Hong Kong protests
The Hong Kong protest shows no signs of slowing down, prompting expat parents to explore international schools abroad. Source: Shutterstock

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong protest are driving expat parents to look elsewhere for their children’s education. 

Protests began in March as a result of widespread opposition to a now suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong-ers be sent to mainland China for trial in courts that many believe are controlled by the Communist Party.

Over the past few months, pro-democracy protests have resulted in many disruptions in the former British colony, including cancelled flights, blocked roads, disrupted public transportation, violent clashes between demonstrators and the police and even closure of schools. 

The protests shows no signs of slowing down; ongoing unrests have made some expat parents uneasy, prompting them to seek school options for their children abroad. 

With this turmoil, schools in another Asian financial hub stand to benefit from this potential exodus of students: Singapore .

One country’s misfortune is another’s opportunity

Hong Kong protests

Some parents in Hong Kong are exploring their children’s school options in Singapore. Source: Shutterstock

According to a Bloomberg report, since the violence intensified in August, school placement consultancy ITS Educational Services Ltd in Hong Kong has received four inquiries a week on average about schools in Singapore.

Its director Anne Murphy said parents are “worried about their children travelling to school and how safe it is to be travelling on public transport”. She was invited by four financial companies to conduct talks on Singapore’s international schools as employees have been offered the option of relocating. 

The talks were primarily attended by expat parents – including American, Indian, British and French nationals – and mostly consisted of lawyers, traders or fund managers. 

“Even those without Singapore visas were accepted through our help,” Murphy was quoted saying, adding ITS often recommended schools that could sponsor a student with a guardian visa.

Prices of international schools

Last November, schools in Hong Kong experienced a six-day shutdown following intense protests and violent unrest. This prompted angry parents paying extravagant school fees to look elsewhere for their children’s schooling.  

Parents are well aware that international schools don’t come cheap.

For instance, the Stamford American School Hong Kong charges an annual fee of HK$178,800 ($23,000) for students up to Grade 5, and HK$196,200 (US$25,000) for students in Grades 6 to 12. The Canadian International School of Hong Kong charges an annual fee of about HK$158,900 (US$20,000) for Grade 4 and Grade 5 students; and HK$195,100 (US$25,000) for students in Grade 9 to Grade 10.

Many of Singapore’s international schools have long waiting lists, with prices somewhat comparable to Hong Kong.

For instance, the Singapore American school charges an annual fee of about SG$39,164 (US$29,000) for kindergarten to students up to Grade 5; and SG$42,335 (US$31,000) for students between Grade 6 and 8; and SG$44,141 (US$33,000) for students between Grade 9 and 12.

Fees for the the Canadian International School at the Lakeside Campus can cost up to SG$40,900 (US$30,000) per annum.

Parents explore their children’s school options following Hong Kong’s protests

Hong Kong protests

The protests have disrupted many areas of life in this semi-autonomous territory. Source: Shutterstock

Bloomberg added that during the November school shut down, the Singapore American School received inquiries from families wanting to enrol their children as soon as possible, according to director of admissions Treena Casey. Others were inquiring about getting their children in the door from August, the start of the new school year.

Casey said the school had witnessed a 25 percent jump in applications from Hong Kong but couldn’t say how many would be joining in the new year.

Meanwhile, the North London Collegiate School in England, which is opening a branch in Singapore in August, has started accepting enrolments in October; to date, about 12 percent of inquiries have come from Hong Kong.

The Canadian International School’s head of communications and marketing Michelle Sharp was quoted saying that there’s been an increase in both inquiries and applications, but couldn’t share figures. 

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