Business: Hong Kong school shortage threatens its financial hub status

Hong Kong needs more schools for executive children to remain financial hub.

Hong Kong needs more schools for executive children to remain financial hub.

International companies are vying for expansion into the Asian market, making banking cities of the region, such as Hong Kong, into huge global financial centres in the process. A dire situation concerning the international schools in Hong Kong may be making it lose its competitive edge, as international businessmen moving to the area struggle to find places to educate their children.

Affecting Business

A survey by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong reported in April that “the inability to readily access a high-quality international standard education is detrimentally affecting businesses across Hong Kong.” There are approximately 36,000 international school spots, but the situation is especially dire among primary schools. Some businesses have even changed their hiring policies to only hire one-child or childless families.

Heather Du Quesnay, chief executive of one of Asia’s largest international school providers (the English Schools Foundation), says that “There’s been a huge increase in applications pretty consistently over the last three or four years.” Sky-high tuition fees have not increased the demand, with parents competing for spots for their children at top schools like Hong Kong International school ($23,100 per year) and English Schools Foundation’s secondary school ($12,500 per year). While the waiting lists are long and the horror stories of no schools rampant, most children do eventually get a place, though it may not be their preferred school. Experts say, however, that the uncertainty concerning education and the stress to get their children a spot is causing many expatriates to simply choose another city.

Growth in Asia

As investment streams east due to struggling Western economies, major cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Tokyo are all competing for global talent and to gain international clout. The competition for talent makes it a necessity that these growing Asian cities provide the kind of lifestyle and amenities that make international executives content to stay.

The growth of international schools is not just from Western businessmen, however. The head of ISC Research, Nicholas Brummit, said that “two-thirds of the growth in schools and student numbers continues to be in Asia,” much of it from Asians looking for a broader, bilingual, and internationally competitive education. “Greatest demand continues to come from increasingly wealthy families in Asia and the Middle East,” continued Brummit. This means that Hong Kong must come up with solutions to the school shortage to continue to be a relevant force in the global economy.

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