The principal of a Tuen Mun government-funded primary school has apologised after telling parents of prospective applicants that the families of children who attend the school are “middle class.”

Lutheran Tsang Shing Siu Leun School headmaster Chan Ho-tak added that it does not select students or promote them into the school’s “international group” based on their financial or societal background.

Parents quoted by local paper HK01 claimed that, at the briefing last Saturday, spokespersons from the school asked whether they were middle class, whether they were working professionals, and whether they drove private cars.

Lutheran Tsang Shing Siu Leun School. Photo: Exploringlife via Wikimedia Commons.

Parents of children at the school are from a “middle class background” and are “professionals,” according to the English section of the school’s briefing presentation.

The Chinese version of the presentation did not mention the words “middle class.” However, it said that 68 per cent of the children at the school were “midstream,” without further clarification.

The school added that beginning at Primary Two level, certain students would be selected to join the “international group” based on their English abilities, recommendations from teachers, and the willingness and support of parents. Selected students would receive more of their education in English.

But the presentation asked parents not to misinterpret these initiatives as a sign the school is becoming elitist.

The presentation has since been taken down from the school’s website.

Personal apology

After local media coverage, headmaster Chan delivered a statement of clarification on the website on Friday. He said the presentation spoke about working professional parents only because their number has increased, and the school must cater to their needs.

“The appearance of the term ‘middle class’ in the English version of the relevant document was a typographical error made during editing,” he added. “The headmaster is willing to accept responsibility for this.”

School presentation. Photo: Screenshot.

“Should this cause dissatisfaction among sections of parents and members of the public, the headmaster apologises in a personal capacity to all parties.”

Chan added in his official response that he is a member of the “poor middle class,” does not own a car, and frequently travels on light rail and bus. “Students’ social and financial positions will not be considered… as to whether they enter the ‘international group’ in Primary Two.”

Chan’s reply also criticised media coverage of the briefing session: “The school is willing to accept reasonable supervision and opinions from society, and hopes that media reports are balanced and fair, although that is not what regular readers want to read.”

“We truly hope friends from the media and online media can hold up their hands and let this incident end.” The headmaster said that he would not accept any further requests for comment.

Established in 2005 by the Lutheran Church, the primary school teaches some 500 pupils near Butterfly Estate in Tuen Mun.

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Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.