Transparency, tighter controls urged for international schools

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am

Principals of public schools are demanding greater transparency and tighter controls on government support for international schools after a report called for a higher priority for the sector in school building allocations.

The report, released by the American Chamber of Commerce, said the government should adopt an expansion policy for international schools at 'the highest level' to help cut waiting lists that were damaging Hong Kong's competitiveness.

The study, which found waiting lists averaging 331 students across five of the 12 schools taking part, also called for streamlining of the process of applying for vacant school buildings, which are provided by the government at a nominal rent.

But William Yip Kam-yuen, chairman of the Secondary School Heads Association, which represents principals across several educational sectors, said: 'The government, in dealing with these sponsoring bodies, is not in a black box. The Education Bureau should be transparent in how it supports and subsidises the international schools.

'And we need a public consultation on to what extent the government should subsidise these schools in future. If these schools want public money, they should make their operational and financial procedures entirely transparent.

'We need a separate section of the Education Bureau to administer and manage these schools. And once the government provides the money from the public purse, there must be some control over the quality of education provided.

'If they receive land grants or buildings at a nominal rent, international schools should be subject to inspection. And at least the inspection report and summary inspection should be made available to the public and the parents.'

Paul Yau Yat-heem, principal of Logos Academy in Sha Tin, a Direct Subsidy Scheme school, said that since local students made up a growing percentage of the student body in international schools, it was not fair that they should take precedence over DSS schools in allocation of surplus buildings.

'We offer 200 Primary One places per year, but we have 1,000 applications for them,' he said. 'We would very much like to open a new campus, and we would accept a site anywhere in Hong Kong.'

Two applications in the past two years were declined, Mr Yau said, because the premises were for international schools only.

Ada Wong Ying-kay, supervisor of the HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity in Hung Hom, said: 'My advice is that the Education Bureau should not stick to its present inflexibility in school building designations. We need more flexible policies and a creative solution.'