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LCQ19: International schools

    Following is a question by the Hon Jasper Tsang and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (October 17):


     It has been reported that the shortage of places in the international schools in Hong Kong is one of the reasons for the reluctance of overseas professionals to come to Hong Kong. Moreover, it has also been reported that in its report on "International Schools' Expansion Efforts in Hong Kong" published in the middle of this year, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong criticised that the complicated application procedure for expanding international schools in Hong Kong, which involved dealing with 14 government departments, coupled with the lack of transparency in the approval process, made it difficult for international schools to increase their school places. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the current number of international schools which are applying or have successfully applied for the expansion of their school premises; and when the approval process and expansion works concerned are expected to complete;

(b) whether it has plans to streamline the application procedure concerned and make it more transparent; if so, of the details of such plans; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

     The Administration supports the development of a vibrant international school sector.  My reply to the two questions, in seriatim, is as follows:

(a) A total of 19 international schools have, in recent years, formally applied with the Government for expansion in-situ, on neighbouring lots or in rented vacant government premises (including vacant school premises). Of these, nine applications have been approved, either in part or in entirety, by relevant government departments. Seven applications are being processed. Since some applications involve changes in land use, town planning considerations or lease matters, it is difficult to ascertain at this stage the specific time required for approval. Relevant departments are actively rendering assistance and discussing with the schools concerned on outstanding issues. The remaining three applications are not supported, one due to availability of spare capacity and two due to keen competition in an allocation exercise for vacant school premises.  

(b) The Education Bureau has been liaising with international schools and rendering assistance on school development matters through assigned officers. The Development Bureau is also aware of the concerns raised by international schools over the latter's expansion plans, in particular on planning and land issues. School expansion plans often involve changes in land use which may require approval by the Town Planning Board and consultation with the District Councils concerned. In this regard, the Development Bureau will continue its liaison with its relevant departments and with the Education Bureau, with a view to expediting the necessary procedures and resolving matters at an early stage.  

     As far as school registration and school extension are concerned, the Education Bureau has published comprehensive guidelines which are applicable to both public sector schools and private schools including international schools. These guidelines cover all the necessary application procedures and requirements of the Education Bureau and other relevant departments. We also conduct regular briefing sessions on the school registration process. In addition, to facilitate international schools in applying for expansion in vacant school premises, we issued guidelines on the preparation of detailed proposals in the context of the school allocation exercise conducted in early 2007, setting out various criteria to be considered in our selection process. Since the expansion of international schools may take different forms and the involvement of different government departments may vary depending on the circumstances of each case, we will consider further enhancing the transparency of the relevant application procedures by working with other government departments to run joint briefing sessions that would make reference to a range of practical examples.

Ends/Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:30


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