19th January 2014
Primary School Admission Day: Anchor Children Use Relatives’ Addresses to Apply: 300 Anchor Children Take North District School Places with Fake Guardians
Today is the last registration day for the Primary School Admission System which begins in September. Cross boarder students have to apply for schools located in the designated district, North District. However, there are only 300 school places available for these anchor children – 25% of the district’s total school places. A woman who has two nephews from Shenzhen uses her address to apply for the two children – this means that the two children will be guaranteed to have school places in the North District, where competition is the most intense. North District Primary School Heads Association estimates that there are around “Fake-North-District Students”, which could impact the local Hong Kong students’ opportunity to study within the same district.
The two-day long registration for Primary School Admission System began yesterday. Parents are required to choose the schools they wish their children to study within their respective districts (determined by their residential addresses) at the districts’ registration centres. Additional classes and seats are added to Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Tai Po and North District. Six primary schools in Tung Chung, Ma On Shan and Wong Tai Sin have assigned 3,177 school places to students who have to study in districts outside of their own.
Around 4,000 primary one students who will be traveling to other districts for school. After the Discretionary Places Admission Stage in November, there are still around 2,800 students enrolled the centralised Primary School Admission System. The Education Bureau set up four admission centres in Sheung Shui, Tin Shui Wai and Tuen Mun West for cross-district students to register. 850 students were asked to the centre located in Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Ma Kam Chan Memorial Primary School. The first in queue was Mr Chen who lives in Shenzhen Futian and started to queue at 4:30am, “I thought coming here early would be better.”
The North District (composed of Sheung Shui, Fanling and Sha Tau Kok) have assigned 1,241 school places that local North District students will have priority, which is three times as much as the ones reserved for cross-district students. This causes parents to “change” their children’s “designated district identity” as North District students. Nine out of the ten parents outside the centre have chosen to register for the North District schools.
Only 650 students in Sheung Shui have to register at the centralised system. Ms Chen (or Chan, not specify in the article) went to Shek Wu Hui Public School to reigster for her nephews, the grandchildren of her older sister who are anchor children. Ms Chen said that the two children are currently studying in a kindergarten in Shenzhen and want to study in one of the Sheung Shui primary schools in the next school year. Therefore, Chen uses her address to register for the two children, so that they are eligible to study in Sheung Shui, “I will have to look after them and they will live at my home.”
Such case of anchor children “transformed” into “Fake-North-District Students” is not isolated. Mrs Hau, a Sheung Shui mother, said that the kindergarten her son studies at has a lot of anchor children, but many of them suddenly register as “North District Students” for primary school. “I am a bit upset, there is more competition for the limited spaces,” she said. When asked about the borrowed address tactic and “paid guardians”, Mrs Lau, another local mother, said, “I have heard of it, but there’s nothing we could do. The Education Bureau cannot investigate. Of course there is a loophole.”
Mrs Shao, an anchor child mother, said that she has heard about anchor children’s families are renting in North District to secure a school place. She has relatives who live in Sheung Shui too, but didn’t ask to borrow their addresses. However, she also criticises the system for discriminating against non-local students, “Each school gives 50 to 60 school places to Hong Kongers, but only 10 to cross-boarder students, this is clearly discrimination!”
Chan Siu-hung, Chairman of the North District Primary School Heads Association, said that around a dozen out of all applications last year during the Discretionary Places Admission Stage came from cross-boarder students’ guardians, a few times more than previous years. Chan also said that some principals have experienced similar situation, “there are ten places (for cross-boarder students) at each school, for example, and there are 28 schools in the North District, which means 280 spaces in total.” There is a grey area under the guardian scheme, he admitted, even though it is still legal, “we can never know if those guardians are “agents”, they could be anyone.”