Hong Kong Parents Fight for Seats in Private Schools

By Li Zhen, Epoch Times
September 18, 2013 2:35 pm Last Updated: September 17, 2013 11:54 pm

HONG KONG—A fervent battle has sprung up in Hong Kong over the limited number of seats in private primary schools as more and more parents choose to send their children there instead of state-run schools. One strong motivation: parents don’t want their children exposed to the Chinese regime’s national education.

Huge numbers of parents and children are competing for a small number of seats, and as a result many schools have made the requirements stricter.

Children have to answer increasingly difficult interview questions. Some schools have unexpectedly moved the application deadline several months earlier, catching parents off guard.

Interview training specialists help parents prepare for the interviews and create resumes for their children.

A mother named Mrs. Chan described the difficulty of trying to get her five-year-old son into a private school. At one of the schools she applied to, everyone had to submit their forms on the same day, which meant there was a traffic jam in the parking lot and a two-hour waiting line.

At another school, Mrs. Chan added, there were 5,300 applications last year for 165 seats—that is, 32 applicants fighting for each seat. She explained that parents don’t want their children subjected to “national education brainwashing” in public schools.

“This type of school has more autonomy and stronger resistance to national education,” she told the Epoch Times. “I feel more comfortable with my kids attending this type of school.”

Another parent complained that during the interview, his son was asked difficult questions about political leaders. They had been told to expect this, so he had made his son study ahead of time, he told the Epoch Times.

However, when the interviewer asked his son to identify Henry Tang Ying Yen, Xi Jinping, and Ma Ying-Jeou from photos, the child was flabbergasted, the parent reported.

“To avoid bad influence, our family does not let him watch TV, so he cannot recognize these political figures,” the parent told the Epoch Times. “Now they’re testing on political leaders. What has happened to the innocence of kids?”

Over 2,000 parents attended the parental briefings at the Diocesen Boys School Primary Division on Sept. 7, some of them standing in line overnight. Interview training specialists handed out flyers at the door.

The school principal, Mr. Ronnie Cheng Kay Yen, gave a speech on keys to success in the interviews, saying children should be natural and sincere. Each interview lasted an hour, and during the second part the children had to face the interviewer alone.

During the briefing, some parents brought up concerns that their children might receive national education even at a private school because the school took exchange tours to mainland China. The school staff replied that these tours were mainly for learning about history and Chinese culture.

However, Mr. James Hon, chairman of the Council on Professional Conduct in Education, who once joined a hunger strike in protest against the national education remindED parents to pay attention to details in exchange tours to the mainland: “If there is some reddish part, parents can withdraw their child from the activity.”

Written in English by Sally Appert.