Pupil headcount will reveal any exodus: Kevin Yeung

Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said on Friday that the government will assess whether Hong Kong schools are experiencing an exodus of students after carrying out an annual headcount of pupils in the middle of this month.

The annual Primary School Profiles shows several dozen schools have reduced their number of primary one classes this academic year.

Educators say this may be down to emigration, but the education minister said people have misunderstood the data.

He said the number of primary one classes is based on the amount of classrooms or the number of primary six classes a school has.

“It’s just formula based. It does not reflect what actually is the forecast of the possible P.1 students. What we will be doing is by the middle of this month, we will do a headcount of the new P.1 students. Then we will know better [if there is] any major change in the population or in the number of students admitted to primary one,” Yeung said.

“We need to do the headcount… before we know exactly the impact on individual schools,” he added.

The minister said the data is needed for officials to assess whether schools are experiencing short-term fluctuations in student numbers or a long-term exodus, so the right measures can be devised to deal with the situation.

Yeung did concede, however, that there has been an increase in people choosing to leave Hong Kong recently, and that children of various ages are leaving schools to move elsewhere.

“Overall, we notice that there has been some saying that there were people migrating to other countries. But we have measures implemented in previous years to maintain the stability of the sector. Especially in the primary [school] sector, we have lowered the number of students for each class, and [for] any surplus teachers, we have a toleration period of three years,” he said.