Fees go up but parents say hikes 'affordable'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 November, 2008, 12:00am

EDB approves increases for international schools

Hong Kong's international schools remain affordable despite fee increases across more than half the sector, parents and foreign business leaders have said.

The Education Bureau last week approved fee hikes at 23 international schools and 41 private schools, granting every application that was lodged this year, including one increase at a private school of between 30 and 40 per cent.

A bureau spokeswoman said 20 international schools would raise their fees by up to 10 per cent and the remaining three would increase them by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.

Among the private schools, 13 were raising their fees by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent, one by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent and one between 30 per cent and 40 per cent. One school was reducing its fees. She declined to give precise figures.

A survey conducted by the Education Post in June based on published fee levels in the Good Schools Guide, which lists 41 international schools in Hong Kong, found nine top schools were planning a fee hike.

Increases ranged from 9 per cent for Canadian International to 3.5 per cent at German Swiss International, with planned hikes of 8.5 per cent at Chinese International, 6 per cent at French International and 5 per cent at Hong Kong International.

Richard Vuylsteke, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, who has three children at HKIS, said the fee increases were understandable given the rapid inflation earlier in the year. 'Looking back a year, when real estate was soaring and costs were going up to pay teachers' salaries, I would expect to see fees going up for 2008-9 because otherwise there would have been a cutback of faculty, services or facilities,' he said.

'I'm never happy with increases but I can understand it. The facilities at HKIS are outstanding and the instructional staff are first rate. Hong Kong is an expensive place but I think, if you look across the region, the level of fees is comparable with other international schools. 'I would be very surprised if schools raise their fees again in 2009-10 because the economy is so bad. Everybody is looking at potentially a difficult time.'

Rafael Gil-Tienda, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce, said some members were surprised by the fee increases and one had expected a more modest adjustment, if any.

Ava Goei Vujovich, whose five-year old daughter joined Chinese International in August, said: 'I expected there to be a fee increase and I am prepared to pay it. For the kind of environment that CIS offers compared to any of the other international schools, it is an investment for the long term.'

Brenda Cheang, whose two daughters attend Christian Alliance International School in Kowloon City, said fees had increased by about $1,000 for each girl in September.

'We understand that the school has to impose it in order to cover teachers' salaries and it's really a very good school,' she said. 'My husband is an academic and we are not affected by the global financial crisis. It's not putting us under a big strain.'

Kirsten Buchholtz, who has four children at German Swiss International, said: 'Our school fees are paid by my husband's employer, so the increase doesn't affect us at all. But even if I had to pay this 3.5 per cent increase, it wouldn't affect our decision to go to GSIS. The education is really first class.'

The Education Bureau was planning to inform schools of the outcome of their applications before the start of the autumn term in September, when the increases were due to kick in. A spokeswoman said this week: 'In most of the cases, we completed the process before the start of term and we informed the schools.'

Hitting the wallet

Fees will rise across more than half of the international sector

The number of international schools which will increase their fees by up

to 10 per cent: 20