Parents brace for fierce competition as 55,000 children will enter the race for gaining admission to Hong Kong’s secondary schools this year

Chan Ho-him

Fierce competition is expected for Hong Kong’s secondary school places as 55,000 children have entered the race to gain admission in the next ­academic year.

That is an increase of about 1,400 students compared with 2019. The overall number of school places will increase proportionately, but only a little more than 100 places have been added to English-medium schools that many parents prefer.

Government figures say the number of pupils applying for secondary school places will be on the rise over the coming five years, with the number of 12-year-olds rising from about 63,300 in the next round of applications to 74,000 in 2024/25.

One major factor behind this is a rise in Hong Kong-born children from mainland China set to graduate from primary schools, including many “cross-border pupils” who live on the mainland but come to the city to attend schools everyday.

The number of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents had shot up 34 per cent from 18,816 in 2007 to 25,269 in 2008.

Chichi Li queued up outside Queen’s College in Causeway Bay at 8am on Thursday to submit the application for her son when the school opened at 9am. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

The first phase of applications started on Thursday. Parents may apply for two schools of their choice and must submit the forms to the schools before January 16.

At Queen’s College in Causeway Bay – a popular government boys’ school – about 10 parents queued up on Thursday morning outside the school gate waiting to submit their applications at 9am.

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A mother, Chichi Li, who arrived outside the school at 8am, said she chose Queen’s College because of the school’s long history as well as high university admission rate. She also hoped her son, who has been taking part in mathematics Olympiads, would be able to further develop his mathematical skills there.

At the beginning of the school term in September 2019, students of Queen’s College boycotted classes and formed human chains to protest against the now-withdrawn extradition bill and the government’s handling of the subsequent demonstrations.

Li, 36, who works in real estate, said she was aware of the protests going on in the school and had also discussed the matter with her son.

“There are many kinds of students in a school, each with different views. I think we can let our kids decide for themselves. He is growing up and has been reading news himself,” she said.

Pupils applying for secondary school places will rise further from 63,300 in 2020/21 to 74,000 in 2024/25, government figures say. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Another mother, who identified herself as Ng, said she was “not worried” about students staging protests at schools because they “should be free to make choices”.

“If kids want to join [protests at schools], we as parents should not object. I believe children have got their own independent thinking and it’s OK to let them decide,” she said, adding she believed schools would also provide students with ample space and freedom.

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Ng also said she chose Queen’s College for her son because of its quality of education.

James Lam Yat-fung, former chairman of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council and principal of Lions College, said the increase in cross-border student numbers might continue for several years and parents should adjust their application strategies in the face of tight competition.

“Parents should discuss with teachers to gain a better understanding of the chances of their children getting into their preferred schools,” he said.

From this year parents will be notified by March rather than July if their children’s bids were ­successful. Those who miss out enter the central allocation system.

A secondary school can, at most, fill 30 per cent of its seats through discretionary quota.

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