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LCQ8: International school places

     Following is a question by the Hon Tommy Cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (June 5):


     Some parents have pointed out that the places in the international schools in the territory, especially those the main medium of instruction of which is English, are insufficient, and their tuition fees are becoming more and more exorbitant, which have rendered some expatriates working in Hong Kong unable to arrange their school-age children to come and reside in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows if the waiting time for admission to the international schools in Hong Kong is longer than that in nearby international cities such as Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, etc.; of the respective fill-up rates of and the numbers of students waiting for admission to the various international schools in Hong Kong at present; if such figures are not available, whether the authorities will conduct relevant surveys to ascertain the actual situation;

(b) whether it knows the proportions of local and non-local students in international schools at present, and set out in table form the respective numbers and percentages of local and non-local students in various international schools, with a breakdown by whether such schools are subvented or self-financed;

(c) whether it knows if the number of local students studying in international schools is on a rising trend in recent years; of the respective total numbers of students and average fill-up rates of international primary and secondary schools the main medium of instruction of which is English, as well as the respective numbers and percentages of local and non-local students in such schools, in each of the past three years (set out in a table);

(d) of the highest, lowest and median tuition fees charged by international schools in the current school year, with a breakdown by whether such schools are subvented or self-financed and whether they are primary or secondary schools (set out in a table); of the measures taken by the Government to ensure that international schools are not heading for "aristocratisation" by charging exorbitant tuition fees which are unaffordable by ordinary families;

(e) as the Government's latest information has indicated that there will still be a shortfall of 4 203 primary places in the 2016-2017 school year after taking into account the additional places to be provided under the various expansion and redevelopment projects to be implemented by the international schools, of any other specific contingency measures taken by the authorities to tackle the problem of shortage of international school places; and

(f) of the respective numbers of applications received, in each of the years from 2007 to 2012, by the Government from international schools for relocation to vacant school premises, expansion and redevelopment, and the respective numbers of additional places provided under such projects (set out in a table); the average time required for processing such applications; whether it will adopt measures to simplify and expedite the relevant procedures?



     The Administration is committed to developing a vibrant international school sector in meeting the education needs of overseas and local families in Hong Kong. Our response to the six parts of the question is as follows:

(a) According to the student enrolment survey conducted in September 2012, the percentage of provision taken up at primary level in schools operated by the English Schools Foundation (ESF) and private international schools in the 2012/13 school year was 89.2% while that at secondary level was 88.5%. The fill-up rate unavoidably varies among schools as it is affected by a number of factors including geographical location, curriculum, cultural background of the schools, as well as the choice of parents. The overall fill-up rate of these schools in the 2012/13 school year was 88.9%. With reference to the Thematic Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department in 2011, of those studying in schools operated by the ESF, private international schools and private independent schools, over 70% had waited for less than 6 months from submission of application to successful admission to the school. We have not compared the waiting time for international schools with other cities. In addition, we have recently completed a consultancy study which stock-takes the existing provision of international school places and project future demand and supply. According to the findings of the study, the number of students on the waiting lists for international schools places (Note 1) were 3 918 at primary level and 452 at secondary level in the 2011/12 school year. The number of students on the waiting lists of international schools may be over-reported as some schools did not take out the entries on the waiting list following the subsequent admission of students to other schools. Furthermore, some may apply for more than one school and their applications are covered by the waiting list of different schools. In view of the above, the number of students on the waiting list has been adjusted to take into account the possible over-reporting. We are unable to provide the number of students on the waiting list of individual international schools.

(b) According to the student enrolment survey mentioned in part (a) above, the proportion of local students (Note 2) in ESF schools and private international schools in the 2012/13 school year accounts for 13.7% and that of non-local students is 86.3%. The respective numbers and percentages of local and non-local students are set out at Annex A. International schools are generally operated on a self-financing basis without recurrent subvention from the Government. The schools set out at the Annex are categorised into three groups, namely (1) ESF schools; (2) schools that have been allocated vacant school premises or greenfield sites through the School Allocation Exercise launched since 2007; and (3) other international schools (those neither fall within group (1) nor (2)).

(c) The total number of students in international schools and average fill-up rate from the 2010/11 to 2012/13 school years with breakdown by levels and by the proportion of local and non-local students as appropriate are set out at Annex B.

(d) The highest, lowest and median tuition fees charged by the three categories of international schools set out in paragraph (b) in the 2012/13 school year are summarised in Annex C. Fee adjustments by all schools (including international schools) are subject to the prior approval of the Education Bureau under Regulation 65 of the Education Regulations. Factors to be considered in examining application for fee adjustment include the modus operandi of international schools which is self-financing and market-driven, explicability of the application, benefits to students, whether the schools demonstrate sound financial position and the impact of fee increase in enhancing students' learning. We also take into consideration the support from parents and other stakeholders and whether the schools have responded to their concerns.

(e) In view of the expansion plan of the business community, the increase in student population from overseas families coming to Hong Kong, the local demand for international school places, and the unmet demand as derived from the waiting list of international schools, it is projected under the findings of the above-mentioned study that the total demand for international school places will increase in the coming five years, resulting in a shortfall of 4 203 primary places in the 2016/17 school year.

     Based on findings of the study and our experience in implementing facilitation measures, in the next few years, we plan to implement measures in three areas with a view to effectively addressing the shortage of international school places. These include allocating vacant school premises and greenfield sites for development of international schools, enlisting support from international schools to better utilise existing campuses and land to increase school places, and enhancing online resources to facilitate expansion or redevelopment projects. We have allocated three vacant school premises to three quality school operators in April, through which 1 150 additional primary places and 210 secondary places are expected by the 2016/17 school year. These additional school places will help meet the needs of the community. Furthermore, we have recently written to international schools, appealing to them to utilise the maximum class size so as to ensure effective use of land resources and premises, to accord higher priority to children from overseas families who come to Hong Kong with their parents and to accept children from overseas families whose mother-tongue are not English. We also suggest international schools consider devising an allocation mechanism such that certain proportion of places in the schools would be earmarked for children whose parents are recruited or relocated from outside Hong Kong.

(f) We have allocated four greenfield sites and seven vacant school premises to 11 school operators between 2007/08 and 2012/13 school years for the purpose of expansion or reprovisioning of existing international schools, or establishment of new international schools. Moreover, we have supported three school operators to undergo their in-situ redevelopment project. As a result, there was an increase of 3 600 international school places during this period. The time required for processing these applications depends on a number of factors, including whether the school premises applied for are suitable and available for international school use, whether the plans for expansion or redevelopment require approval from other departments or authorities (such as the Town Planning Board), whether the applications involve amending the use of land or buildings and the views of the community. We do not have statistics on the average time required in processing these applications. We are aware that a number of international schools are planning or undergoing expansion and/or redevelopment projects. To facilitate international schools to take forward their plans to redevelop or expand existing international schools, part of the plan in enhancing online resources as referenced to in paragraph (e) above is to set out the works and procedures involved in these projects and have such posted onto a to-be-created designated page for international schools on the Bureau's website.

Note 1: Includes the provision of all primary and secondary school places in schools operated by the ESF, private international schools and private independent schools.

Note 2: Local students include students refer to those who are Hong Kong permanent residents (with the right of abode in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) and do not have any foreign passport (except British National (Overseas) Passport).

Ends/Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:37


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