Hong Kong’s direct subsidy scheme schools (DSS) have been badly hit by an exodus of students due to emigration, an expert warned Thursday, amid a wave of departures from the city following the introduction of the National Security Law and other measures in the past year.

Hong Kong International Airport
File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Speaking on RTHK’s Backchat, Dion Chen, chairperson of Hong Kong’s Direct Subsidy Scheme School Council, said some DSS schools were “suffering” after a number of students withdrew over the last year.

Chen said one such school had seen about 160 or nearly 15 per cent of its 1,100 students leave over the past year.

DSS schools are private but government-subsidised.

“It’s not just focused on the middle class,” Chen said of the departures. “Quite a lot of schools in Hong Kong have lost students. We are seeing it across the board.”

schools national security education day (4)
SKH St James’ Primary School on National Security Education Day. File Photo: GovHK.

Fears have been mounting among many Hongkongers since the implementation of the Beijing-imposed national security law on June 30, 2020. There are worries that the education system in Hong Kong will eventually become similar to the mainland, which sees a large degree of censorship and academic restraint.

In recent months, hundreds of emigrants have been seen queuing at Hong Kong’s international airport.

15,000 students fewer

According to data from the Education Bureau (EDB), more than 15,000 students have quit EDB schools in Hong Kong over the past year. On Monday, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said officials would study the issue.

student masks coronavirus covid masks
File Photo: May James/HKFP.

“Hong Kong is a free society,” Yeung said. “Of course there are people leaving Hong Kong. They are free to make these choices. In terms of the changes in the number of students, we’ve been staying in contact with schools … If the changes are long-term and structural, we will think of long-term solutions.”

Also speaking on Backchat Thursday, Mervyn Cheung from the Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organisation said that expanding the international curriculum for local schools would be a possible solution.

“We are experiencing a situation which is changing and at the same time, increasing in proportion,” he said.

Correction 17:43: A previous version of this story misstated that 15,000 students have quit all types of school in Hong Kong. They are limited to those operating under the Education Bureau.

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Rhea is a Hong Kong-based journalist interested in gender issues and minority rights, whose work has appeared in a number of publications across Asia. She is also on the 2019 Diversity List: a list of ethnic minorities that are qualified and committed to serve on Hong Kong government committees.