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LCQ15: International school places
     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):


     The Education Bureau (EDB) indicated in 2014 that under its policy, international schools with no boarding facilities which had received government assistance in the form of allocation of sites or vacant school premises (government-assisted international schools) were required to allocate at least 70 per cent (the minimum proportion) of their total school places to students holding (i) foreign passports (except the British National (Overseas) Passport) or (ii) visas for entry into Hong Kong for studies (non-local students). In the allocation of sites/vacant school premises, favourable consideration will be given to those proposals which plan to accept a higher proportion of non-local students (e.g. 80 per cent or above). Nonetheless, in the 2016/17 school year, the proportion of non-local students in 15 international schools is lower than 70 per cent and the proportion is even lower than 50 per cent in four of them. On the other hand, it has been reported that a number of organisations are planning to operate international schools in Hong Kong and some of these schools will charge high tuition fees. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective year in which each of the government-assisted international schools commenced operation, as well as the minimum proportion it is required to meet (and if the proportion is below 50 per cent, of the reasons for that);

(2) whether, under the relevant requirements, government-assisted international schools which fail to meet the minimum proportion will be penalised; if so, of the details, including the types of actions that the EDB may take against them; whether such schools can continue to be named international schools;

(3) how the EDB ensures that the information on the number of their non-local students submitted by government-assisted international schools is accurate; and

(4) of the criteria to be met by applications for operating international schools under the existing requirements; what mechanism and measures are put in place by the EDB to ensure that newly operated international schools are financially sound and their quality reaches a reasonable level?



     The Government is committed to developing a vibrant international school sector through various measures, including allocation of vacant school premises (VSP) and greenfield sites for developing international schools as appropriate, mainly to meet the demand for international school places from non-local families living in Hong Kong or coming to Hong Kong for work or investment. My response to the four parts of the question raised by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen is as follows:

(1) to (3) In the 2016/17 school year, the ratio of non-local students of 12 international schools is subject to a related requirement, ranging from 50 to 85 per cent, under the respective service agreements (SAs) entered between the schools and the Government following the allocation of VSP or greenfield site in question for international school development under the School Allocation Exercise (SAE). Under the prevailing policy, school sponsoring bodies (SSBs) allocated with school premises or sites by the Education Bureau (EDB) for such purpose are required to allocate at least 70 per cent of the school places to non-local students. In the SAE conducted in 2014, favourable consideration was given to proposals accepting a higher proportion of non-local students. When SSBs submitted their proposals for the SAE, they have acknowledged and agreed that the information provided (including the proposed minimum percentage of non-local students to be enrolled) would only be used for the relevant SAE. We are therefore unable to disclose the requirement regarding the minimum percentage of non-local students to be enrolled by individual international schools. In addition, when discussing with the English Schools Foundation (ESF) the phasing-out arrangements of the recurrent government subvention for ESF schools in 2013, the EDB has also taken the opportunity to remind the ESF to continue to maintain their student mix of having no less than 70 per cent of their overall student population being non-local students. Information of the premises and years of establishment of the aforementioned 12 international schools and ESF schools are listed at the Annex.

     In the 2016/17 school year, non-local students accounted for 79.6 per cent of the overall student population in the international school sector while local students accounted for 20.4 per cent. Among the aforementioned international schools which are subject to the requirement on the enrolment of local students, all of them have complied with the relevant requirement except one school which has just commenced operation last year. We have reminded that school which has just commenced operation last year to observe and comply with the requirement in the admission exercise next year, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.

     Regarding the collection of information on the number of non-local students in international schools, we understand that international schools normally require parents to provide a copy of the student's proof of identity (e.g. passport) to verify his nationality and eligibility to study in Hong Kong during admission. Apart from conducting annual student enrolment survey, the EDB monitors the enrolment situation of international schools by requiring the relevant SSBs to provide data and supplementary information for vetting in accordance with the requirements in SA. In case of doubt, the EDB will request further clarification or relevant information. In case of breach of requirements in SA by SSBs and schools (including failure to comply with the minimum percentage of non-local students to be enrolled as stipulated in the SA), the EDB will take follow-up actions, and has the right to terminate or refuse to renew the SA, or even re-enter the VSP or greenfield sites concerned.

(4) Under the EDB's prevailing policy, SSBs allocated with VSP and/or greenfield sites for international school development through SAEs are required to enter an SA with the Government and agree to comply with a set of requirements in relation to the establishment of international schools. Apart from complying with the minimum percentage of non-local students to be enrolled, relevant SSBs are required to submit annual audited accounts to the Government, as well as proof of the school's recognition from a renowned accreditation body, etc., to facilitate the EDB's monitoring the financial situation and teaching quality of such schools.

     SSBs who would like to establish an international school in Hong Kong without receiving allocation of VSP or greenfield sites through SAE should apply for registration as a private school first. After ensuring the school's compliance with the EDB's requirements in relation to the establishment of international schools (including allocating at least 70 per cent of school places to non-local students, possessing proven track record of school operation and full accreditation from an established accreditation body and formulating a sustainable financial plan), an application could be made to the EDB for registering the school as an international school. A school must be registered as an international school before it may be named as an international school. The EDB will carefully assess the application materials submitted by the SSB, and will only consider approving the application after the EDB is satisfied that the school's operation and performance have fulfilled the requirements in relation to international schools. Detailed requirements regarding applications for establishment of an international school in Hong Kong are uploaded to the EDB's Thematic Website of International Schools for public access (https://edb.hkedcity.net/internationalschools/submit_an_application.php?lang=en).

     At the same time, to ensure education quality, international schools need to comply with the requirements under the Education Ordinance (Cap 279) and the Education Regulations (Cap 279A). For example, the school premises must comply with the relevant buildings and fire safety requirements, teachers must obtain the prescribed qualifications and register with the EDB, and tuition fees must be approved by the EDB.
Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:10
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