More than 33,600 students left Hong Kong’s schools in the last academic year amid an ongoing emigration wave, an increase of 10% from 2020-21.
The latest official figures bring the total number of students who withdrew from the local education system in the last two years to more than 64,000. But school representatives said they believed the exodus had peaked and a smaller number would depart this year.
The Education Bureau last week released the enrolment figures of all government, aided and international schools as well as those under the direct subsidy scheme as of September 2022.
The Post compared the enrolment figures of students from Kindergarten One to Form Five in September 2021 with those from Kindergarten Two to Form Six at the start of this academic year to determine the change in population.
The calculation showed 33,604 pupils, or 4 per cent of the total student population last year, quit city schools between September 2021 and the same month in 2022.
It was a 10 per cent increase from the previous year when 30,500 pupils, or 3.6 per cent of the student population, withdrew.
The local education system lost 64,109 students over the past two academic years. Reasons for their departures included emigration, a trend that gained momentum in early 2021.
Among them 11,640 were from kindergartens, 22,611 from primary schools and 29,858 from secondary institutions.
The total number of pupils studying locally from Kindergarten One to Form Six was 828,600 in the last academic year. The figure dropped to about 796,000 in the current year, shrinking by 4 per cent, off the back of the emigration wave and the city’s low birth rate.
Kindergartens lost 6,511 pupils last year, while 11,862 and 15,231 students dropped out of primary and secondary schools respectively.
Kindergarten Two recorded the biggest drop in enrolment with 5,154 students, or 10 per cent, leaving before moving up to the final year of preschool.
Form Four followed with about 4,000 students, or 8 per cent, leaving before they continued on to Form Five.
Nearly 3,300 Form Five students, or 7 per cent, withdrew from schools before they had to sit university entrance exams.
Among the 18 districts in the city, Central and Western, along with Wan Chai, had the highest number of students withdrawing at 10 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
Several Western countries, including Britain, Canada and Australia, offered emigration pathways to Hongkongers in response to Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong in 2020.
British government statistics showed the number of applications for its pathway stood at 160,700 almost two years after its launch.
Lee Yi-ying, chairwoman of the Subsidised Secondary School Council, said institution heads felt the number of student withdrawals had come down from their peak.
“We principals can feel the overall number of students dropping out is smaller this year, but still there is a certain number of students leaving,” said Lee, who is also a secondary school principal.
Students finishing Form Four in Hong Kong could be eligible to study their final years of secondary school in Britain, which may explain why it had the greatest number of students departing, she said.
The Post earlier reported that the number of students quitting some of the city’s most prestigious schools had dropped, but high departure rates during the academic year still persisted at about 10 per cent on average in those institutions amid ongoing emigration.
Lee said education authorities should seize the chance offered by the city’s falling student population to improve education quality by reducing the number of pupils in each secondary school class.
She said the government should consider attracting students from Asian countries to pursue their studies in Hong Kong as the industry was suffering from a lack of pupils.
“I believe Hong Kong’s education system has its own attractiveness and competitiveness to lure students from elsewhere. We could open Hong Kong’s education market to brand the city as an international education hub,” she said, adding that youth hostels could be built to house overseas students.