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Saturday, Feb 24, 2024

Hong Kong schools in crisis as more than 64,000 students have withdrew from the local education system in the past two years

Hong Kong schools in crisis as more than 64,000 students have withdrew from the local education system in the past two years

Hong Kong schools are in crisis due to a decade-long decline in the birthrate, exacerbated by a recent exodus of residents from the city. More than 64,000 students have withdrew from the local education system in the past two years, and more than 33,600 students have left school in the last academic year.
  • A decade-long decline in the birthrate, exacerbated by a recent exodus of residents from the city, has led to an alarming plunge in student as well as teacher numbers, leaving Hong Kong's education system facing a serious crisis.
  • According to official figures, more than 64,000 students – from kindergartens to secondary schools – withdrew from the local education system in the past two years.
  • In the last academic year (2021-2022), more than 33,600 students, or 4% of the total student population, left school – a 10% increase from the year before.
  • Local media reported that at least five schools face closure in coming years after they failed to reach the minimum 16 enrolments in the first grade.
  • Parents and teachers say the imposition of Hong Kong's national security law three years ago – which emphasises "patriotic education" – as well as heavy academic pressure, have prompted them to leave the city they love.
  • In the past three years, a number of measures have been introduced to boost patriotism and "national security awareness" among students.
  • Eva Lai*, a mother of two, said she decided to leave Hong Kong as soon as the national security law passed. "
  • Their fears are justified; in 2022, one school suspended 14 students for "disrespectful behaviour" because they failed to stand up during the national anthem and the flag-raising ceremony.
  • 'Teachers have to self-censor all the time'Teachers have also been hit by low morale.
  • Those interviewed by the Guardian say the new ideological requirements and the constant fear of being reported for critical comments has taken a toll.
  • According to official data, about 6,500 teachers quit or retired from their jobs at Hong Kong schools in the last academic year – almost double the average figure before the emigration wave in 2021.
  • More than half of them quit before reaching retirement age.
  • From the new academic year in September, new teachers are mandated to pass exams on national security and go on study tours to China.
  • "Under the national security law, what you say in class might be interpreted as criticism of the government and this can be held against you.
  • "The restrictions have led to low morale among teachers, said a headteacher who spoke on condition of anonymity.
  • "The red line is continuously and arbitrarily shifting … so teachers have to self-censor all the time," he said.
  • By July last year, seven people had their teaching registrations revoked over their roles in the anti-government protests, according to local media.
  • Two years ago, a Hong Kong primary school teacher was deregistered after being accused of using pro-independence materials in class when explaining the concepts of freedom of speech and independence.
  • Educational professionals say that based on the current statistics, student numbers will continue to fall.
  • While Hong Kong's birthrate has been consistently low, political uncertainties have further suppressed it, according to Prof Chung Kim-wah, a social scientist formerly with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
  • The headteacher fears that under all the restrictions, Hong Kong's next generation will lack the skills to cope with the rapidly changing global challenges.
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