Record surge in mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong schools post-pandemic

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19th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Following the gradual reopening of the border with mainland China, Hong Kong schools have witnessed a record influx of students holding one-way permits, with a 62% increase from the previous academic year. This unprecedented rise marked the highest since records began in 2007, with 6,831 students joining primary and secondary schools from October 2022 to September 2023.

This data, reflecting the 2023-24 school year, comes after a period of significantly reduced mobility due to strict COVID-19 pandemic controls, during which the borders largely remained closed. In the preceding year, the number of such students was only 4,218, highlighting the dramatic increase as restrictions eased.

One-way permits are issued to mainland Chinese citizens seeking to settle in Hong Kong, often for family reunification. However, acquiring a permit involves relinquishing their mainland household registration, limiting the permit to 150 recipients daily.

The surge in student numbers from mainland China comes at a crucial time for Hong Kong’s education sector, which is grappling with a declining local student population. Despite this influx, sector representatives, including So Ping-fai, chairman of the Subsidised Primary Schools Council, express that these numbers only modestly alleviate the broader demographic challenges schools face. Many schools, especially those requiring bolstered enrolment in foundational years like Primary One and Form One, continue to struggle.

Principal So also noted a shift in the demographic profile of these students, with many coming from relatively affluent backgrounds and their parents exhibiting discerning preferences for reputable schools. This selectiveness, coupled with significant disparities in English-language proficiency compared to local students, poses additional challenges. Some schools are considering placing students in lower grades to bridge this gap.