Cross-border schooling not easy to arrange

Updated: 2011-12-13 08:15

By Yu Ran (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Making preparations to send her 2-year-old son to kindergarten in Hong Kong has been the prime concern of Shenzhen homemaker Chen You, 36, since she gave birth to her second child in Hong Kong in 2009.

"I have to get my son enrolled in kindergarten in Hong Kong because he was born in the region, and he will be able to get a more Westernized, practical education and have more potential in the future," Chen said.

Compared with other parents in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Chen had to make more detailed plans for her second child, beginning at least a year in advance, as he was born in Hong Kong, which made him eligible to attend school there.

Parents such as Chen, who is not a permanent Hong Kong resident, have to get their children ready for school interviews, teaching them how to say their names, introduce themselves and tell stories about their lives.

"Some kindergartens even require interviews with parents to make sure that the parents will be supportive and understanding enough of the schools' efforts," she said.

Since October, she has taken her son to 10 interviews in Hong Kong, traveling back and forth from Shenzhen. Once they even jammed four interviews into a single day.

Tuition fees in Hong Kong vary according to families' annual income, and subsidies are available for those with less money.

For Chen, the tuition, daily costs and transportation fees if her son were to attend full-day classes would exceed 40,000 yuan ($6,300) a year before subsidies.

"I've been granted some reductions in the fee and my son will go half days at first, but I still have to pay about 9,000 yuan for transportation to kindergarten alone," she said.

Chen found a suitable kindergarten after visiting Hong Kong repeatedly in the past two months.

When she was certain he could begin there next year, a new worry arose: How safe would he be crossing the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong on a school bus every day?

"My biggest worry for the next three years will be whether I'll find my son safe and sound at customs in Shenzhen after school every day after he takes the school bus back from Hong Kong," she said.

Because all of the school buses between Shenzhen and Hong Kong are operated by private businesses with hired drivers, they must stop at the customs station in Hong Kong. The children have to get off the buses for security and document checks at the Shenzhen border and then re-board.

Chen wishes that the security policy between Shenzhen and Hong Kong could change so the children wouldn't have to get off the buses.

"And I have to make plans to choose a better primary school for my son soon because I don't live in Hong Kong and don't get the regular educational information local parents do," she said.