International schools in the neighbouring city of Shenzhen on the Chinese Mainland have said the amount of interest from parents whose children live in Shenzhen but attend school in Hong Kong has risen over the past few months.
“It is pretty surreal”
Between 2003 and 2013, children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents automatically received permanent residence regardless of the immigration status of their parents, entitling them to 12 years of free education in the city.
As a result, almost 30,000 students cross the border from the Shenzhen to Hong Kong every day to attend school – a journey that can take hours.
“[The parents] believe their children will benefit on many fronts from receiving an education that cannot be provided in China, including open and equitable teacher-student relations; an English-language learning environment; small class sizes; and an international learning perspective,” noted Philip Wing Keung Chan of Monash University in his research paper.
The strain put on Hong Kong hospitals by the increasing number of mainlanders coming to the city to give birth eventually led to changes in residency requirements in 2013. As a result, the cross-boundary student phenomenon is expected to decline and disappear by 2030.
However, it continues to be unpopular among Hong Kongers, particularly parents living near the border who feel their children are being pushed out of local schools to make way for mainlanders, as well as claims that the students’ lack of Cantonese abilities and cultural understanding leaves them segregated.
One international school in Shenzhen noted that the ongoing issues in Hong Kong were also affecting their programs despite restrictions on the flow of information between the two cities. Universities have also recalled their international students over the last few weeks.
“We had to cancel one of our day-long activities [in Hong Kong] and are questioning some week-long ones that are coming up in January,” a school spokesperson told The PIE News.
“Here in Shenzhen, there is nothing that would let you know that 20 miles away schools are shut down and people are protesting. It is pretty surreal.”