A Hong Kong kindergarten has announced the closure of one of its branches from next September, citing its struggle to enrol students due to low birth rates and a recent emigration wave.

The Education Bureau confirmed on Saturday evening that St Paul’s Church Kindergarten’s North Point branch would cease operations next year. In a statement, the bureau said all pupils at the kindergarten had the option of continuing their studies at the school’s Central branch.

St Paul's Church Kindergarten (North Point). Photo: St Paul's Church Kindergarten.
St Paul’s Church Kindergarten (North Point). Photo: St Paul’s Church Kindergarten.

The kindergarten reportedly told parents in a recent statement that it was under immense financial pressure as a result of the Education Bureau’s refusal to subsidise the school’s rental payments in full.

“The Education Bureau has refused to provide full rental subsidies, resulting in huge deficits for the school’s sponsoring body,” the school’s statement read, according to local media

The school’s financial woes and decline in enrolments resulted in a merger of the kindergarten’s North Point and Central branches, with the former ceasing operations from September 2024.

St Paul’s Church Kindergarten was first established in 1950, at the Central branch, according to the school’s website. The North Point branch opened in 2013.

HKFP has reached out to the kindergarten for comment.

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Lunchtime at a kindergarten. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The move comes amid a slew of school closure announcements. Kentville Kindergarten in Kowloon Tong announced in September that it plans to close in 2026, citing “all-time low birth rates” and the “emigration of young families.”

The school, which 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.

Rosaryhill School also announced its 2026 closure in a letter dated September 15, citing declining student enrolment.

Declining birth rate

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.

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Hong Kong has among the lowest birth rates in Asian economies. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

According to official statistics, the average number of children per woman was 0.9 in 2022, down from 1.3 in 2012. By the end of the next decade, a third of the city’s population is expected to be aged 65 and above.

Lee announced last month in his annual Policy Address that the government would offer HK$20,000 to new parents in a bid to boost Hong Kong’s low birth rate and address the city’s ageing population.

Vice-chair of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers Nancy Lam told local media that some 20 kindergartens are expected to close in the coming year, attributing the trend to the emigration wave and young couples’ unwillingness to have children.

She added that enrolments from families coming to Hong Kong through the government’s Top Talent Pass Scheme would not have a significant effect on filling the void.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Tang Fei called on the government last week to slow down school restructuring efforts, lest they create the impression that there were “unknown problems” with Hong Kong schools.

There were 27,996 fewer students at the start of the last academic year compared to 2021, according to HKFP’s calculations in July based on the Education Bureau’s annual enrolment statistics report.

Next month, some 120 of the city’s primary and secondary schools will participate in an education fair aimed at recruiting students living in the Greater Bay Area (GBA).

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.