary admission, 48 percent did it by the hereditary route.
The original concept of the hereditary process was mostly about convenience.
For example, an older brother can look after his younger sibling if both go to the same school. Parents could pick them up together after class.
A mother of three boys, surnamed Chan, is one of the lucky few.
Her eldest son was admitted to La Salle Primary School by central allocation more than six years ago.
Now, he is a student in La Salle College. And because of him, his two younger brothers got primary school places in his old school without competition, according to Apple Daily.
Chan agrees the system benefits families with more children.
Others are forced to go to great lengths to compete for whatever quota is left after the priority allocations have been awarded.
Another mother, surnamed Cheng, applied to La Salle Primary School for his son.
With no siblings attending the school and neither parent working there, the family bought a HK$10 million flat in Kowloon Tong where La Salle is located to increase the odds for their son.
Many parents are said to be doing the same thing.
Others send their children to all sorts of classes from piano to drama, swimming and English tutorials to boost their performance in school interviews.
None of that matters in the end because there are only so many school places on offer.
Perhaps school authorities should review the system to ensure a fairer allocation process.
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