Education: Chamber in the AWSJ on International Education

“Over the past two years, the number of expatriates moving to Hong Kong has surged, lured by China’s booming economy. But the steady influx of newcomers has created a huge bottleneck in another area: the region’s international educational system…

But parents in Hong Kong take their children’s education seriously, and many try to get their children into international schools. In addition, after the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, befell the city in 2003, the international schools lost students when families fled Hong Kong. To stabilize their numbers, the schools started accepting more locals.

“One of the reasons the schools are getting so full is that local Hong Kong families are pushing their kids into these schools,” said Andrew Work, the executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Local families provide schools with a more stable student body compared with expats, who tend to leave after a few years or when times get tough.

The demand for space has exposed a surprising wealth gap among expats, who are themselves usually paid far more than the local population. Some schools are selling what are known as debentures, which are typically interest-free loans, to parents costing upward of US$80,000. The attraction is that debenture holders often can leapfrog waiting lists.

But expats who don’t earn big salaries are frustrated…. read the full story here.

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