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LCQ1: Education opportunities for non-Chinese speaking students
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     Following is a question by the Hon David Li and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (July 6):

Question:

     I have received an increasing number of complaints that the Government has ignored the study needs of those students from non-Chinese speaking (NCS) families who are being affected by the ever-escalating fees charged by most international schools and Private Independent Schools (PIS).  Regarding the education opportunities for NCS students, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the number of children of foreign nationals who have a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card and who are currently studying in primary or secondary schools in Hong Kong as well as the estimated demand for school places from this group of children five years from now;

(b) as I have learnt that several PIS have proposed to introduce building levies on top of their tuition fees, whether the Government has assessed if high building costs is the direct cause of the high tuition fees of these schools; whether it will expand PIS scheme in the near future; if it will, whether it will set limits on expenditures on new buildings of PIS; and

(c) whether it will actively support the provision of new schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme which provide a flexible curriculum and adopt English as the medium of instruction, so as to give NCS students more school choices?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to each part of the question from Hon David Li is as follows íV

(a) There is no available information on the overall situation on the children of foreign nationals who have a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card and who are currently studying at primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.  As for individual school sectors, the situation is as follows íV

     In the 2010/11 school year, there are around 28 000 non-local students studying in international schools, of which around 15 000 are primary students and 13 000 are secondary students.  They account for 87% of the total student population in international schools, which serve primarily non-local students who generally hold foreign passports.  We regularly conduct surveys to request the schools to provide updated figures, but we did not solicit information as to whether these students are Hong Kong permanent residents (HKPRs).  As for Private Independent Schools (PISs) which serve primarily local students, there are around 1 250 non-local students, of which around 700 are primary students and 550 are secondary students.  They account for 13% of the total student population of PISs.  Apart from the above students, non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students with HKPR status may choose to study in public sector schools and schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS schools).  Among the students studying in these schools, around 7 000 primary students and 5 000 secondary students are NCS students.

     We do not possess any reliable statistics to project the demand from this group of children for school places in the coming five years.  We will continue to conduct regular surveys on the provision of school places and student enrolment in order to monitor the supply and demand of school places.

     As the international school and PIS sectors develop, the number of school places will increase by around 5 800 in the coming five years.  In addition, public sector schools will also ensure sufficient provision of school places to cope with the demand from NCS students.  

(b) Under the prevailing policy, PISs can apply to the Government for a capital grant for the construction of their school premises, the amount being no more than the cost for constructing a standard design public sector school accommodating the same number of students.  If a PIS wishes to upgrade its facilities to enhance the teaching and learning environment for the benefit of students, the school should bear the cost of providing the above-standard facilities and equipments or the cost of any expansion projects to be carried out at a later stage.  In processing the school building projects or considering the expansion proposals from individual schools, the Education Bureau would request the schools to undertake that they have sufficient reserve to fund the self-financed works.

     Should PISs wish to collect levies for upgrading their school facilities, we will ask the schools to explain to parents the details and purposes of the school development projects and the collection of levies, and to solicit their support for the projects concerned.

     The eight existing PISs have progressively come into operation over the past seven years.  We will keep in view the operation of individual schools and we will consider whether to take forward any new PIS projects taking into account the development and needs of the community.

(c) At present, there is still surplus of public sector school places, including those offered by DSS schools.  Hence, there is no need to operate any new schools to meet new demand.  As for application from aided schools to turn into DSS schools, they will not affect the supply and demand of school places.  As such, we will assess any such application by having regard to the school facilities, quality, sustainability and financial position based on established principles.

     DSS schools enjoy flexibility in curriculum design and choice of medium of instruction (MOI) for different subjects in the curriculum.  They can choose the most appropriate MOI for different subjects in the curriculum in accordance with the language abilities and needs of students.  Besides, under the fine-tuned MOI framework, public sector secondary schools may make professional judgment on the most appropriate MOI arrangements for their students in accordance with their own circumstances and students' needs.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:01

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