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Commuting to school: A Tale of Two Cities
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-20 22:32

An interesting phenomena is emerging at the Shenzhen/Hong Kong border.

Thousands of children from Shenzhen are flocking across to school, to be educated in a city they do not live in.

The youngsters are going to Hong Kong for what their parents say is a better education.

Other children are being sent to private schools in Shenzhen which are similar to Hong Kong schools.

Each morning at 6 am, 11-year-old Fan Weimin gets up from his bed in Shenzhen. After getting ready and eating breakfast,he waves goodbye to his mother at 7 am at the Luohu Checkpoint.

After passing a series of exit procedures at the Passport-check Office, Fan gets on a school bus on the other side of the Luohu bridge and sets off to school in Hong Kong as usual.

Around 4 pm, Fan's mother returns to the Luohu Bridge to collect him and take him home.

This has been the routine for Fan, the son of a Hong Kong businessman, for two years.Fan, who has a Hong Kong residency permit, is one of nearly 3,000 children who live in Shenzhen and commute to Hong Kong for their education via the Luohu bridge, according to a local government survey. The morning scene is quite unique.

Most of the children are from families consisting of a Hong Kong father and a mainland mother. The latter does not usually have the legal right to live in Hong Kong.

Some of the parents are Hong Kong people who have businesses and houses in Shenzhen where everyday prices and house prices are far cheaper than in Hong Kong.

But they still send their children away to school in Hong Kong each day, as they think the quality of education there is better than in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong's advanced education system has better English results and many courses recognized internationally. A former primary school student in Shenzhen, Fan said he prefers his school in Hong Kong where he receives less homework and the teachers are nicer to him.

Twelve-year-old Su Yanling who has attended a Hong Kong school for six years, said an education there will help her pass the university enrolment examination in the city and find a better job in the future.

It is more expensive to go to school in Shenzhen than in Hong Kong. Hong Kong offers nine years of free education, including some expenses like books and travel.

The quality of the State education in Shenzhen means some parents are willing to pay in the city to ensure a decent education instead of sending their children to Hong Kong.

According to a survey by the Shenzhen Education Studies Institution published in the Southern Metropolis News, of 2,339 pupils with Hong Kong residency permits who actually reside in Shenzhen and also go to school there, 41 per sent of parents are willing to send the child to a private Shenzhen school which has the same education system as in Hong Kong and provides Hong Kong approved certificates.

Private schools in Shenzhen charge an average of 20,000 yuan (US$2,400) per student per year.

In comparison, a student at a public primary school will spend no more than 1,000 yuan(US$120)per year.

Around 30 per cent of students with Hong Kong residency permits who live in Shenzhen attend public schools there.

"Mainland students and students with Hong Kong residency permits are treated the same," insisted an official at the Shenzhen Education Bureau.

But he said those children pay around 1,500 yuan (US$180) a year for schooling in Shenzhen's public schools, more than what a child with Shenzhen residency would pay.

Some say this is a sign of the discrimination often seen in China against the floating population.

The Shenzhen education authorities are reported to have said that five more private schools for students with Hong Kong residency permits are expected to open in Shenzhen to deal with soaring demand.

Efforts are being made to implement a double education system so that mainland education certificates are accepted in Hong Kong.

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