LCQ2: International school places

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kenneth Chan Ka-lok and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (October 31):


     It has been reported that the Government plans to resume the site where the International Montessori School (IMS) is situated for development of a youth hostel, and that the relocation of IMS may reduce the existing number of international school places. Regarding the relocation of IMS and the policy on international schools, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the Government's specific plan to resume the aforesaid site; whether the Government will provide assistance to IMS, its teachers and students as well as the parents; if it will, of the details; given that IMS had moved three times in the past decade or so, whether the Government will assist IMS in developing a permanent campus; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the number of foreign students in the past three years who needed to study at international schools but went to local schools due to a shortage of international school places; whether the Government will adopt some short-term and transitional measures to assist students who cannot secure international school places in the near future in tackling their learning difficulties; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) given that some parents have pointed out that the shortage of international school places at present directly affects the desire of overseas talents and investors to develop their career and make investments in Hong Kong, whether the Government will honour the Chief Executive's pledge in his manifesto by formulating a specific policy on increasing international school places; if it will, of the specific details of the policy; if not, the reasons for that?  



     The Administration is committed to developing a vibrant international school sector in meeting the education needs of overseas and local families in Hong Kong.  Over the past decade, the number of international school places has increased by nearly 20% from 31 000 in the 2001/02 school year to 37 000 in the 2011/12 school year.  Our response to the three parts of the question raised by the Dr Hon Kenneth Chan is as follows:

(a) and (c) Measures to support international school development include facilitating in-situ expansion of existing international schools as well as allocating vacant school premises and greenfield sites for development of international schools.  We have approved several international schools (such as the Hong Kong International School and the French International School) to undergo in-situ expansion in recent years.  Of which, the Hong Kong International School will provide 500 additional primary and secondary places through the expansion project in the next few years.

     On the allocation of vacant school premises and greenfield sites, we generally allocate those premises and sites for designated school use, including international school use, to school operators through an open and competitive central bidding process.  Through this mechanism, we have already allocated four vacant school premises and four greenfield sites between 2007 and 2009 for the expansion and development of international schools respectively.  The four international schools allocated with vacant school premises will progressively provide around 500 additional places from the 2011/12 school year.  Among the four school operators allocated with greenfield sites, the Harrow International School Hong Kong has commenced operation in September 2012, providing over 700 places.  The Kellett School and the Hong Kong Academy are scheduled to commence operation in the coming school year providing over 1 400 places.  The Christian Alliance P. C. Lau Memorial International School is expected to complete the school construction project by the 2016/17 school year.  Moreover, in the previous legislative session, the Legislative Council Finance Committee has approved the Government to provide interest-free loan totalling over $600 million to three international schools allocated with greenfield sites for the construction of the new premises.  We will submit a similar application to the Finance Committee for the remaining school operator when the land grant and related procedures are completed.

     Earlier this month, we have invited interested parties to apply for another four vacant school premises for international school development.  The allocation exercise is expected to be completed within the first quarter of next year.  We target to provide over 1 000 school places through these premises.  In order to meet the demand for international school places from non-local students, we now require school operators allocated with greenfield sites or vacant school premises to admit non-local students at no less than 70% of their overall student population.

     As regards the International Montessori School (IMS), it is operating at the premises of a closed down school located on a private land owned by the Hong Kong Construction Association (HKCA).  A few months ago, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) indicated interest in utilising this site for the purpose of youth hostel development.  Recently, the Home Affairs Bureau has clearly informed the NGO that insofar the subject site will continue to be deployed as a school, it will not support any NGO in developing youth hostel at the site.  Should IMS like to look for a permanent campus, it could apply for use of any vacant school premises or greenfield sites through the open and competitive bidding mechanism mentioned above.

(b) We have not conducted a survey and therefore do not have statistics on the number of foreign students studying in local schools.  According to the student enrolment survey, in the 2011/12 school year, there were 47 international schools providing 37 000 school places.  Some 33 000 students were enrolled in these schools.  While the overall fill-up rate of around 89% implies that there is no shortage in terms of overall provision, there is imbalance in the demand and supply of school places in some particular districts or schools.  There are a number of factors leading to the imbalance including choice of parents in respect of the quality, geographical location, curriculum, religious or cultural background of the schools, as well as whether vacancies are available at the grade levels in demand.  Furthermore, we note that some parents have placed their children on the waiting list of a number of international schools at the same time.  

     We have commissioned a study to stock-take the existing provision of international school places and project the future demand and supply.  The study is expected to complete by the end of this year.  We will take into consideration the findings of the study to project the long-term provision and demand of international school places and to review the genuine need for implementing further facilitation measures.  Given the scarcity of land resources in Hong Kong, we must ensure that these valuable resources are utilised effectively and in the overall interests of the public, when considering whether to allocate more greenfield sites for international school development.

Ends/Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:39