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【The Standard】How the political situation in Hong Kong is affecting UK applications

UK chitchat


The current political situation in Hong Kong is having a very dramatic effect on every aspect of life, not least on our education. My column this week is the first in a short series in which I plan to talk about how the protests, the violence, the uncertainty about the future and the state of high tension in Hong Kong is affecting schools and the way that families are now feeling about British education.

Sadly, one of the most notable effects has been that the tension and division has found its way into Hong Kong’s schools. Pupils are now divided based on their opinions and the opinions of their parents.

It’s very sad that some pupils are now being bullied for their political positions and that even those who remain impartial, in the middle of it all, are challenged for not taking up a firm position.

I don’t think that this is fair and I don’t think it’s healthy. Students should be able to stay away from these political topics. They should be at school to be happy and to learn.

Hong Kong parents tend to agree. Whatever political standpoint they have, they want their children away from it all and are finding that sending them to boarding schools in the UK is a good option. As a result, many of the UK’s schools have seen an increase in the number of enquiries they’ve been receiving.

Not only has demand for boarding increased, but so has demand for day places in UK schools.

Day places are when students attend school during the day as normal, but return home at the end of the day rather than living in a boarding house and sleeping in a dormitory.

Hong Kong students with family in the UK will often stay with relatives, but we are also now seeing Hong Kong families emigrating to the UK.

This is because many parents are losing faith in the governing regime in Hong Kong, but also because many foresee a big economic downturn ahead.

It’s true that you can’t help noticing the empty restaurants as you walk the streets. With our society split into blue and yellow ribbon, consumer behavior is perhaps at its lowest. Families are even shifting their assets to the UK.

What parents are now wanting to see when they look for UK schools and read their marketing material is also affected.

Alongside the increased demand for boarding in general, and for day places, there is a more sophisticated approach being seen. Whereas in the past it was enough for agencies to just stick a big union flag on MTR adverts, now this isn’t enough.

Parents today are looking at schools in terms of its ethos, history, boarding ratio and international support.

They still like the big names such as Repton and Uppingham, but they are also looking at schools that go beyond the traditional offerings.

They want strong business courses at Sixth Form level, as well as basketball and table tennis, not just cricket, rugby and hockey.

There is a huge range of options in the UK and we at Britannia will continue to broadcast as much information as we can, because there’s really a school for everyone if you know where to look.