Hong Kong English Language Schools Shortage Deters Expats

A shortage of high-quality English language schools in Hong Kong is placing the city’s reputation as an ideal expat destination at risk according to parents and lobby groups in the SAR.

According to reports in local newspaper, The Standard, the average English language school currently has a waiting list of over 100 names and, of the state-funded English language schools that are available in the city, only two had places available at the beginning of the last school year.

The situation has serious implications for expatriates, many of whom have been unable to secure suitable schools places for their children and according to The Standard the lack of schooling on offer in Hong Kong is forcing many companies to seek alternative locations for their offices amid concerns that they will be unable to attract the expatriate talent they need to the region.

Speaking to The Standard, Janet de Silva, the American Chamber of Commerce’s (AmCham) education affairs group chairwoman commented: “This continues to be the number one burning issue that (foreign companies) are facing in growing their businesses out here.”

Many people in the region argue that the Chinese government need to take urgent action to rectify the situation and should increase the annual subsidy for the English-language school system (ESF), which has been frozen at HK$284 million (US$37 million) since the handover in 1997.

In order to deal with the situation, many parents are turning to home schooling as a short-term solution to their dilemma and some are even placing their children in nearby cities such as Singapore and commuting to Hong Kong to work on a daily basis.

Crown regional account manager Bushra Siddiqui described some of the events that the lack of school places is having: “We are seeing an increasing trend of families choosing to stay behind, so that only the employee moves, and that puts a lot of strain on the relationship and on the assignment,” she told Channel News Asia

“In the last year or so we’ve seen a slightly increasing trend of families just refusing to come, purely because they can’t get schooling,” she added, “That obviously means that companies go from their first pick for a position to their second or third, so they’re not getting the talent they want.”