Call for subsidised after-school activities as parents feel pinch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 August, 2010, 12:00am

A scheme to subsidise extra-curricular activities for children from needy families has been urged after polls found that buying school uniforms and textbooks was already too heavy a financial burden for many parents.

Concern groups have also asked the government to relax the application requirements for student financial assistance schemes.

In a telephone poll of 220 parents by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, about 85 per cent of parents said textbooks had become more expensive this year, and almost half said they had cut spending on other items to buy the books.

Some 12.3 per cent said preparing their children for the new school year had taken half or more of the family monthly income, according to the poll, conducted late last month. Half said such spending accounted for between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of their monthly income.

The DAB called for more support for parents, proposing an allowance for extra-curricular activities.

Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, the party's deputy spokesman on education affairs, said: 'Students are required to take more activities outside school under the new secondary curriculum. There should be government allowances so that needy pupils are not deprived of the chance to take part in extra-curricular activities.'

The Student Financial Assistance Agency administers three subsidy schemes for primary and secondary students - for textbooks, travel and internet access. Applicants are means-tested.

A separate poll of 208 parents by the Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre found that 71.9 per cent believed the textbook allowance was insufficient. The survey, conducted over the past month, found that parents with children at primary schools on average spent HK$2,861 on textbooks and uniforms for the new school year. For those with children at secondary school, the average amount was HK$3,270.

The maximum allowances under the textbook assistance scheme are HK$2,434 for a primary pupil and HK$2,856 for a secondary student.

The centre said the rates had not been adjusted for the past decade. It called for a review and relaxation of the application requirements for the schemes to benefit more families.