Another school in Tuen Mun has been accused of enrolling “shadow students,” following a scandal at Hing Tak Primary School, which allegedly registered pupils who never attended classes to maintain its level of government funding.

An exclusive report from Apple Daily said it suspected that eight transfer students at Caritas Tuen Mun Marden Foundation Secondary School were listed by the school as first-year students in order to prevent classes from being scrapped that school year. They were moved to higher-level classes shortly after the Education Bureau conducted on-site headcounts in September.

The newspaper said that it had obtained the school’s list of students in September and October 2016.

Caritas Tuen Mun Marden Foundation Secondary School. Photo: Screenshot/Apple Daily.

Secondary schools must enrol 51 students if they wish to offer three classes. With eight students held back as first-year students, the alleged move allowed to school to retain three classes.

‘Non Chinese-students’

The schools’ principal denied the allegations when speaking to Apple Daily. He said that non-Chinese language students were given a test when they enrolled – if they failed to pass, they would be put into Secondary One classes. The school’s list of students indicated that, of the eight students, five were of Filipino, Indian, Nepalese, or Pakistani descent, and the others were of Chinese descent.

“Our students are special because we have many non-Chinese students,” the school principal Yuen Kwok Ming said. “We will let them try to study at one level first – they may not fit in with the other students, including in terms of age. So their parents will ask to have them switched to appropriate classes.”

Yuen Kwok Ming. File photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

The paper also found by looking at student ID numbers assigned by the Education Bureau that 29 other students in the third and sixth year of school also appeared to have skipped between one and three grades over the last school year. However, Yuen told Apple Daily that its numbers were inaccurate, though he did not answer questions about how the eight students’ grades improved so quickly, and why the school allowed them to skip grades in a such a short time span. He said that he would wait for the Education Bureau to judge.

See more: Education Bureau and police investigate Tuen Mun school for ‘enrolling shadow students’

An unnamed former teacher at the school told the newspaper that the school had been using the strategy to retain classes for some time. The paper added that one of the school’s teachers had previously written to the Education Bureau about the practice, but the Bureau did not follow up as the complaint was made anonymously.

Responding to the allegations, the Education Bureau told RTHK that it will look into the situation, and follow up if it found any impropriety. The Bureau added that it had mechanisms to verify the number of students at the school, including through in-person visits.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.