Too bad our schools have never taught problem-solving

The story so far… For the past several days, thousands of parents – or paid proxies – have been lining up outside kindergartens in the New Territories in order to get application forms for their little ones to enroll. These institutions are privately run local places that handle applications individually and limit the number of forms they distribute to keep processing manageable. But now Mainlanders are turning up, and the apparent competition for the paperwork has raised fears that there will be too few pre-school places, prompting mothers and fathers from both sides of the border to line up days and days ahead of time and to clamour for forms from a larger number of kindergartens.

The result is yet another example of the weird semi-mayhem for which history will one day recall Hong Kong in the 2010s, in this case with people sleeping out overnight for no earthly reason, cops getting called, and accusations flying. It has become a frenzy of McDonalds Snoopy Doll or car-parking-space-bubble proportions, significantly spiced up by the intrusion of Yakult-grabbing, non-taxpaying Mainlanders into the equation – all of course greatly magnified in seriousness by the fact that it is about your precious child’s one and only chance of a head start in the Hunger Games that is schooling and exams and homework and piano lessons and ballet classes and language tutoring and all the other types of child abuse essential to Hong Kong’s definition of success in life.

Officials’ initial response was hand-wringing. This soon gave way to visibly nervous arm-flapping. And now the government is urging the kindergartens to sort of get their act together. There is talk of a possible centralized clearing system, and even of giving priority to local kids. But for this year’s cohort of tots and their parents, it is already too late. The situation has gone past the point of you-couldn’t-make-this-up and started to lurch towards the downright surreal.

Parents from Henan Province whose kid was born in Hong Kong are among the application form-crazed mob. They are bitter about waiting 50 hours and angry that the child’s interview will be in Cantonese. The infant breaks China’s one-child policy, so schooling on the Mainland is harder to arrange. See how the bizarreness piles up: days far away down south sitting on a sidewalk; a kindergarten so serious it requires an admission interview; the interview in a language the kid can’t understand; the kid – illegal. If the South China Morning Post’s Hunanese is the same guy, eight kindergarten applications and a similar number of properties back home add to the wackiness.

A Hong Kong man says he has given up his university registry job – let’s repeat that: given up his job – to join in the Gold Rush-type scramble for application forms. Seven and counting. “It’s totally a waste of time,” the Standard quotes him as saying. A grandfather from Shenzhen is sleeping at nights in a park (and I’m sure my fellow taxpayers will join me in wishing him a comfortable stay). Some poor wretch bought a toddler an electronic device that miraculously teaches English to kindergarten-admission-interview standard.

The hallucinations continue with a vision of some cretin of a former Chief Executive who was so mesmerized with thoughts of sky-high profits for private hospitals and dreams of Hong Kong becoming a ‘health care hub’ that he didn’t bother to plan ahead to handle the influx of Mainland kids a few years later, let alone pause to consider the impact on local people forced yet again to battle for resources with outsiders. Compared with him, the sidewalk campers in the New Territories are pretty sensible. It’s just that when circumstances multiply actions based on what seems to be rational self-interest a thousand times, you end up with collective lunacy.

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18 Responses to Too bad our schools have never taught problem-solving

  1. Joe Blow says:

    Great moments in the history of retail sales:

    In Causeway Bay they have now reached the stage where they are replacing jewellery stores with even pricier jewellery stores.

  2. maugrim says:

    Wow, was only expressing the above this morning. Im not sure what pisses me off more 1. a hapless Government that wouldn’t know a tram was up them until the bell sounded, that will inevitibly blame the kindergartens 2. non-residents and non-taxpayers demanding the Government change regulations to suit them, 3. a ‘see lai’ complaining that kindergartens need to have some sort of ticket system for queuing yet at the same time admitting that she herself had made applications to some 6 kindergartens, 4. the ‘wah’ that it is unfair to be expected that any discourse be conducted in the lingua franca, Cantonese.

  3. Stephen says:

    Even back in the good old days (prior to the invasion) you could be tuned into Pearl Nightly News and be “entertained” by the sight of parents and older children lining up in a typhoon to get a Form 6 place (or application form) or something. Now this – how did it become so fecked up?

    So when you get the occasional liberal parent writing in to the PCMP, extolling the virtues of the local Cantonese system, overseen by the Education Bureau, I’m tempted to scream child abuse.

    BTW When did it become “North District” ?

  4. Sojourner says:

    All kindergarten application interviews should be conduced in Renaissance French as perfected by Francois Rabelais, or in classical Latin (none of that medieval bastardisation, please) or in Homeric Greek.

    That’ll keep the riff-raff out.

  5. PCC says:

    The level of societal dysfunction is rising and so is Hong Kong people’s anger. Rich mainlanders pay HK$11,400 for a queuing service to supply a stand-in (literally) to gazump Hong Kong parents seeking a coveted kindergarten application in Hong Kong. Mt. Kellett School has debentures for HK$10 million (refundable) and $5 million (non-refundable) for primary & secondary school places. Near my home is a taxi rank where the amahs queue early each morning for the little Lord Fauntleroys who slide into the first taxi that arrives while the working adults seethe with resentment. The pressure on the streets is building up and up and up. Does the government not realize this? Do they not see the possible consequences? Do they even care?

  6. Failed Alchemist says:

    – Many locals feel children born here to mainlanders be allowed to study here for “intergration”

    – Mainland parents rush to enrol kids hoping to get early start in “assimilation”

    – Mainland family in Spore complains to HDB authorities that Indian neigbour cooking smelly food called curry

    – Spore’s Geylang district sees more Hunanese restaurants opening to suit new comers missing home. Foodie trend starting in HK.

    Then to the future,

    – 2027 common language spoken on HK streets is Putonghua like Shenzhen & Guangzhou

    – HK solves aging problem in city by 2027 since new blood is infused under liberal immigration policies. Eateries, supermarkets & cargo teriminal operators have no problem recruiting staff since supply outweighs demand.

    – New university chancellors’ problems are not resistance to their appointment but tons of students applying for limited spaces in 2027. New students are requested to pitch tents on campus ground due to lack of hostel space and classes held in shrinking country parks due to shortage of class space.

    Apple Daily reflects and thanks the vision & foresight of the Pontificated Duck… calling him man with vision for long century…

  7. Gumshoe says:

    Welcome to the irony free zone: Although I am excited to become a father, I am glad it hasn’t happened yet so we can avoid all this mess for a few years until the generation past when the laws banning anchor babies was introduced.

    Irony back on: I can still always go ahead and apply for violin and art classes for my child as long as he or she exists as a sparkle in my eye.

  8. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Stephen, It’s always been “North District” — except when I’m asked to fill in a bilingual form, whereupon my entry is invariably crossed out in red and replaced by Fan Ling or Sheung Seui or perhaps S Shen Zhen.

    And to think of the countless abandoned schools near the border, slowly going back to nature…

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Hemmers

    I am yet again flabbergasted by your Blog

    So true to the point

    Many thanks

    The (Real) Tax Payer

  10. Pornstar Wong says:

    This is just the tip of the iceberg.

  11. Oneleggoalie says:

    Oneleg heard from his Fat Female Hairdresser that she…on the advice from “experienced” school mom friends that dressing for a wedding banquet was the rule for kindergarten parent-toddler first introductions…not even the interview proper.

    And…one has to pay from $500-$1,500(non-refundable) for the application form.

    Oneleg feels justice is served…almost…if only they could come and send that “second child” off to a gas chamber…heh.

  12. Tripod Smith says:

    Dear Prawncar, sorry, Pornstar,

    You say this is the tip of the iceberg. Why won’t you share? I would have figured someone with your nom de guerre would be only too glad to.

  13. “They are bitter about waiting 50 hours and angry that the child’s interview will be in Cantonese.” Another good reason to support the continued use of the local lingo against the incursion of Putonghuia. Perhaps the tots can also be required to write something in traditional characters.

  14. From another source []: ‘Mr Wang from Hunan said that it is unfair to use Cantonese to interview children because there is no time for him and his wife to teach their child, “we came to Hong Kong to give birth because of the great benefits, but the standard (of benefits) has failed now. If my child does not get admitted, we will consider going to other countries.”’

    No comment necessary, I think.

  15. Real Scot Player says:

    @oneleg. And don’t forget the 1k every now and then, just to STAY on the waiting list.

    Excellent post from Hemmers on thus education clusterfruck Hong Kong’s post 97 cretins have caused

  16. Mjrelje says:

    Please post that as a comment or letter on SCMP Private Beach. Or even better, Weibao.

  17. C Law says:

    PCC: “Do they even care?”

    This is indeed the basic question and I am afraid that the answer is NO.

  18. Gumshoe says:

    @C Law: probably not because it’s their children who are being ferried to and from private schools by those taxis and private drivers.

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