Learn right lessons from school exodus

Editorial | Mary Ma 12 Apr 2019

It's common knowledge that international schools are popular with Hong Kong parents keen to give their children a chance to learn in a happy environment. But only a few know exactly how coveted these schools have been.

A document submitted by the Education Bureau to the Legislative Council has provided some vital information to fill this gap of understanding.

According to the paper, local student populations at international schools have climbed steadily for the past three years - from 20 percent in the school year starting in September 2016, to 23 percent and 25 percent in 2017 and 2018.

At six schools, the ratios of locals have exceeded 50 percent, the highest one being 74 percent.

The statistics were, however, not alarming because they merely confirmed what most of us have believed for some time, which is that our mainstream school system is in dire need of improvement.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung should refer to the teaching experience at the international schools for clues to how to make learning a happy and lively experience at local schools, which most children attend.

He should be familiar with the international modules since both his children attended international schools.

I recall that during an interview with a paid TV station a few months after he was appointed to his post, Yeung expressed a wish to promote the beliefs pursued by international schools in the SAR. Here's his chance to do so.

While I'm pleased to see that more parents are earning enough to be able to send their youngsters to international schools that charge hefty tuition fees, these kids' departure from the local system would free up government resources that otherwise would have been spent on those young people.

It follows that Yeung may redirect the spared resources to those stuck in mainstream local schools.

The minister should make use of the spared resources wisely to transplant to local schools the competitive edge that the international schools enjoy over the mainstream schools as far as possible. Then he would be doing society a sterling service.

The Education Bureau reportedly has a policy capping the ratio of local students at international schools to no more than 30 percent, but the ratio is flexible. Although it would be tempting for policymakers such as Yeung to take the easy way out by enforcing the limit rigidly, it will be a cause for grave concern should they really seek to restrict local admissions due to international schools' growing popularity.

Rather than curbing admissions, he should seek to increase supply to meet rising demand.

Parents are always the smartest consumers when it comes to their children's education. They will never compromise on quality - exactly what Yeung demonstrated with his selection of the type of education for his own children.

If he wants to do something good for Hong Kong, incorporate the merits of international schools in their local counterparts.

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