Parents protest over fees rise but ESF defends proposed increase

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2008, 12:00am

Parents vented their anger at a heated meeting last night over a proposed fee increase by the English Schools Foundation (ESF).

The meeting was held to explain the ESF's financial position and reasons for the increase - the third in as many years.

The session was dominated by parents' complaints that their fees were being used to fund the new private independent schools, Discovery College and Renaissance College.

The ESF defended the proposed fee increases and rejected the suggestion that fees were used to fund the private independent schools.

The foundation said in March that primary school fees would go up 7 per cent to HK$58,100 in the new school year, and secondary fees would rise 5 per cent to HK$89,250.

The increases, which need to be approved by the Education Bureau, will bring fee rises at ESF primary schools to almost 23 per cent since 2005 and 13.4 per cent at secondary schools in the same period.

At the meeting at Beacon Hill School, parent Angela Lam said the ESF was set up to provide an affordable education for children who could not study in the local system.

'It seems to be becoming a business that is funding other companies to bring new schools in,' she said.

The parents' spokesman, Albert Yeung, said the quality of education at ESF schools was deteriorating and there was much discontent among parents.

ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said that the foundation had to deal with inflationary pressures, and continue to offer attractive teacher packages.

'As long as we are living in an inflationary environment with prices and wages and rent going up, I can't see any way that we will not have to increase school fees,' she said. 'We won't have any teachers if we don't keep up with the competitive market teachers are operating in.'

Ms Du Quesnay rejected the suggestion that standards were falling, saying that 'our schools offer a first-class education'.

Last night's meeting came after more than 300 parents signed an open letter calling on Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung to intervene in the dispute, and legislators called on the ESF to freeze 'the proposed school fees unless the ESF can provide the parents with justifiable reasons'.

Dr Yeung said that parents hoped to organise a meeting with the Education Bureau.