Hong Kong's schools are haemorrhaging pupils and the government needs to stop denying there is a problem, a teacher's union warned on Wednesday.
The Professional Teachers' Union said it polled 180 school principals this month and more than half said they faced losing more than 10 pupils before the summer break.
Four headteachers said they were looking at a loss of more than 50 students.
The headteachers were reporting what they expected to happen or what they were already experiencing, with families emigrating, children studying abroad and cross-border pupils staying on the mainland among the reasons cited.
Primary school heads said they already feared they would be told by the authorities that classes would be cut due to fewer pupils, the union told the media.
"Some of the students choose to leave in the middle of the academic year. This will certainly affect the planning of the schools," said the union's vice-president Ip Kin-yuen.
"Many of the people who decide to leave are spread across different grades, so it really affects the structure of the school and the stability of the school enrolment in general. This is really causing a lot of disturbance for school administration."
The union's head, Fung Wai-wah, said parents' concerns about the national security law could be prompting them to take their children out of schools and Hong Kong itself, but education reforms, political pressure faced by teachers and the government's tightening control of the education system are other possible reasons.
Fung said the authorities should cut back their interference and start respecting teachers, if they want to regain the confidence of parents.
He urged the government to take the issue of falling pupil numbers more seriously.
"The government is actually turning a blind eye on this issue by denying the problem. They have to admit that we are facing this kind of situation. We have to take this seriously, to introduce more measures to try to increase the stability of the education environment and to liaise with schools so that we can have more constructive measures to try to remedy the situation," he said.
The union suggested various steps the government could take, such as lowering its thresholds for classes to stay open and keeping the amount of classes unchanged.
Schools need govt help over pupil exodus: union
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