Hong Kong parents make last-ditch bids to get children into preferred primary schools

·3-min read

Hong Kong parents unhappy with their children’s Primary One allocations for the coming school year – despite less competition than usual – are making a last-ditch effort to secure placements at their preferred choices.

Some principals believed a surge in drop-outs over the past year – with many students emigrating overseas or moving to mainland China because of Covid-19 or for political reasons – contributed to this year’s highest allocation success rate since 2011.

But not everyone has benefited from the lessened competition.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

“I feel nervous … I’ll have to visit a few schools today,” said a mother surnamed Cheng, who was submitting an application at a Yau Ma Tei primary school on Wednesday morning after receiving notification her child had failed to get into one of her top two choices.

It’s like the Mark Six lottery. You just simply don’t know if you’ll get allocated the preferred school

A father applying at a Yau Ma Tei school

Statistics from the Education Bureau last week showed about 18,600 of 24,200 six-year-olds had secured a Primary One place at one of their parents’ top three choices in the final allocation stage for the coming school year – an overall satisfaction rate of 77 per cent, the highest in a decade.

Last year saw an overall satisfaction rate of about 73 per cent for 26,700 students in that stage.

But Cheng’s child was allocated their third choice, prompting her to try her luck in person at the Yau Ma Tei school.

Another father outside the same school, surnamed Ng, said his child had also not been allocated one of their first three choices.

“It’s like the Mark Six lottery. You just simply don’t know if you’ll get allocated the preferred school,” he said.

With many students leaving the city because of Covid-19 restrictions or political worries, competition for Primary One school slots was less stiff this year. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
With many students leaving the city because of Covid-19 restrictions or political worries, competition for Primary One school slots was less stiff this year. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

There are two stages in the allocation process. The first is discretionary allocation, in which schools themselves fill about half their quotas by picking their favoured candidates. Results for that stage were already announced last November, with 23,100 out of about 49,800 children securing a place at their preferred school.

Those not allocated a place during the first stage are then at the mercy of the government’s computer-based system, which assigns random placements in a bid to ensure fairness. Results of that stage were released to some parents on Wednesday, with the rest to be notified on Thursday.

Parents unhappy with the final results can, as a last resort, submit final applications to primary schools across the city, but available placements are usually limited.

Principal Chu Wai-lam, vice-chairman of the New Territories School Heads Association, said this year’s higher overall satisfaction rate in allocation meant it was easier for parents to get children into their preferred schools.

Covid-19 travel curbs fuelling drop in applications for primary school places

But that varied across the city, he added, with competition still fierce in some of the more popular school districts.

Chu said he believed the decade-high success rate was related to more pupils having emigrated or moved to the mainland over the past year.

Families have chosen to emigrate following the Beijing-imposed national security law that came into effect last June, he said, while some cross-border pupils – Hongkongers living on the mainland with their families – decided to pursue their studies there instead amid travel restrictions created by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“We expect there may be even a further drop in overall student applications for next year,” said Chu, head of Fung Kai No. 1 Primary School in Sheung Shui.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Hong Kong parents make last-ditch bids to get children into preferred primary schools first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.