25 October 2016
Navigating the primary schools admission process can sometimes prove excruciating for Hong Kong parents. Photo: HKEJ
Navigating the primary schools admission process can sometimes prove excruciating for Hong Kong parents. Photo: HKEJ

Tips for ‘door-knock’ applicants at primary schools

As the date draws near for announcement of the results of the Central Allocation for entering Primary One in September, anxious parents have been asking questions regarding the “door-knock appeal”, a mechanism seen as the last option for securing the best school for their children.

Here is a Q&A containing some frequently raised queries and my answers to each of them.

Q: Many traditional and/or local elite schools are publicly saying that they are not accepting students via the “door-knock appeal”. Is it true? If so, why would there be claims by many parents that their children have been enrolled through such method?

A: The schools make such declaration because they ought not to take away potential students that are being allotted to schools which are facing risk of closure due to declining number of attendees.

Theoretically every school has places for “door-knock” applicants, when they have no repeaters. On top of that, an addition of up to 10 percent of the original capacity of the school is allowed for admission.

In simple words, it means that a school of 180 places can admit another 10 percent, or 18 students, for the coming academic year.

Q: If I have a letter of recommendation, should I send to the school in advance or provide it while meeting the principal?

A: Timing is crucial in handing in the recommendation letter. Attaching it along with the door-knock application is desirable. If the referee is somebody who is relevant or too important to be ignored, your children should obtain an interview opportunity.

The referee could be a sponsor or renowned alumnus, a dedicated parent actively involved in the school’s Parents Teachers Association, a Catholic priest or pastor, or a director sitting in school’s management board, and so on.

Q: What sort of questions can we expect in a door-knock interview?

A: Prestigious traditional schools often accept students due to personal connections. It is likely that during the door-knock interview, children would only be asked to read aloud some simple text in Chinese and English.

But in the case of elite schools, they make use of the door-knock mechanism to gather high performance students. Tests on reading comprehension in Chinese and English, as well as arithmetic skills, are possible.

I’ve even heard of schools giving children Chinese listening and writing tests, jumbled sentence exercises for English, and math questions involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. 

Get prepared as always.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 26.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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