Percentage of pupils getting into one of their top-list secondary schools hits 5-year high in Hong Kong

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Ninety-two per cent of Hong Kong pupils were allocated to one of their top three selected schools, a five-year high satisfaction rate that principals attributed partly to more families emigrating overseas.

The Education Bureau on Monday said 52,055 eligible Primary Six children joined the secondary school placements for the 2021-22 school year, down slightly from its initial estimate in December last year of 53,250 pupils.

Pupils were being allocated to local secondary schools in two stages. The first batch were allocated via discretionary placement based on factors such as academic performance, and those results were released in April. The rest had to take part in the computer-based central allocation.

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Students at Yaumati Catholic Primary School (Hoi Wang Road) show their Secondary One placement results. Photo: Winson Wong
Students at Yaumati Catholic Primary School (Hoi Wang Road) show their Secondary One placement results. Photo: Winson Wong

The 92 per cent of 12-year-olds who had been allocated one of their top three choices is up from last year’s 90 per cent, while 81 per cent received their top pick.

This year’s satisfaction rate was the highest since 2017, when 90 per cent of the students were allocated to the schools they chose.

At Yaumati Catholic Primary School (Hoi Wang Road), about 90 per cent of the 152 Primary Six pupils got a place at one of their top three choices, and 80 per cent were admitted into their top picks.

Aiden Liu, 12, shed tears of joy the moment he learned he got into his top choice in the central allocation stage at St. Francis Xavier’s College.

“I really want to go to this school because I like it a lot. I think its campus is nice, and pupils there are disciplined,” he said.

His mother, Grace Tong, said: “I’m so excited. We will go and have a good meal to celebrate, whatever my son likes.”

Katlyn Ma, 12, said she was surprised that she got into Marymount Secondary School.

The elite girls’ school was originally her top choice in the discretionary allocation stage, but she was not allocated a spot there when the first round of results came out in April.

“I did not expect this at all. My mother initially told me maybe we can go ‘door-knocking’ and make a last bid to apply to other schools later today,” she said. “Some of my best friends will be heading there as well.”

Wendy Ma, in her 40s, said they preferred the school because they opted for one with a Catholic background.

“This school is very favourable to us, which I think also suits [my daughter] a lot,” Ma said.

Polly Chan Shuk-yee, principal at Yaumati Catholic Primary School (Hoi Wang Road), said she believed more pupils leaving Hong Kong contributed to the higher satisfaction rate, along with other factors.

“Emigration has indeed become more popular among families, while at the same time some pupils transferred from local schools to private and international schools,” Chan said. “In that case, some pupils have given up their seats under the placement system … which could in turn result in an overall higher satisfaction rate.”

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Previous surveys by the Professional Teachers’ Union and the Federation of Education Workers showed hundreds of pupils dropping out of primary and secondary schools over the past year, although education officials were unable to provide figures relating to the withdrawal rate.

Factors cited by both unions for emigration included the Beijing-imposed national security law which came into effect in June last year. They added the Covid-19 pandemic had also prompted some pupils to return to mainland China to continue their studies.

Chan said she expected families would continue to emigrate in the coming school year, although it was difficult to say whether the figures would continue to increase.

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But a higher placement satisfaction rate also has a potential downside. Schools in several districts could be facing a potential surplus of places for the coming academic year, according to principal Li Kin-man of Salesians of Don Bosco Ng Siu Mui Secondary School in Kwai Chung, which would be “worrying”.

Li said apart from more families emigrating – which resulted in some parents choosing more competitive schools over less competitive ones – a drop in the number of cross-border pupils who used to commute daily from their home on the mainland to study at local schools under Covid-19 travel restrictions had further affected schools in his district.

Li Kin-man, the principal of Salesians of Don Bosco Ng Siu Mui Secondary School in Kwai Chung. Photo: Jonathan Wong
Li Kin-man, the principal of Salesians of Don Bosco Ng Siu Mui Secondary School in Kwai Chung. Photo: Jonathan Wong

For instance, his school used to see dozens of new cross-border students enrolling each year, but the rate last year was already down to the single digits.

“This is probably just the beginning … as no one can really grasp the actual number of pupils emigrating overseas,” Li said. “There should be a common objective [across the sector] to maintain stability and [quality], so as to prevent vicious competition between schools.”

An Education Bureau spokesman said that although it would not normally disclose the exact number of surplus places at secondary schools each year, it would pay close attention to changes in student population and closely liaise with sector representatives to “maintain the overall education quality”.

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