Schools in Hong Kong should not use money to boost enrolment, the Education Bureau has said after a primary school offered a HK$10,000 “special scholarship” to new students.
The Education Bureau told local media on Tuesday that it was “inappropriate and unethical” for schools to use money or other material benefits to attract or retain students so that they could maintain a sufficient number of students to keep running.
The remarks came after The Church of Christ in China Cheung Chau Church Kam Kong Primary School said on Tuesday that it would offer a special scholarship to the 2024/25 intake of first-year students to “encourage more students to receive a Christian education centred around love.”
Without specifying the selection criteria, the school said all Primary One students were welcome to apply. The selected students would be awarded HK$10,000 from the education service provider – The Church of Christ in China Cheung Chau Church – it said, adding details would be announced later.
Local media reported on Tuesday that the school said the newcomers would also receive six sets of uniform for free, while their book fees and miscellaneous fees would also be waived. But this notice was no longer available on the school’s website by Wednesday afternoon.
In a separate statement issued on Wednesday, the school said it would improve its mechanism for making public announcements to avoid “technical issues” that arose from its statement a day before.
The school thanked people for following the school’s development and pledged to accept the “friendly corrections” raised.
“[T] he content of the notice did not include concrete details, there were some technical problems that triggered public concern or misunderstanding, making people feel uneasy,” the school said.
The school went on to say that the purpose of the scholarship – capped at HK$10,000 – was to allow individual students to have resources to develop their potential. The scholarship applications would be reviewed by the principal and board members, the school said, adding there would also be a limit on the number of scholarship awardees.
Last week, Kentville Kindergarten, which called itself “one of the city’s highly respected and regarded private kindergartens,” announced it would close in three years. “All-time low birth rates” and the “emigration of young families” were among the challenges the school faced, according to a statement released last Friday.
The school that has operated for almost six decades was also challenged by the impending retirement of 30 per cent of its staff, including the supervisor, the headmistress and a large number of senior teachers.
“Like all schools in Hong Kong, Kentville is negatively impacted by the sharp decline in birth rate and the emigration of young families. This has caused a sharp reduction in enrolled students,” said Helen Wong, founder and supervisor of Kentville.
Hong Kong saw another phased school closure earlier this month, when Rosaryhill School announced that it would stop admitting Form One secondary students next year. Those in junior secondary would have to switch to other government-subsidised schools after completing their third year of study.
There were 27,996 fewer students at the start of the last academic year compared to in 2021, according to HKFP’s calculations in July based on the Education Bureau’s annual enrolment statistics report.
Chief Executive John Lee said in July that the decline in student enrolment was a “structural problem” linked to population flow. It was also a result of the city’s low birth rate, he said.
In August, the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong released results from a survey, which found that the number of couples without children had overtaken one-child families in the city.
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